Archive for the tag - simple carbs

Are Energy Chews Good for You?

In my Christmas stocking, I received a bunch of energy chews, energy gels and even an energy waffle.

The products all claim to give you a burst of energy without any caffeine – and many even position themselves as organic. The packaging makes the products appear healthy, even going so far as to feature a biker racing uphill.

To the average health-conscious consumer, these energy foods look like they’d be good for you. But are they really healthy?

Much like Gatorade and sports drinks, energy chews and gels have their place. They’re for individuals who are engaged in sustained physical activity for a prolonged period of time. These energy products can give endurance athletes a powerful boost when it’s needed most.

The boost comes from simple carbohydrates (i.e., the bad carbs), often in the form of sugar. For instance, the first three ingredients in the ‘Clif Shot Bloks’ are all sugar – but cleverly disguised as organic brown rice syrup, organic dried cane syrup and organic brown rice syrup solids. Consumers might glance at the ingredients and see words like ‘organic’ and ‘brown rice’ and assume that the product is healthy for everyday consumption.

They’re not.

The truth is, most consumers aren’t running marathons or biking the Tour de France. When these energy chews and gels are consumed as snacks, you’re really just loading your body with simple, unhealthy carbs. It’s akin to eating candy. Excuse me, organic candy.

The lesson in all of this is not just the importance of reading a label, but understanding what the ingredients really mean. In the ‘Honey Stinger Waffle’, for instance, the first ingredient is organic wheat flour. While whole wheat flour is a complex carb, wheat flour is not. Wheat flour is just a sneaky and misleading way for saying white flour. You must do your homework.

Read the label – and know what it means. And don’t judge a product by its cover.

Is Gluten-Free Healthier?

The other day, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I saw a tub of ice cream advertised as gluten-free. Labeling a product as gluten-free has become an increasingly popular trend – and savvy marketers are hoping that consumers will believe that gluten-free products are healthier. They’re not.

In a tweet last April, Miley Cyrus even tweeted that “gluten is crapppp.” That’s crap, with four p’s.

As it turns out, gluten-free and healthy are two very different things. According to Mayo Clinic:

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).

Gluten-free isn’t meant to be a weight loss strategy. Instead, a gluten-free diet is a treatment for celiac disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 133 people have this condition. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it causes the little hair-like projects that move food through to the gut to breakdown – resulting in bleeding, malabsorption and other issues.

If you don’t have celiac disease, there’s nothing wrong with consuming gluten. In fact, it’s healthy to do so. Sorry, Miley. Moreover, gluten-free diets tend to lack fiber, are higher in simple carbohydrates (the so-called “bad” carbs) and often low in the complex carbohydrates that our bodies need. If you do go gluten-free for medical reasons, it’s important to work with nutritionists and doctors to get a well-rounded diet.

The bottom line: If something is labeled as gluten-free, it’s not offering any sort of health benefit – unless, of course, you have celiac disease. The alleged link between a product being gluten-free and its nutritional content, as exemplified by my ice cream experience, is non-existent.