When you find a food that’s somehow both healthy and delicious, it’s easy to get addicted. It’s not often the foods you want to eat overlap with the foods you should eat. Soon enough, you’re munching on your newfound favorite at all hours of the day. Although this certainly beats crushing candy bars or guzzling soda, some healthy foods can quickly go from helpful to hurtful when overeaten.
To help you make the most of your healthy choices, we rounded up six healthy foods whose benefits are often overshadowed by overeating. As it turns out, you really can have too much of a good thing.
Nuts are a great snack. They taste fantastic, they’re convenient and they’re high in healthy fats, antioxidants and other useful nutrients. Daily consumption of nuts confers a wide variety of benefits, including reduced risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, hypertension and diabetes.
Most of these benefits can be gained by eating just a handful of nuts a day—roughly 1.5 ounces. But that doesn’t stop people from channeling their inner squirrels and downing multiple servings of nuts each and every day. Why is this a problem? Because nuts are relatively high in both calories and fat.
A serving of nuts is smaller than you think. One serving of almonds, for example, is about 23 individual almonds. That’s small enough to fit on a standard-sized sticky note. Over the course of the day, it can be easy to grab five handfuls of almonds without thinking twice. That means you’re consuming 815 calories and 70 grams of fat per day from almonds alone. Sure, a lot of that is healthy fat—but it’s also a significant dose of saturated fat. And those numbers are for naked almonds. Overeating flavored nuts can be even more troublesome. If you were to eat four handfuls of one popular flavored peanut brand, you’d be downing 560 calories, 32 grams of fat and 52 grams of sugar.
The lesson: don’t go nuts on nuts. A serving size is smaller than you think, and you don’t need to down a huge amount of nuts to reap their tremendous health benefits.
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Avocados are seemingly everywhere. Last year, Americans downed roughly 4.25 billion avocados—more than twice as many as they did in 2005. When you can get a food at Subway, it’s safe to say it’s a hit.
It’s not hard to see why we’ve fallen in love with avocados. Their rich, creamy texture makes them a diverse player in the kitchen. They can be put in sandwiches, salads, soups, smoothies and more. And who doesn’t love guacamole?
Avocados are also ripe with nutritional benefits. They’re packed with useful nutrients like fiber, potassium, healthy fats and vitamin C, and regularly consuming avocado has been linked to benefits like lower risk of cancer and heart disease and improved weight management.
Since avocados can be put on almost anything, it’s easy to overeat them. And since an average-sized avocado actually contains five servings, if you put away multiple avocados a day, you’ll be downing a ton of calories and saturated fat. If you eat two avocados a day, you’re getting 644 calories and 42 percent of your daily recommended value of saturated fat (not to mention 58 grams of fat overall). Avocados are an awesome food. Just don’t go overboard on this green goodie.
Granola has a lot going for it. It’s usually much less processed than those colorful breakfast cereals, and it’s often tastier. Most granolas consist of oats, nuts, honey and occasionally dried fruit, and they’re high in both fiber and protein. The benefits of whole grains, such as those used in most granolas, are immense. Whole grain consumption has been linked to everything from decreased risk of heart disease to increased gut health and reduced inflammation.
All of these facts make granola a healthy choice in small doses, but granola often has a high calorie, fat and sugar content. If you eat just the recommended serving size, this wouldn’t be a big deal. The problem is, almost everyone eats more cereal than the recommended serving size.
A recent study found that the average American eats 30 percent more cereal than the recommended serving size, and 10 percent of Americans eat more than 2.5 times the recommended serving size! What’s more, granola is a prime suspect for overeating due to it’s small size. Most granolas have small components in them, and a recent study found that cereals with smaller pieces were more likely to be overeaten than cereals with big pieces
It’s shockingly easy to overeat granola. This can be detrimental, since a single serving alone is high in sugar, calories and fat. The nutritional value of granolas varies widely across different brands, so be sure to know what you’re getting. And always keep serving size in mind.
Jerky is a delicious high-protein snack. It’s low in calories and fat and it’s easier than grilling up an entire steak! The convenience and muscle building power of jerky make it a common favorite among athletes and gym rats. However, jerky—especially flavored jerky—can have high amounts of sodium and sugar. What makes this especially worrisome is that jerky’s serving size is relatively small.
An average bag of beef jerky contains three servings—although it can easily be downed in one or two sittings. If you’re eating certain flavored jerkies, you’re downing over 2000mg of sodium or 18 grams of sugar. Jerky can be a smart snack, but make sure to stick to the serving size and choose low-processed options.
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5. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit can be delightful—it’s sweet, convenient and widely available. Plus, dried fruit has a longer shelf life than its fresh counterpart. Dried fruit can be enjoyed on its own and is frequently added to trail mixes, cereals, baked goods and salads.
Since dried fruit is essentially fresh fruit with most of the water removed, it provides many of the same benefits. In certain cases, dried fruits are actually higher in some nutrients than fresh fruit. A 2005 study found dried apricots were higher in potassium and iron than an equal serving of raw apricots, and dried figs were found to be higher in calcium and fiber than fresh figs. They also found several dried fruits had a higher concentration of phenols, a type of antioxidant compound that can prevent cancer and heart disease.
Since dried fruit is smaller than fresh fruit, it can be an easy way to take in a lot of fiber and vitamins in a small package. However, its small size also frequently leads to overeating.
For example, a 100-gram serving of dried apricots contains nearly 200 more calories and 45 more grams of sugar than a 100-gram serving of fresh apricots. The same goes for most varieties of dried fruit, including raisins. And those numbers can skyrocket further if sugar is added—a common occurrence for dried fruit. Dried fruit packs a lot in a small package—both good and bad. When consuming dried fruit, paying attention to the serving size is important. Otherwise the amount of sugar and calories you consume could spiral out of control. Also, opt for all-natural dried fruit to avoid additives and get the most out of your choice.
6. Olive Oil
Haven’t you heard? Olive oil is good for you! Olive oil is rich in healthy fats, specifically monounsaturated fatty acids, or “MUFAs.” Olive oil has been connected to a number of awesome health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart disease, lower levels of cholesterol, lower risk of cancer, improved blood sugar control and normalized blood clotting. With all of those benefits, it’s easy to see why olive oil use is encouraged.
However, the small serving size of olive oil, in addition to its high fat and calorie content, makes it a prime example of a healthy food whose benefits are sometimes overshadowed by overeating. One serving of olive oil is a measly tablespoon. If you assume that olive oil is a healthy food, it would be shockingly easy to consume four or five tablespoons a day—some in your salad, some with your bread, some in your pasta. If that’s the case, you’re probably unaware of how many calories and grams of fat you’re ingesting. Four tablespoons of olive oil would equate to roughly 500 calories, 60 grams of fat and 40 percent of your daily recommended value of saturated fat. Yes, olive oil has many health benefits, but don’t take them as license to use it on any and every food you find in front of you.
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