What’s in your grocery cart? Sometimes things that seem healthy aren’t as great as we think. Be aware of what kind of healthy food you’re buying into.
When you walk into the modern health food store, you’ll likely find a variety of health foods. Some are truly healthy, and some are deceiving. Obviously, we shop at these health food stores because we desire high quality, nutritious, good, and clean food, but it’s important to understand that just because a food item is found at a health foods store doesn’t inherently make it healthy and nutritious.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are certain concepts and principles that apply to everybody. Each person should focus his or her eating on clean, whole, real foods that come from nature, are minimally and traditionally processed, and, ideally, are organic, non-GMO, and local.
Because understanding truly healthy foods from the less-than-healthy ones can be confusing, I’ve listed below some of the trickiest health foods you might come across and why they should be avoided!
Processed Supermarket Yogurt
While truly traditional yogurt can provide a great deal of nutritional value and can be a great component of a nutritious, well-rounded diet, most yogurts, even the vegan ones, commonly available on the supermarket shelves of today’s modern world are anything but traditional or natural. Traditional yogurt is lower in sugar, high in quality protein, and is rich in nutrients such as calcium and B vitamins, and gut-healthy probiotics. The common yogurts today are more of a dessert than a nourishing food and are highly processed, made with low-quality ingredients, full of added sugar, and contain coloring agents and preservatives. The high sugar content in most yogurts alone is a reason to avoid this food, as high amounts of sugar wreak havoc on the immune system, the body’s gut flora balance, and can cause several other issues. If you’re not making your own yogurt, choose unsweetened (plain) and organic.
For vegans, this isn’t news. But for those who eat fish, this is likely a surprising one, as we’ve always heard that fish provides healthy fat and protein! While this is true, most fish today are farm raised or are contaminated from environmental pollution. If a fish has more pollutants than heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, then the harm outweighs the good. Commonly found pollutants in fish vary, but some of the most detrimental, such as PCB’s, are strongly linked with a number of health concerns, including cancer and fertility problems. Farm-raised fish should be avoided. If you are pescatarian, choose fish that are wild-caught and ideally Alaskan. Avoid the most commonly toxic fish, such as shrimp, tilapia, and canned tuna.
Many people are still under the impression that soy is a healthy source of protein, especially for vegetarians. This, however, is simply not the case. Soy contains something called phytoestrogens, which can mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen in the body. These phytoestrogens can cause issues and have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer. Additionally, most all soy in the United States today is now genetically modified, causing greater concern. Unfermented soy naturally contains elements known as anti-nutrients (such as saponins, oxalates, and others) that block nutrient absorption and utilization. When or if any soy is consumed, it should not be the highly processed forms, but the traditional, fermented versions, such as natto, tempeh, and traditionally made soy sauce.
Calling it veggie doesn’t make this processed snack healthy. In fact, veggie chips are just as detrimental to our health as potato chips. Most veggie chips are made from corn flour or a potato base and have a little bit of processed veggie powder or puree added in. These highly processed chips are lacking and devoid of nutrients and have been baked or fried at high temperatures, which creates something known as acrylamide. Acrylamide is a tasteless compound, but it does a number on our bodies and can lead to cancer, neurological problems, and nerve damage.
Most all fruit juice found at stores today are highly processed, not fresh, and contain unhealthy additives. It’s also a liquid form of sugar, primarily fructose, and raises blood sugar levels far too high without the nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber to aid digestion and assimilation. Processed fruit juices are basically like candy, providing little to no true nutritional value, but cause a great deal of nutritional stress on the body. Studies show that those who commonly consume juice are at a higher risk of diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Gluten Free Products
Some gluten-free products are highly processed and are high in processed starches, such as from corn or potato. They contain little to no true nutritional value, but spike insulin and are lacking in fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamins and minerals. Outside of high amounts of processed starch, gluten-free products are also typically high in processed and added sugars. If you’re avoiding gluten, choose foods that are naturally gluten-free, or do your research to know how the product is made.
Doing your research in general is good advice. Know what is in the food you're buying, and buy well so you can eat well.