8 "Healthy" Foods to Avoid
By: Brandi Wagner, RHN
1 June, 2015 by
8 "Healthy" Foods to Avoid
Sun Chlorella USA

Marketing has a larger influence on us than we think when it comes to guiding our food choices for health and wellness.

Thousands of foods and wellness products are advertised as healthy and even as superfoods in some cases. This marketing can easily persuade us to believe certain foods are a good addition to our diet when in reality these are "healthy” foods to avoid. Too often the label on a processed "health food” product is so misleading that it can make every nutritionist want to scream.

Reading labels is important to avoid being fooled, but even food labels don't always include every detail. For example, growth hormones used in dairy farming end up in yogurt, milk and cheese. And even if you're cruising the organic section, you're not exempt from harmful ingredients. Often, organic processed foods are hardly better than the non-organic versions.

To help you avoid being mislead by the marketing in the food industry and several foods that disguise themselves as healthy, here are eight healthy foods to avoid and better alternatives.

1. Vitamin-Enhanced Water 

To be blunt, vitamin-enhanced water is not much better than drinking soda. While the name is certainly suggestive of a health food product, the nutrition label proves otherwise. Vitamin flavored water can contain up to 33g of white sugar per bottle, making it a far cry from a nutritious drink.

Furthermore, the source of sugar in vitamin-enhanced water typically comes from crystalline fructose, which is a processed sweetener derived from corn that promotes mid-section weight gain.But what about the vitamins?

The vitamins in vitamin water are present in very miniscule amounts, and they aren't true vitamins, rather synthetic chemical isolates which are questionable as to whether the body can benefit.

The healthier alternative? Keep it real by adding your favorite berries or fruit to filtered water with a touch of raw honey or stevia. You'll be doing your body a favor by providing true electrolytes, antioxidant vitamins and minerals from a real food source.

2. Organic Cereals and Granola 

As we briefly touched on, the word "organic” means little when it comes to processed foods. Sure, you may be getting foods made from organic ingredients, but often they contain just as much sugar, transfat and additives as the non-organic processed foods.

Organic cereals and granola in particular are positioned as health foods but will likely contain upward of 9 g of sugar per serving (with a very small serving size). As a general guideline, you'll want no more than 6g of sugar per serving. Additionally, many unhealthy fats such as soybean oil are found in the ingredients list, which are often hydrogenated and genetically modified (GMO).

The healthier alternative to store-bought granola or cereal would be to control the quality of ingredients you're eating by making your own granola at home. Simply using raw rolled oats, raw honey or maple syrup and a few of your favorite nuts and seeds, you can make something that is far more delicious and nutritious, not to mention cheaper.

3. Margarine 

Personally, it pains me to see a bucket of hydrogenated fats in the form of margarine marketed as healthy. Hydrogenated fats are delicate fats that were liquid in their original form and then exposed to extremely high temperatures to become a solid. This is harmful because when delicate fats are exposed to unsafe temperatures, their chemical structure is altered, and they become transfats. These transfats contribute to heart disease and obesity, yet they are still marketed as healthy.

Sure, you might not be fooled by the regular margarine anymore. But what about the margarines that claim to be free from hydrogenated fats?

The answer: still avoid.

A margarine that claims to be free from hydrogenated fats will likely contain modified palm oil, a highly processed saturated fat. In its pure form, palm oil is not a cause for concern, but it is rarely used. Instead, modified palm oil is cheaper to produce and does not contain the essential nutrients found in its purest form or offer any benefit to your natural health care.

As an alternative, go back to the basics and use good ol' organic butter or ghee (clarified butter). Contrary to popular belief, the saturated fats in butter aren't harmful to health and can actually reduce inflammation when sourced from grass-fed cows.

4. Zero-Calorie Drinks 

In most cases, when a drink is "diet” or "zero calorie” it means an artificial sweetener has been added to it to enhance the flavor.

Aspartame is the main ingredient in widely used artificial sweeteners such as Nutrasweet and Equal. Once believed to be an excellent choice for natural weight loss, artificial sweeteners are now being exposed for what truly happens in the body when they are ingested, which is quite the opposite.

Artificial sweeteners trick your body into thinking it's getting ready to receive and digest sugar from food. Since the sugar isn't actually present, you are more likely to experience sugar cravings to satisfy what the body thought it was getting. For this reason, research suggests that artificial sweeteners can actually do more metabolic damage than regular sugar alone.

