Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you that this is good for you or that will improve your health. We have orange juice that supposedly lowers cholesterol, flavored waters that boost immune health, and even cookies that help you lose weight!
While most of us are already skeptical of these types of claims, there are foods out there that fly under the radar. They masquerade as healthy, simply lying in wait in to sabotage your best efforts at gaining and maintaining your health.
I call these food-like products food imposters and some of the worst offenders include:
1. Canola Oil
I bet this sounds a little sacrilegious, but canola oil is the furthest thing from health bargain. Conventional canola oil is processed with high-temperature, mechanical pressing. It goes through caustic refining, bleaching, and de-gumming. The high temperatures needed to extract the oil from the rapeseed (sounds appetizing in and of itself right?) plant make the highly touted omega-3’s rancid and foul smelling, requiring them to be deodorized, a process that can create trans fats. Unless it’s cold-pressed and organic, stay away, and even then, you have way better options and value for your money.
While these cannot be classified as unhealthy, they are utterly unnecessary. The whole concept of egg whites only or egg white omelets is a left over from the obsession with low fat food products that began in the 1980’s. Especially when it comes to eggs, this has been shown to be a huge mistake.
The yolk contains many nutritional superstars including, lutein and xeazanthin, which both need fat to be absorbed properly. Egg yolks are also an important source of phosphatidylcholine, an important nutrient for brain health.
Keeping on with the ‘fat’ issue - half the fat in the yolk is not the saturated type to begin with and saturated part is good for you!
3. Farm-Raised Salmon
You cannot begin to compare farm-raised salmon with the wild variety. Farm-raised salmon have up to eight times the level of carcinogenic PCBs as wild salmon, and they are significantly lower in the omega-3 fats we are encouraged to consume salmon for. These farmed salmon are kept in pens, fed grain and fishmeal and are given a plethora of antibiotics creating a nutritional profile of far inferior value as their wild relatives.
Wild salmon get their signature deep red/pink color from the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin that comes from consuming krill, their natural food source. Farmed salmon get their color artificially – it is a dye added to their feed.
4. Fruit and Vegetable Juice
Apples, good. Apple juice? Not so much.
Carrots, great. Carrot juice? Not as nutritious.
One cup of apple juice has zero fiber, 117 calories and 29 grams of carbohydrates, 27 grams of which are sugar (and your typical serving is a lot more than a cup). Clearly that is not any close to being a healthy option. Basically, it is sugar water with apple flavoring. Other fruit juices are no better and sweet vegetable juices have similar profiles too.
Whole fruits and vegetables contain fiber along with all the vitamins and minerals necessary to break down and slowly assimilate the sugars present. The implications of consuming multiple cups a day of this flavored sugar water is just now beginning to be understood. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but apple juice just may necessitate a few house calls in the future.
Whether you call them cereal bars, energy bars, protein bars, granola bars, snack bars, meal replacement bars or breakfast bars, a large majority of them are simply chewy versions of candy bars. They usually have very little fiber, lots of processed carbohydrates, and a large proportion of sugar.
A better option is making your own. This is easy to do, takes only a few minutes and is a winner in the taste department. Try mixing raw, steel cut oats, chopped almonds and/or other nuts, coconut flakes, raisins or a few chopped dates, and a dollop of raw organic honey.
6. Supermarket Cereals
With very few exceptions, most supermarket cereals contain little to no fiber. The overwhelming majority are also loaded with sugar. They predominantly have a very high glycemic impact, meaning they raise blood sugar quickly, contributing to mood swings and energy dips. Whole grains are better, but only marginally, and people who are sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations will still need to be careful.
If cereal is a must for you, make your own using real, whole ingredients or cook up some organic, steel cut oats, the old fashioned type, the old fashioned way. On the shelf, try and source out those that pass the ‘5 and 5’ rule: less than 5 grams of sugar, more than 5 grams of fiber.
7. Flavoured Yogurt
Flavoured yogurt is a prime example of marketing triumphing over good sense. The only thing low-fat, flavoured and coloured yogurts have in common with real yogurt is the word yogurt.
Real yogurt is one of the healthiest foods on earth and packed with live cultures that support your digestive health. The live culture content of most of the flavoured yogurt at the grocery store is close to zero. Any cultures that have been added will find it hard to survive in the slew of chemicals and artificial sweeteners added to most modern yogurts. Furthermore, these can cause cravings just like sugar. You’re better off with real, creamy, organic full fat yogurt, if you can find it, or try your hand at making your own.
So what is a health conscious human to do??
Stick With the Basics…
When it comes to selecting healthy foods, follow the rule of KISS and keep it seriously simple. Choose whole foods, not short cuts. That means less bars, juices, and cereals and more whole fruits, eggs, and wild caught fish.
Be label smart. Check for sugar, fiber, and ingredients. If there are words you are unsure of, move on. If you come across an ingredient you would be concerned about eating on its own, you probably would do better not to eat it hidden in something else.
Finally, when in doubt, go wild, pasture-raised, free-range, and organic.
It is important to keep an open mind to new ideas, but ALWAYS do your own homework…
and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.