Are trendy health foods worth the hype?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It can be difficult to navigate through the ever-changing world of trendy health foods, and know what is actually good for your body.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Maya Feller broke down the pros and cons on Good Morning America Thursday, for some of the most hyped-up foods that you may have seen taking over your social media feeds.

Here is her roundup of what to know about some of the trendiest health foods out there, and her tips for how to enjoy them while reaping their full nutritional benefits.

Acai bowls

Pros:
Acai berries alone are a great addition to your diet, according to Feller. The berries are packed with Vitamin A, fiber and mono-saturated fatty acids.

Cons:
Some acai bowls can be packed with huge amounts of sugar–some bowls may even contain upwards of 50 grams–from the pureed acai berry, additional fruit toppings, granola and even honey or agave.

Feller recommends the healthiest way to consume an acai bowl is to skip the store bought varieties and make it yourself at home. You can still use acai berry puree, but reduce or adjust the amount you use and add more fresh fruits. She also recommends pairing it with a healthy fat, such as avocado or unsweetened nut butter, to minimize blood sugar spikes. Lastly, Feller advises to think of acai bowls as a healthy treat rather than a full meal replacement.

Almond milk

Pros:
Almond milk is naturally low in saturated fats, has no dietary cholesterol, and is a lower-calorie alternative when compared to many other non-dairy beverages.

Cons:
Many conventional almond milks can have more than the recommended amounts of added sugars, fats, salts, gums and stabilizers such as carrageenan. Recent studies have linked consumption of carrageenan with various adverse health outcomes, according to Feller.

Almonds alone boast many nutritional benefits, including being a good source of plant based protein in addition to being naturally low in sugar, according to Feller. If you are able to make your own almond milk and forgo the additives, or purchase a brand that is free of sugar and stabilizers, almond milk can be a healthy alternative to dairy, Feller said.

Charcoal

Cons:
Feller advises that charcoal should be used under medical supervision, and there is currently very limited scientific evidence to support the consumption of activated charcoal on a daily basis.

Pros:
None, according to Feller.

Activated charcoal was initially used during cases of acute poisoning, according to Feller. In such cases, it is used in a medical setting and ingested in a pharmacological dose that stops or minimizes the body’s absorption of toxic chemicals in the gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract. Due to these properties, activated charcoal can also reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals–as well as prescription medication–possibly leading to adverse health outcomes, Feller said.

Veggie sticks

Pros:
Feller says the pros of these trendy snack foods are that they are a shelf-stable, healthier, alternative to many fried, potato-based, snack foods.

Cons:

These snacks should not be consumed in place of real vegetables, according to Feller, who also advised that most veggie sticks may contain mostly potato flour and/or potato starch. Although they may be advertised as “veggie” snacks, they do not provide the same nutritional benefits as having a serving of potatoes or broccoli.

Feller advises to not confuse this snack food with the actual health food of real vegetables. If you are looking for a crunchy, shelf-stable, snack to enjoy once in a while, however, Feller recommends veggie sticks, as long as you are mindful of the portion sizes and are aware that they are not an adequate replacement for a serving of real vegetables.

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