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These Food Substitutes You’ve Been Eating Are Not As Healthy As You Think

If you think your orange juice is healthier than having a cup of coffee in the morning, experts say that might not be the case. Choosing certain types of food over others just because they are supposedly the more healthful alternative need scientific backing, and most of the things we know are “better” are not really so. Here are some of the common food substitutes that many mistake to be the healthier option.

1. Orange juice vs coffee.

Orange juice has no fiber and contains plenty of sugar, which does not really make it a better option compared to coffee, says licensed dietitians Jackie Arnett Elnahar, R.D.. In fact, coffee has been scientifically proven to contain brain boosters and heart-healthy antioxidants. This makes the latter the smarter choice in the mornings or whenever you need a picker-upper any time of the day. 

2. Whole wheat bread over regular bread

Whole wheat bread is no better than regular bread if it does not contain fiber, so be sure to check the nutritional label. Elnahar says that the best alternative would be multigrain bread, which contains more minerals and fiber.

Whole wheat bread is no better than regular bread if it does not contain fiber. Pictured: A Whole Wheat Emmer Brioche being served at The New York Times Food For Tomorrow Conference Photo: Getty Images/Neilson Barnard

3. Products that are fruit juice sweetened

Just because it contains fruit juice it doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthier. Always check the label and ingredients to watch out of process juice concentrates, which no longer have the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients expected from the fresh version. Most fruit-sweetened treats using syrups that are fructose-based, which is what you should be avoiding.

4. Agave syrup or honey over sugar

While honey, maple or agave syrup are natural sweeteners, their nutritional content is really small and is especially so because they are consumed in small amounts, according to registered nutritionist and Herbalife Nutrition director Susan Bowerman. The bottom line is that for those who are already healthy, they have no significant benefit over the usual table sugar. 

5. Meal replacement shakes and power bars

Avoid low-calorie drinks and snacks as a general rule. These foods typically contain chemical additives and artificial flavorings that not only have questionable benefits in the long-term but can also drive your cravings further later. According to an article on Self Growth, while they can help diabetics manage their sugar and carbs, they should not be consumed in place of a regular balanced meal. For one, their long-term safety and efficacy are not scientifically established. Second, they usually have very low fiber content, which will eventually cause trouble on your bowels. 

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