Your body also doesn't recognize the chemical composition of aspartame since it's not a true food, which contributes to your toxic load upon metabolization. Aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde, which is used to preserve dead bodies, not to nourish our cells.

If you had to choose between a beverage that has aspartame or one that is sweetened with sugar, it's better to choose the sugar because your body will at least recognize what you're ingesting. However, I'm not recommending you go for the soda or sugary beverage. If you're craving something sweet and plain water won't do the trick, add a fresh squeezed lemon to sparkling mineral water and flavor it with green leaf stevia to make a healthy version of lemonade.

5. Salad Dressing 

You'll often find salad dressings that say "30% fewer calories” or "light” or "all natural”, which can be extremely misleading for you as a consumer.

The truth is that nearly every salad dressing is highly processed and made with low-grade oils such as GMO canola oil or soybean oil with the addition of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Many salad dressings are also stored in plastic bottles, which contain the endocrine disrupting toxin BPA. BPA leaches into the ingredients of your salad dressing which means you're ingesting that toxin with each use.

The better alternative to commercial salad dressing is to make one at home each week with different herbs such as mint or basil, dijon mustard and a high-quality fat such as organic extra virgin olive oil.

You can blend your own creation in under five minutes, store it in a glass container and keep it on hand for the entire week.

If you're eating in a restaurant, avoid the unhealthy salad dressing ingredients by simply ask for a side of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a slice of lemon.

6. Fruit-Flavored Yogurt 

Fruit flavored yogurt appears to be a nutritionally sound breakfast option full of vitamins and minerals. The reality is that it contains very little fruit and a lot of sugar.

Many fruit-flavored yogurts are also advertised as "low fat” which means more sugar has been added in place of the fat to create an edible product with enhanced flavor. Additionally, many commercially prepared yogurts are not organic, which means there's a good chance the yogurt contains the growth hormone used in dairy farming, rBGH. This unnatural hormone is not ideal for human consumption.

Furthermore, as a snack or breakfast option, sugary fruit-flavored yogurt sets you up for nutritional failure by spiking your blood sugar levels and providing few good-quality fats or protein.

The better option is to purchase plain organic greek yogurt and add some organic vitamin-rich frozen or fresh berries with pure vanilla extract or a touch of raw honey for flavor.

7. Skim Milk 

Can full-fat milk really be healthier than skim milk? In short, yes. For the average healthy individual, full fat (and organic) milk is the better option.

While this may be a tough pill to swallow (especially if you love your non-fat lattes), skim milk is mostly empty carbohydrates. With the absence of saturated fat, your blood sugar levels won't be stabilized and your appetite will remain unsatiated.

This causes cravings for more sugar. And fat will not make you fat, but sugar will.

The better option? If you're going to have dairy, choose organic and go for the fat by choosing 2% or small amounts of cream.

8. Calona Oil 

Originating from rapeseed oil, canola has been marketed as one of the healthiest cooking oils available today - but there are a few problems with this.

First off, canola is not its own unique plant. It is modified from rapeseeds to become an edible oil. In the mid -1990's, Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola to be resistant against the infamous pesticide Round Up. Today, the vast majority of canola oil is genetically modified, and the negative implications GMO's have on health aren't entirely clear at present time.

Although canola oil is marketed as being healthy for its low saturated fat and high omega-3 content, the concern also lies within the processing. Canola oil is high in polyunsaturated fats, which are delicate fats that oxidize and go rancid when exposed to high temperatures, thus creating transfats. During the process of manufacturing canola oil, extreme temperatures are applied to the delicate oil.

It's questionable how many nutrients canola oil can really contain after the processing. Those are certainly not the kind of fats you want to be putting into your body for your health and wellness.

If you use canola oil for cooking, the better option is to cook with a heat-stable fat such as organic grass-fed butter, coconut oil or avocado oil. If you use fats in homemade salad dressings, choose an organic extra virgin olive oil instead.

Next time you're at the grocery store, use this knowledge to make more nutritionally sound decisions and know which healthy foods to avoid.

About Brandi Wagner, RHN
Brandi Wagner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare time you'll find Brandi writing in her blog and hanging out with her teacup chihuahua, Coconut.

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