3 Fake Health Foods

Health foods are all the rage nowadays. From Spirulina infused smoothies to protein cheese, every company is jumping on the bandwagon. Although everyone is trying to focus on healthy foods. Many are just using advertising loopholes to make their foods sound healthier.


To make sure you don’t get caught out, here are 3 of the worst culprits who have managed to sneak into the health food section like a trojan horse. Some are well established and others might surprise you.

1.Coconut Oil

Can I dare say something bad about coconut oil? Yes. Although coconut oil has exploded in popularity over the last 5-10 years, its benefits are still far from proven. Coconut oil is claimed to be the holy grail for body transformation. Joe Wicks and other coaches claim it can increase metabolic rate, help burn fat, decrease appetite and build muscle. On top of this, it can supposedly improve memory, kill bacteria, fight cancer and improve heart health. If these claims are true, coconut oil really is the Chuck Norris of health foods.

Coconut oil meme

Regrettably, the health benefits of coconut oil have been greatly exaggerated; in-fact as we shall see, the evidence for coconut oil is slim. Coconut oil’s main selling point is speeding up metabolism and helping with weight-loss. However, in a study comparing plain old olive oil, coconut oil failed to produce an increase in metabolism, an increase in fat burning or increase fullness and satiety.(1) In another study comparing 50 grams of coconut oil with butter or olive oil found there was no difference in weight after 4 weeks between each type of fat.(2)

Although coconut oil does contain medium chain triglycerides(MCT), a short chain fatty acid that has been shown to aid in feelings of fullness and increase metabolic rate. It seems coconut oil does not confer the same benefit as pure MCT oil. In-fact when MCT oil was compared directly with coconut oil in a morning smoothie, only pure MCT oil reduced appetite and increased feelings of fullness.(3)

I think it’s fair to say if you want a boost in metabolism and quicker weight-loss, pure MCT oil may be useful, but coconut oil will not be.

The muscle building “benefits” of coconut oil are even crazier. In fact the only study I could find on coconut oil and muscle building was from a man who ruptured his triceps from injecting coconut oil. Apart from this, no studies exist that I can find on the benefits of coconut oil and building muscle.(4)

So does this mean you should bin the coconut oil? No, it simply means you should see coconut oil for what it really is. A type of oil, one that can enhance flavour and make food tasty, but also a dense source of calories. Just like butter, lard and olive oil, it shouldn’t be eaten off the spoon, added to coffee or thrown in smoothies with the expectation of limitless energy and quick fat-loss.

I learnt the hard way about coconut oil. I cooked everything in it, I ate it off the spoon and even put it in my hair. After throwing up from excessive consumption; not losing weight and walking around with greasy hair. I realised the benefits had been greatly exaggerated and I gave up on it. I’m hoping you won’t have to go through the same process to learn the truth.

2. Agave nectar

A low glycemic sweetener made from cactus often touted as a great alternative to sugar. However, agave nectar is about 60% fructose, which is why it doesn’t elevate blood sugar levels like normal sugar.

Although this sounds good, fructose doesn’t elevate blood sugar because it gets converted to and stored fat instead of used as energy. In-fact fructose also creates less feelings of fullness than glucose. Basically, fructose is often quickly pushed to the liver and stored as fat and therefore doesn’t increase feelings of fullness. One of the highest fructose-containing products you can buy is agave nectar.(5)

If you want to get the most from a cactus, drink some tequila with friends, it’ll be far more fun and the social time will probably be far more beneficial than this pseudo health food. (6)


3. Whole Grains

Probably the ultimate trojan horse. Whole grains are widely accepted as healthy and great for keeping us fuller for longer and improving digestive health. I’ve written about the fallacy of whole grains comparing brown and white rice before here, therefore I won’t go into too much detail. In short, whole grains contain a bunch of negative substances such as plant lectins, enzyme inhibitors and phytates (anti-nutrients).

The common reason for recommending whole grains is because they contain more minerals than their refined counterparts. However, although this is true because they also contain more antinutrients, we are unable to absorb these minerals and become more deficient than when we eat the refined versions.

In one of many studies, for example, researchers from Columbia found feeding brown rice to healthy male medical students for three weeks worsened their magnesium and calcium status even though their intakes were higher than when they ate white rice.(7)

If you want to improve your health, don’t worry about eating more whole grains, instead relax, enjoy some white rice and focus on eating more fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods.

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