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In my earlier post, we looked at the first five so-called health foods that are often mistaken as good for you, but in actuality are anything but. As even those who are knowledgeable about nutrition can be fooled by hard-to-decipher labels, slick marketing campaigns or mom’s out-of-date advice leftover from childhood, here’s the remaining not-so-favorite five unhealthy foods, often mistaken for the good stuff:
6. Say No to Faux Butter, Chemical Spreads and Margarine!
No matter what your momma told you, margarine isn’t a health food – and might be better used as floor wax than a foodstuff. Though you may have grown up thinking that yellow glop was healthier than butter, those man-made spreads, sprays and faux-butter substitutes are filled with cheap, processed vegetable oils, fillers and artificial ingredients, all of which can take a serious toll on your heart and arteries. Worse, they don’t even taste good! So what’s the point of eating them? Instead of faux, switch to real, grass-fed, organic butter. It’s delicious, satisfying and full of good fats. It’s also a good source of health-enhancing conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps protect against cancer and encourages muscle growth, plus vitamins A, D and E, all of which are essential to good health. To read more about butter’s surprising benefits, click here.
7. Fish From the Farm Can Do You Harm
Everybody knows that fish is a good way to get your protein and good fats. Problem is, we’re often not eating the right stuff, which is wild fish, preferably pole-caught. Instead, most people eat factory-farmed fish, meaning fish that is raised by an industry whose sole mission it is to produce more fish quicker, faster, larger and cheaper. Raised in cramped, filthy tanks and pens, factory-farmed fish are prone to illness, which necessitates feeding them drugs, antifungals and/or pesticides to encourage survival till harvest time. With a life like that, it’s easy to see why these stressed-out, drugged-up, poorly fed creatures make an unhealthy meal – even more so when the fish is then processed, battered, fried, rolled in breadcrumbs, frozen and shipped to market. Compared to their wild-fish counterparts, farmed fish deliver roughly 20% less protein, twice as much inflammation-boosting omega 6 fatty acid, fewer omega 3′s and nutrients – so I say leave those fish down on the farm. Instead, choose certified wild fish whenever possible, or look for fish from smaller-scale, artisanal or boutique-style fish farms, which practice sustainable and eco-friendly techniques.
8. Grab a Diet Coke….And Pour it Down the Drain
If you’re still drinking diet soda, you might want to have your head examined, and perhaps a bone-density test while you’re at it. Diet drinks are foul-tasting, man-made chemical cocktails, devoid of nutrition, full of sodium and made with artificial colors that only a mad scientist could love. They’re also loaded with anything-but-natural sweeteners, which have been shown to have an appetite-triggering effect – so you’re likely to eat more, not less! Need another reason to kick the can? Diet sodas undermine health: according to a University of Minnesota study, just one diet soda a day was associated with a 36 percent increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. And other studies have established a link between diet cola use and bone density loss. My advice? Drop the pop, both diet and sugared, and switch to water, or teas like rooibos, hibiscus or green, all of which deliver wonderful health benefits – and taste great too!
9. Pretzels and Popcorn Won’t Keep You Trim or Full
Crunch, crunch, crunch. We are a nation of snackers. Problem is, most of us are snacking way too much on things that were once touted as healthy but ultimately wound up having the opposite effect. A case in point – pretzels. A favorite among dieters for their seemingly nominal fat and calorie count, pretzels have a dark side: they’re a salt, corn oil and flour bomb that spikes blood sugar and delivers no nutritional bang for your buck. And 20 minutes after scarfing down a few fist-fulls, you’re hungry again, so what’s the point of eating them in the first place? If it’s that crunch you need, munch on raw veggies, baked apple slices, kale chips, dried seaweed, or a handful of nuts. As long as your snacks are delivering nutrients, and not chemicals or blood sugar spikes, you win.
10. Fro-yo and Smoothies and Pinkberry, Oh My!
Everybody likes a treat now and then, but it seems like these days there’s a frozen treat on just about every corner – and the wise eater should just keep walking. But doc, it’s yoghurt! It’s a fruit smoothie! It’s good for me! Uh, isn’t it? The answer is, unfortunately, no because most commercial fro-yo and smoothie joints pack their treats with sugar, so they can easily hook you and keep you coming back for another fix. So, how to treat yourself to a healthy treat when you’re not at home? Trade fro-yo for a small container of unsweetened, plain full fat yoghurt and add a scoop of nuts and or chopped fruit from the salad bar. And if it’s a smoothie you’re craving, tell them to hold the sugar, which often gets tossed into the blender when you’re not looking. Among hidden sources of extra smoothie sugar that can easily turn a good smoothie to a sugar bomb: apple, mango, passion fruit, orange juices; simple syrup, ice cream and bananas. Ask for your own custom, simple smoothie made only with unsweetened almond milk or water, ice, fruit and powered greens or protein if available to insure you’re getting only the essentials. Ultimately, though, the best ones you can make are the ones you make yourself! Click here for our favorite Be Well smoothie recipes.
Bottom line: When it comes to food, keep it real and eat it whole – and if it’s faux, just say no! Strike the 10 tricksters from your shopping list and swap ‘em for truly healthy, nutritionally-valuable foods that will sustain and optimize your health.
*Image of “pretzel” via Shutterstock