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Why these ‘healthy’ alternatives are NOT better for you, nutritionists warn 

There’s so much confusion surrounding health and nutrition.

One day we’re told fat is the enemy, the next we’re told that carbohydrates are the real culprit.

As a result, stores are now filled with countless substitutes to service people trying to avoid things like fat, gluten and carbohydrates. 

But many may not realize the missing ingredients may be replaced with even more unhealthy additives.

Speaking to Daily Mail Online, registered dietitian-nutritionists break down some of the most popular ‘healthy’ alternatives, and why you should be cautious about wedding yourself to them.

Registered dietitian-nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto said she doesn’t see how skim milk is a much better alternative than whole milk

1. Skim milk is not better than whole milk

Registered dietitian-nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto said she’d only recommend skim milk, which contains zero grams of fat, to clients who consume a lot of milk.

This is in an effort to reduce calorie consumption.

She’d also recommend it to people if whole milk bothers their stomach, but other than that she doesn’t see how skim milk is more beneficial than whole milk. 

In fact, research has shown there are more health benefits associated with drinking whole milk than skim milk.

A 2016 study published in the journal Circulation found that people who ate or drank full-fat dairy products had a 46 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than those who consumed low-fat or skimmed milk.

Although the researchers couldn’t explain exactly why full-fat dairy led to a reduced risk of developing diabetes, they believed that the saturated fats, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats found in dairy may have defended them against insulin resistance and helped control body weight.

Also, fat helps people feel full longer. And when people cut out fat, they tend to replace it with sugar and carbohydrates to satisfy their hunger. 

Meanwhile, another 2016 study published in the American Journal of Nutrition revealed that women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products had an eight percent reduced risk of being overweight.

Researchers of this study said it could be to do with the fact that the vitamin D, proteins and calcium in dairy appear to help keep energy metabolism moving.

Nutritionist Julie Upton warns it is not cut and dry. Skim milk does have clear benefits, she says, since it contains less saturated fat and calories, which drive up levels of LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Rissetto said that while skim milk may be beneficial for people concerned about their heart health, switching from whole milk wouldn’t make a significant impact to a person’s diet or calorie intake unless they drink multiple glasses of milk a day, otherwise they’re just depriving themselves of the benefits of whole milk.

2. ‘Gluten-free does not equal good for me’

While many gluten-free products, like bread and pastries are touted as healthy, Upton said these foods are high in added sugars, saturated fat and calories. 

She said a growing number of people think gluten-free products are healthier alternatives.

In fact, a 2017 study conducted by Mayo Clinic found that more than three million people in the US are avoiding gluten – proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye.

Approximately 72 percent of those people on a gluten-free diet don’t have celiac disease or a sensitivity to the protein.

‘They think “Oh, Miley Cyrus doesn’t eat it so I’m not going to eat it,”‘ Upton said. ‘Unless you have celiac disease, there’s no clinical reason to avoid gluten.’

Gluten is responsible for the shape and texture of baked goods – it is what makes bread so soft and chewy. Upton said when this protein is removed, it’s substituted with sugar and chemicals to make up for the lost of the protein.

Upton also noted that these products lack necessary nutrients.

In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that, with the exception of crackers, gluten-free foods contained more fat, salt and sugar than their gluten-containing equivalents and also had lower fiber and protein content.

Furthermore, another 2013 study revealed that people on gluten-free diets had an inadequate amount of nutrients, including folate, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium and iron.  

‘So before you cut gluten out of your life, check with your doctor first to see if you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity,’ she said. 

3. Frozen fruits and vegetables may contain more nutrients than fresh produce

Fresh isn’t always best when it comes to produce.

That’s because it’s constant degrading nutrients as days go by.

So by the time it’s purchased at a market, taken home and finally eaten, it may have fewer nutrients than frozen fruits or vegetables.

‘That “fresh” food may have been in transit for weeks,’ Upton said. ‘And the more days it foes without being eaten the more nutrients it loses.’ 

Meanwhile, freezing fruits and vegetables preserves vitamins and minerals and stops this nutritional depletion.

Furthermore, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found ‘frozen produce outperformed “fresh-stored” more frequently than “fresh-stored” outperformed frozen’ when assessing nutrient and vitamin contents.’

In other words, frozen food may have just as much or more greater nutritional value than its frozen counterparts. 

4. Agave sweetener vs refined table sugar

Many people think Agave sweetener and coconut sugar are healthier alternatives to refined sugar.

It is less likely to cause blood sugar spikes due to it having a lower glycemic index – a value that determines how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels.

However, Upton said that despite this, Agave sweetener and sugar contain virtually the same amount of calories per teaspoon.

‘There’s no appreciable difference between regular table sugar and natural sugars on the market,’ Upton said. 

‘I see so many people going for coconut sugar but it’s not going to be a healthier alternative to table sugar,’ she added.