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updated: 10/15/2012 2:44 PM

Your Health: Some healthy 'facts' are just myths

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  • You might think a bran muffin is healthy, but it can be loaded with sugar, butter and more calories than a doughnut.

      You might think a bran muffin is healthy, but it can be loaded with sugar, butter and more calories than a doughnut.

 

Rethink healthy

We all know that genuinely healthy foods exist naturally -- in nature -- and that we should be skeptical of anything that does not. Website FabFitFun.com lists some healthy "health" foods that we should be leery of:

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Multigrain breads: The grains in these breads have usually been refined, which is code for "stripped of all nutrients." Look for whole grain breads instead.

Energy bars: These tempting, on-the-go snacks were originally designed for athletes who needed to consume a high number of calories in a short period of time. Most contain over 350 calories, which is a lot to eat between meals if you're not training for a triathlon. Also, they're often loaded with high-fructose corn syrup.

Bran muffins: While bran is good for you, these breakfast staples are bursting with butter and sugar. Some even have higher calorie counts than doughnuts.

Packaged turkey breast: Most packaged meats are loaded with sodium. Look for those with less than 350mg per 2-ounce serving.

Veggie burgers: These are generally full of fillers used to achieve a meaty texture. Look for varieties that use actual vegetables as their top ingredients.

Dried fruit, nut mixtures: Dried fruit is often loaded with sugar, while nuts are often covered with salt. Opt for natural, salt-free, no-sugar-added varieties.

Vitamin A facts

Research suggests that vitamin A plays many roles in health and disease, says Harvard Medical School. The examples below underscore that it's important not to overdo it with vitamin A or any vitamin.

Cancer: Studies suggest that people who eat foods rich in beta carotene and vitamin A are less likely to develop many types of cancer, especially lung cancer. But be aware: research also shows that long-term use of high-dose beta carotene supplements are linked with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers and former smokers.

Fractures: Several observational studies show that too much retinol -- through diet or supplements -- may weaken bones and increase the likelihood of fractures. The risk appears when people consume more than double the recommended daily amount for preformed vitamin A and may be limited to those who don't get enough vitamin D.

Eye diseases: Vitamin A is essential to healthy eyes, as are lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that aren't transformed into vitamin A. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the retina of the eye. Spinach and kale, two lutein-rich vegetables, appear to moderately reduce the risk of cataracts (the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye).

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