Are These 6 'Health Halo' Foods Actually Better for You?

A lot of food products are praised for being better for our bodies, but it's not always clear exactly why. Carrot sticks instead of candy bar, coconut oil instead of refined oil, sea salt instead of common salt. However, sometimes there are more subtle differences between two similar products. This means that one food gets labeled as good for us, and the other gets tossed aside as the bad or unhealthy option. For your body and your wallet — it's worth finding out for sure. Here's the scoop on 6 common products that are often given high health status.

Grass-fed beef: Grass-fed beef is known for its positive effects on the planet and for your health. The reasons are simple. Grass-fed beef tends to be leaner than beef that's been conventionally raised, with less monounsaturated fat. Grass-fed beef contains more omega-3s than grain-fed beef which have been linked to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and better brain health. Meat from cows fed a grass diet tends to have higher values of certain micronutrients and antioxidants. Grass-fed beef also contains carotenoid precursors to vitamin A, such as beta-carotene. But remember that beef that's labeled “grass-fed” comes from cows that may have only been fed grass at one point or receive supplemental grains. And beef labeled as “grass-finished” comes from cows that have eaten nothing but grass for their entire lives.

Greek yogurt: Yogurt makes an excellent dietary choice as it is loaded with calcium. Does going Greek provide added benefits? It depends. Due to its unique processing, Greek yogurt contains more protein than conventional yogurt. It is also significantly lower in carbs. Greek yogurt may be a wise choice if you're concerned about managing your macronutrients to get more protein and fewer carbs. Brands vary widely as to their content of calcium and vitamin D, and there's no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation over which yogurts can call themselves Greek. What you can do is read yogurt labels to determine which variety suits your health goals.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil has been touted as a curative for a number of health conditions, from dry skin to stained teeth. But in a research in 2017, it was found out that coconut oil raises levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, a known factor in the development of heart disease. While small amounts of coconut oil may provide some benefit to HDL cholesterol levels, a lot more research is needed to understand coconut oil's role in a heart-healthy diet. The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This could potentially help to prevent infections. The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which may lead to reduced body weight over the long term. In order to get the impressive health benefits outlined in the article, then make sure to choose organic, virgin coconut oil -- not the refined stuff.

Nut milks: A mainstay of the health food movement nut milks are often found in the health food section of your local grocery store. The positive point is depending on how the brand is processed and fortified, nut milk may actually be healthy, since it often contains plenty of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and even fiber — with very few carbs and calories. However, it's very important to note that unless you have a food allergy or intolerance, it's probably not necessary for your health to substitute nut milks for cow's milk. Dairy milk offers a high protein content, and fermented dairy products, like kefir or yogurt, include some probiotics that benefit gut health. So, instead of choosing between cow's milk and nut milks, it may be more helpful to think of them as two separate foods with different types of nutritional value.

Sea salt: Plain old table salt sounds truly mundane when compared to salt that came from the sea. But are there nutritional differences between the standard salt you can get for under $1 and more expensive sea salts? The nutrient of highest concern for most people in salt is sodium. Sea salt, table salt, and other specialty salts like Himalayan pink salt all contain about 40% sodium. It really doesn't matter which you choose if you are concerned about health issues like hypertension or kidney disease that require reduction of sodium intake. Sea salt may include higher amounts of other minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, but these differences are probably minimal if you consume more of that. So, no matter which salt you are buying, make sure to use salt sparingly — especially if you need to watch your sodium.

Cold-pressed juice: If you need a refreshing drink after your morning yoga or Pilates, cold-pressed juice is about as trendy as it gets. This popular beverage is made using a hydraulic press to extract the maximum amount of liquid from fresh produce without using heat. The idea goes that, without being exposed to heat or air, the juice retains all the nutrients from its original fruits and vegetables. According to the IFIC, there is no published research to support the claims that heat and air sap nutrients from fruits and veggies. And in case cold-pressed juice seems appealing because of its limited processing, be aware that this isn't always the case. Not to mention, even the unpasteurized juices can contain harmful bacteria, so they're unsafe for pregnant women. Quality ingredients are a better indicator of health than whether a juice was processed cold or hot.

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