The labels are as confusing as the claims that trail them. Or what do you make of one-word statements such as ‘organic’, ‘all-natural’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘naturally sweetened’, ‘farm fresh’, ‘bio organic’, ‘with vitamins and minerals’, ‘whole grains’, etc. that now come with what you call food?
It’s the age of eating ‘green’, as everybody has been told that in order to save the environment and elongate our lives in sound health, we must eat more natural stuffs.
While this is commendable, the problem here is that in recent times, the market has been saturated with all sorts of beverages and foods that are more likely to harm the body than benefit it.
At bus stops, in commercial buses and in upscale supermarkets, these goods are there, complete with sales
persons who offer unsolicited counseling, never mind that the majority of them – if any – have no background in diet and nutrition; they just parrot what their employers teach them to say.
The presence of these products in the Nigerian market is of utmost concern, especially because people are being deceived that they are eating healthy when, in fact, they are not. Here are what to watch…

There are many ‘health’ drinks out there with absolutely nothing on the containers to inform consumers that these are the ingredients that make up what you are drinking. And when there is a list of ingredients, the majority of them are crafted in technical jargons that even an educated reader is unlikely to understand, while the ingredients may be as many as 20!
Knowing what the average consumer is likely to fall for, manufacturers sometimes say their health drinks contain vitamins, probiotics and even fibre, but how they affect your health should make you worry a bit.
A nutritionist, Dr. Remi Omotunde, warns that if a list of ingredients on any health drink is more than one or two, you should avoid it.
Reason? “It’s because any drink with various ingredients is likely to either have added calories in the form of simple sugars; and if it’s sweet but has no calories, then it’s got artificial sweeteners, which are not only bad for health but are likely to make you gain weight,” Omotunde cautions.
Indeed, researchers have linked artificial sweeteners with vascular diseases such as peripheral artery disease and aneurysm (an abnormal bulge in the wall of a blood vessel); as well as metabolic syndromes with risk factors including high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance
“When it comes to drinks, think simple, drink water, coffee and tea,” Omotunde advises.
Store-bought salads
Salads are great and it’s absolutely healthy to load up on them. Whether fruit or vegetable salad, you can’t overeat on them. They keep you healthy and also help in weight control. But then, your salad is only as healthy as the dressing you drizzle on it. And that’s why, by the time you rely on store-made salads that are almost always soaked in suspicious creams and other dressings you may not be familiar with, then trouble brews.
Fitness experts warn that virtually all store-bought salads contain dressings with significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup that can give you non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – a major risk factor for diabetes, heart attacks, and even cancer. The salads also contain heavily refined soybean oil and refined canola oils.
“Due to the refining process of both soybean and canola oils, the polyunsaturated component of the oils is oxidised and makes these oils very inflammatory inside your body,” Omotunde warns.
And to underscore the dangers of fatty liver, a consultant cardiologist, Dr. Chidozie Okeke says, “Fatty liver causes inflammation in the body. This inflammation creates insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, which cause the body to deposit fat not just in the liver but also all around the organs and in the belly.”
He warns that the dangerous belly fat caused by the sugar and starch in our diets creates even more problems by making you to have high triglycerides and low HDL (good cholesterol). “It causes you to have small LDL (the dangerous cholesterol particles that cause heart attacks).
In fact, having a fatty liver puts you at great risk for having a heart attack, and most people have no idea they have it,” Okeke laments.
Packaged mixed fruits
Fruits are good, but when it comes to packaged ones, be wary. This is mainly because they are high in calories. Worse still, dietitians say, they are loaded with sugar-coated pieces, trans fat and refined carbohydrates.
Experts say refined carbohydrates are produced when whole plants which are high in carbohydrates are processed in a way to strip out everything but the highly digestible carbohydrate (starch or sugar).
“This has the effect of concentrating the carbohydrate and breaking it down so that the body processes it very quickly, generally causing a high rise in blood sugar. It also usually removes the fibre and most of the nutrients in the food,” researchers warn.
Health or energy bars
Energy bars promise to reinvigorate and renew; but experts say many energy, fibre and protein bars are no better than taking sweets in bar form, even when they are said to contain high fibre or protein. Omotunde counsels that if you desire fibre or protein, then go for cheese or an apple.
Fat-free baked goods
Go through supermarket aisles and you will come across assortments of so-called fat-free cookies and cakes. “The claims are deceptive,” Omotunde contends.
This is because people think that ‘fat-free’ means ‘calorie-free,’ so they tend to eat more than usual. Worse still, the sugar replaces the fat in these products so you’re still getting a high number of calories,” the nutritionist explains.
Nut butters
In terms of nutritional benefits, peanuts, walnuts and cashews are superb because of their healthy fats. They’ve been shown to boost heart health and keep weight down. However, by the time they are processed into butters, the healthy fat would have been taken out and replaced with sugar and saturated or trans fat.
“When it comes to nut butters, opt for ones that have one to two ingredients; for example, peanuts or peanuts and salt. Once you go beyond that, your health food has just become unhealthy,” experts say.

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