6 “Healthy” Foods That Aren’t As Healthy As You Think
The food industry likes to put a lot of labels on food making shaky claims to get you to buy more of their product. Keto cookies… vegan cheese… paleo waffles… plant based burgers…
But when you look beyond the label you can see that some brands try to cling to buzz words that you associate with being “healthy”.
Just because a food product is labeled with “organic,” “low calorie,” “gluten free,” “all natural,” or “plant based,” does not mean they get a right-of-way to being “healthy”.
So here’s a list of ingredients to help you see through the claims on the boxes so that you can make the most educated choice for your health. This is by no means a complete list, but it can help you see through the facade that makes healthy eating so confusing.
Ultimately, the healthiest foods are going to be the ones without a label. You don’t see any campaigns promoting broccoli will lower your cholesterol, even though it absolutely can.
6 “Healthy” Foods That Aren’t Healthy & Cause Inflammation
Seed and Vegetable Oils
Canola, corn, vegetable, soybean, grapeseed oil. I don’t know about you but I don’t consider corn to be very oily unless it’s slathered in butter. So what is corn oil? Or vegetable oil?
Many vegetable and seed based oils go through a highly processed chemical manufacturing operation in order to make large amounts of these cheap food-like products.
Oils like canola (aka rapeseed), vegetable, grapeseed, corn, safflower and soybean oil are some of the most common. The problem with these oils is that they are extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids, have become rancid or hydrogenated. These rancid and hydrogenated oils are considered trans fats and are widely known to cause inflammation leading to diseases.
Not only do you want to avoid using these oils to cook with, but they’re frequently hidden in many food products to keep the ingredients cheap.
These oils are also commonly found in many baked goods, snack foods, salad dressings, condiments, granola, oat and nut milks, roasted nuts, protein bars, vegan alternatives and pre-made foods. Especially in restaurants.
Please, don’t be fooled by I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (margarine). It’s because it’s not butter, it’s canola oil, ie. trans fats, ie. the fuel of inflammation.
Instead, opt for naturally occurring fats like coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee or even pasture raised butter for cooking and cold pressed extra virgin olive oils for raw or low temperature cooking.
Whole grains are often praised for their high fiber and plant based protein content. But in our industrialized food system grains have become highly processed and highly produced, stripping away any possible nutrients and degrading the fiber content.
Originally, whole grains were consumed by soaking, sprouting or even fermenting them to make them easier to digest.
Not only has the modern food system neglected these historic ways of properly preparing whole grains, but it’s abused the plant as a whole spraying them with pesticides like glyphosate, which is a known carcinogen and systemic irritant.
Whole grains are often high glycemic as well. Grains are predominantly made up of carbohydrates and when they’re the main component of a meal, you’re usually looking at a big spike in blood sugar. A quinoa bowl can cause just as much, if not more, of an insulin spike as a can of soda.
Yes, whole grains do have some protein but to get an adequate serving of protein you’d need to eat quite a lot. To get just 15 grams of protein from brown rice, you’d have to eat 3 cups of rice.
Instead, opt for grain free options to reduce the effect on your blood sugar and pesticide intake.
Instead of oat milk, try almond milk. (Oatmilk has also been known to have canola oil as well.)
Instead of oatmeal, try this Spiced Apple No-Oat-Meal.
Instead of whole wheat or corn tortillas, try cassava tortillas.
Instead of rice, try cauliflower rice, and get your protein elsewhere.
If you do consume whole grains, soak, sprout, or ferment them to make them easier to digest.
Plant Based Meat Alternatives
Plant based burgers have become increasingly popular over the last few years. But what are they made of? The most common ingredients are soy protein, canola oil and a number of preservatives. We know all about the canola oil.
Not only is soy genetically modified, highly mono-cropped and sprayed with pesticides, but it’s also known to be high in phytoestrogens and can be an endocrine disruptor. These properties can cause a lot of hormonal dysregulation.
A good rule of thumb, if it’s made in a plant-avoid it.
A better choice would be a grass fed beef burger. Or if you’re not open to animal products a black bean burger made of real foods would be a better option.
Juices & Smoothies
Even the green cold pressed juices can be filled with sugar. The problem is that juice strips the fiber leaving nothing but sugar. A green juice with kale, cucumber, lemon and apple can cause a blood sugar spike. And juices with non-green vegetables like beets and carrots can have just as much sugar as a soda.
Ever think of doing a cold pressed juice cleanse? I’ve done a number of them. The thing is, as you go through the cleanse you’re hanging on from juice to juice to keep your energy up, swinging your blood sugar up and down when what is more balancing and anti-inflammatory is a stable blood sugar level.
Smoothies are better because they keep the fiber intact, but commercial smoothies can have upwards of 3 servings of fruit and 40 grams of sugar (that’s 10 teaspoons of sugar). A standard acai bowl, even with kale and all the superfoods, can have over 100 grams of net carbs that all flood your blood sugar.
Instead, opt for a smoothie with 1/4-1/2 cup of fruit to limit the blood sugar spike.
A vegan chocolate chip cookie is still a cookie. But do you want it to be made with eggs and butter or margarine and canola oil? Hint: go for the eggs and butter. They aren’t made in a plant and have many beneficial nutrients. Scroll back up for margarine and canola oil.
Many plant based or vegan foods are made with canola oil. We’ve mentioned plant based meat alternatives, but also vegan cheeses and other dairy products.
Make sure you read the ingredients because that’s not to say all plant based products contain these inflammatory oils, but many do. Just be aware.
Gluten Free Foods
Just cause it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s good for you. This label is thrown on anything and everything!
Yes, it’s avoiding one very inflammatory food compound but these food products are commonly filled with many other inflammatory ingredients.
Gluten free foods are usually made with inflammatory oils, processed whole grains and many forms of added sugars. Not to mention pesticides and gmo’s especially in corn based alternatives.
Not only are these, yet again, disruptive to your blood sugar, but also cause a lot of inflammation, especially to the gut.
Instead, opt for grain-free or whole food alternatives like spaghetti squash.
It’s impossible to avoid all these foods, especially the oils (they’re everywhere!) but as you become more aware of where they’re hidden you can find more clarity and confidence in the choices your making for yourself.
Do your best to minimize or avoid these foods and read beyond the labels. The first step is being mindful of what you’re consuming.