Marketing in the food industry today can make it rather challenging to distinguish which health foods are actually healthy.
Below is a list of the top culprits I come across in clients health journals when they unfairly believe they are making positive healthy food choices.
1) Soy Products:
Soy is a popular choice for the lactose intolerant and vegan communities. Unfortunately soy today is genetically modified and contains phytoestogens, high levels of phytic acid and other harmful properties responsible for creating severe hormonal imbalances in both men and women, as well as malabsorption of certain vitamins and minerals, all creating a spiralling deterioration of health.
Soy in its fermented state is least harmful, so think miso and tempeh. Now I love the taste of soy milk and being lactose intolerant sometimes I do treat myself to a soy beverage when there is no source of almond milk in sight. Moderation and listening to your body is the key. I limit myself to 2 cups of organic soy a week, however there are weeks when I know my body is not at its strongest and I avoid soy all together.
2) Packaged Dried Fruits:
Dried fruit can be as bad as highly processed snacks. Hidden inside you can often find added sugars, sulphur dioxide (causes allergies & asthma) and insect larvae that lead to parasite infections. Dried fruit also loses many vitamins and minerals in the manufacturing process and is a high energy (sugar) snack.
Including organic, additive free dried fruit in moderation does have its nutritional advantages. So purchase carefully and pre soak and rinse your dried fruit in filtered water beforehand.
3) Muesli Bars:
As much as the food companies try to convince you they are the key to weight loss, energy and health, really you might as well eat a chocolate bar. Muesli bars are full of sugar. Organic cane sugar or corn/ rice syrups does not make them any healthier. These fibre/ protein enriched health benefits we are marketed on are extras added to the sugar based snack to label it ‘healthy’. Often produced with poor quality oats, wheat and rice flours, muesli bars are a carbohydrate heavy, immune depleting, erratic blood sugar creating food item.
Solution- choose organic, refined sugar-free, additive free brands or even better make your own.
4) Low Fat/ Fat Free Dairy Products:
Oh my goodness where do I even start! Our bodies were not meant to consume products that have been deconstructed. In its full fat whole state is always best. When we tamper with whole foods, our bodies can not digest and metabolise them effectively. The other problem with low fat/ fat free products is that to compensate, large amounts of sugar and other additives are added to enhance the flavour and consistency.
So if your going to consume dairy, please choose organic, full fat versions. This also includes pure butter- please please avoid margarines at all costs.
5) Muti-grain breads and wheat products:
Unfortunately wheat is not produced to the quality it use to be. The wheat we consume today has a much higher gluten content, hence why many people have become gluten intolerant in today’s society. The grain lacks the vitamin and mineral content it use to posses. Multi- grain products are usually made from refined wheat flour (possessing no nutritional benefits) and then they just add a few extra unrefined grains to the mix to label it multi-grain.
So in the end you are receiving a high gluten, hard to digest product with very little nutritional value, made from a base of refined grains and often even including hidden artificial additives. Sourdough, organic or sprouted grain loaves are an alternate healthier options.
I will have the recipe for an easy wholesome gluten-free loaf in the Ebook- The Holistic Health Guide.
6) Sport drinks:
Being in the fitness industry I see athletes and trainers sculling these products down on a daily basis and then the everyday person using them as an energy lift or post workout because they believe they are a healthy addition to their workout routine. The problem with sport drinks is they are packed with refined sugar and artificial minerals. The sodium content if extreme for the everyday person and the sugar content not only is unnecessary, it also negatively effects the bodies muscle recovery abilities.
Rehydrate with good old water and add a pinch of a good high quality trace mineral salt (celtic or hymalayan) to your drink bottle to replenish mineral stores. A post run snack will effectively help with muscle recovery and regulate your blood sugars.
More on post run snack + yummy recipe
7) Fruit juices & smoothies:
As most of you know I am a bit smoothie obsessed and I am a big promoter of a good green juice. My problem is the pre packaged juices (with the exception of a few brands) and even most of the juice/ smoothie bars and cafes which are selling high sugar, poor quality products that are getting directly absorbed into your blood stream.
With a juice, my rule is 2 vegetable to every fruit to help reduce the sugar content and avoid a blood sugar crash. With smoothies make sure they don’t have added sorbet or sugar sweetened yogurt added. Also being mindful of the quality. By consuming a non organic juice, you are absorbing a high concentrate of residue chemicals into your blood stream. The best juices and smoothies are those made yourself!
8) Peanut butter:
Ok I am a full-blown peanut butter addict, so I can understand your disappointment with this one on the list. So whats wrong with peanut butter? First of all the peanut butter we buy off the shelves is made with poor quality peanuts and is full of refined sugar, salt, harmful vegetable oils and often a few other unidentified additives. Peanuts also have a high omega 6 content. While omega 6 are necessary in our diet, the imbalance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids is becoming a serious health concern in our diet today. Peanuts also contain aflatoxins which are a natural occurring fungal toxin and high lectin content which is hard to digest and creates inflammation and an immune response in the body.
So whats the alternative for those other peanut butter addicts out there? If you are going to purchase peanut butter, choose an additive free, organic brand. You can also make your own by grinding raw organic peanuts. I also love almond butter or other nut butters.
9) Gluten free packaged products:
Don’t be fooled by the latest gluten-free health phase. Packaging labeled ‘Gluten Free’ does not necessarily mean it is healthy. Packaged gluten-free products are usually created from a base of refined white rice flour and corn fillers with lots of refined sugar and additives.
When selecting gluten-free products, opt for whole food versions with the least amount of processing. Products containing quinoa, buckwheat, almond meal, brown rice and/ or amaranth are all healthier options. Look for no added sugar and choose organic where possible.