Deciding Whether Health Fads are a Trick Or Treat

Everybody likes treats. Not everybody likes tricks.

But sometimes in nutrition it’s difficult to determine which is which.

Following are 7 current health trends. Find out if each health fad is truly good for you. Or if they’re all just hype. Are these foods healthy additions to your diet to live a long life, or a short-lived craze?

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a health fad that's a treat

Chia seeds are a treat.

Chia seeds are a treat because they’re extremely fibrous. One ounce of chia seeds has 11 grams of fiber. That’s 42% of your recommended fiber intake for the day in a single tablespoon of chia seeds!

Another reason chia seeds are a treat is they’re extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are one of the few good sources of this vital nutrient.

Omega fatty acids are essential for health. Proper omega ratios are important for mood control and brain health.

Most foods have more omega-6 than omega-3. Grains, oil, nuts and seeds have a much more omega-6 compared to omega-3. Eating lots of these foods can imbalance your omega ratios.

On the other hand, chia seeds have more omega-3 than omega-6. So if you eat a lot of grains, nuts and seeds, it’s beneficial to balance out your omega ratios with a tablespoon of chia seeds every day.

Or, you could just try flax seeds. They’re a fraction of the cost and just as healthy.

Need a recipe with chia? Try Blissful Basil’s Raw Apple-Cinnamon & Chia Breakfast Bowl.


Coconut is a health fad that's a trick

Coconut is a trick.

Coconut oil, flour, milk, water and sugar are fads. The media is going crazy with pseudo-science that claims everything coconut is healthy.

What they lack is reputable science to back it up.

Coconut oil is still oil that’s high in saturated fat. Coconut sugar is still refined sugar. These are two foods you should cut out to lose weight. They’re empty calories to your diet with negligible nutrition.

Is coconut a superfood? No. Not even close. I can’t wait for the coconut craze to die like all the other snake-oil hypes.


Butter is a health fad that's a trick

Butter is a trick.

Butter in your coffee isn’t healthy.  Misinformed journalists can dispute it all they like. It leads to heart disease and obesity, both of which are correlated to your risk of developing diabetes.

Butter isn’t a heath food. It contains trans-fats, saturated fat and cholesterol. Butter is like oil in the sense that it’s extremely high in fat (99% fat). It’s void of fiber so it adds little satiety to meals.

Butter is simply empty calories. Albeit empty calories that increase cholesterol and risk for chronic disease.

Instead of butter on toast, opt for healthy alternatives instead. How about some creamy avocado? Or some yummy peanut butter spread? If you want a high-carb option, try fresh fruit, beans or hummus.

Margarine is not a healthy alternative to butter. It’s just as unhealthy as, if not worse than, butter.

Green Smoothies

Green smoothies are a health fad that's a treat

Green smoothies are a treat.

Some people just have trouble eating greens. I get it. In fact, science has a reason for this. Many vegetables are bitter because they contain so much nutrition. One way to make greens less bitter is to cook them. Another is to combine them with sweet foods, i.e. fruit.

Keep green smoothies a treat by keeping them full of healthy carbs. Pair greens with fruit and other vegetables. Minimize the amount of non-dairy milk and other fat you add. If you love spices, herbs or other flavorings, feel free to add them, too.

If you need some green smoothie inspiration for fall, check out this simple Green Pumpkin Smoothie by Happy Herbivore.

Can’t fathom the idea of a green smoothie? You’re not alone. You don’t have to drink green smoothies to be healthy. Just make sure to eat your greens instead.


Quinoa is a health fad that's a treat

Quinoa is a treat.

I used to think that quinoa was all hype. And it still is a little.

However, quinoa is a nutritious pseudo-grain. It has more protein and fiber than brown rice. For those worried about “quality” protein, it’s classified as a “complete protein” too. Quinoa also has a wide variety of nutrients including Vitamin E, folate and iron.

Though it’s higher in fat than rice, it contains just 8 more calories per 100-gram serving. The extra fiber, protein and fat will likely keep you satisfied for longer than brown rice.

Try quinoa today in my Sweet and Spicy Quinoa Chili recipe.


Gluten-free is a health fad that's a trick

Gluten-free is a trick.

Do you even know what gluten is?

If you’re like most people, you don’t need to be eating gluten-free.

Gluten-free could be a good health fad. That is, if people replaced gluten-containing processed junk foods with healthy whole foods. But as the gluten-free trend rises, that’s happening less and less.

Why? Because now more unhealthy processed foods are available that’re gluten free. Almost everything can be found gluten free. Cookies, chips, cakes, bread, pies, doughnuts and everything in between. And most of these are made with refined grains, oil and added sugar.

Instead of replacing a gluten-containing doughnut with an apple, people eat gluten-free doughnuts instead. It doesn’t matter whether the doughnut has gluten or not. Neither the regular doughnut or the gluten-free doughnut are healthy. So gluten-free no longer means fewer processed foods. It simply means eating processed food that doesn’t contain gluten.

FYI, gluten is a protein found in certain grains like wheat, rye and barley. For 99% of people, gluten is health-promoting.


Kale isa health fad that's a treat

Kale is a treat.

Of course any leafy green is going to be a treat. Leafy greens like kale are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. They’re some of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

Kale is high in carbohydrates for a leafy green. 71% of its calories comes from carbs. 100 grams of cooked kale has more Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K than cooked spinach.

Don’t like kale? No problem. Eat bok choy, spinach or swiss chard. All leafy greens are health promoting.

If you want a tasty kale recipe, try this Kale Pasta in Sweet Tomato Sauce. Stay away from kale chips coated in oil and salt.


What’s your fridge full of: tricks or treats?

Decide whether a health fad is a trick or a treat. Some heath trends are actually healthy. Other's are just hype. See whether you're choosing healthy food or not.
  • Updated 3 years ago
Sara Binde

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.