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Not-So-Healthy 'Health' Foods

Some foods you think are good for you may not be all they seem
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Label Me Confused continued...

Many manufacturers use the front label to tout a product's most healthy attributes. Unfortunately, that doesn't always mean the food is a healthy choice.

For example, consider products that boast "no cholesterol."

"At first glance you think, 'Wow, this has no cholesterol, it must be good for me,'" says Klein. "But unless you stop to read the back label, you might not realize that it could also be loaded with fat, steeped in sodium or sugar, and generally high in calories, and not very good for you at all."

Klein tells WebMD it also easy to jump to the wrong conclusion about foods labeled "low fat," many of which are high in both sugar and calories. Another potential deceiver: Foods labeled "multigrain" or "seven grain."

"Multigrain or seven grain does not mean whole grain, so you're not getting the fiber you think you are," Klein says. Unless the label says "whole grain," it's not the healthiest choice, she says.

Too Much Of a Good Thing?

Labels that tout their products as "trans fat-free" may also lead us astray, experts say. "The issue here is that any food in which a single serving contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat is entitled to be called trans fat-free," says Heller, "but if you eat enough of those foods in a given day, you are in real danger of hitting a truly unhealthy level of this ingredient."

While no one has even established an upper limit for unhealthy trans fats in our diets, the general thinking is that anything over 2 grams a day is cause for alarm. And just four servings of a "trans fat-free" food containing 0.5 grams can get you to that limit.

The way to get around it says Heller, is to look for "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils in the ingredient list -- a sign that a product contains some trans fat, regardless of what's on the front label.

Even if your food choice is a totally healthy one, sometimes Sandon says there can be simply "too much of a good thing." She cites fruit juices as an example.

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