Is It Really Healthy?
Whole-grain, gluten-free, low fat – we see these labels on foods all the time and assume that they are healthier for us. But are they really?
Take a look at a few common foods and decide whether you would still call them healthy food choices:
Let’s begin with gluten-free foods and snacks.
While gluten is definitely a problem for many people, even those who do not have celiac disease, snacks you find in the store labeled gluten-free are often just as high in sugar as those containing wheat and the flours used are not always low carb. My suggestion is to make your own low carb, low sugar snacks and to read labels very carefully. It sounds good to say you are eating gluten-free, but unless you are aware of the carb and sugar count in those snacks, bread, and rolls, you are not doing yourself any favors.
Often when people are trying to lose weight they look for a “crunchy” snack and settle on rice cakes, which are low in calories.
However, with very little protein or fiber, they have almost no nutritional value. Since they’re basically tasteless, if you purchase flavored cakes, you’re also getting artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors. Rice products do contain natural arsenic and limiting your consumption may be a good idea.
Since we are looking at snack foods, let’s talk about popcorn.
There are a few issues here. Microwave popcorn may be very convenient and quick but it has high levels of sodium and unhealthy fats. A chemical coating in the bags breaks down into cancer-causing substances, PFOA. Air poppers are extremely inexpensive and just as quick and easy to use. Besides avoiding that nasty chemical, you can control toppings. Real pastured butter or ghee, nutritional yeast, and a sprinkle of natural sea salt are delicious and healthy.
Choosing “low-fat” or diet foods is obviously not the answer to the obesity problem. One of the worst offenders is low-fat salad dressings!
You make yourself a big, beautiful, fresh salad loaded with vegetables and then top it with a low-fat dressing thinking you are doing the right thing for health and weight loss when just the opposite is actually true. Besides the fact that low-fat dressings are usually loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt and a host of other additives and preservatives you need fat to release the nutrients in many of the veggies on your salad! Extra virgin olive, flax, hemp, or avocado oil and raw organic apple cider or balsamic vinegar are a much better choice.
Now let’s talk about yogurt.
Surely that is a healthy food, right? Well as with everything else, quality is key. Flavored, low-fat yogurts are loaded with either sugar or dangerous artificial sweeteners, colors, and additives. Yogurt can be a healthy food if you choose full fat, organic, plain yogurt. If you can find Greek yogurt that is full fat, plain and organic you will get even more protein. And be sure the label says there are live active cultures in it. While we are on dairy, skim milk is not the choice to make. When choosing dairy, choose organic, whole milk. Researchers linked full-fat dairy to reduced obesity rates and diabetes.
What about oatmeal?
High fiber oats definitely have health benefits including lowering cholesterol. But if you are choosing a packet of flavored quick oats you are getting more than you bargained for! Quaker® Maple and Brown Sugar flavor have 12 grams of sugar! So much for starting the day healthy. Recently, the New York Times reported a class-action suit was filed against Quaker® in NY and California after testing found traces of the pesticide glyphosate. So, besides making either old fashioned or steel cut oat yourself, I would suggest choosing organic as well to reduce your pesticide exposure.
You see “vegetable” oil and figure it has to be healthy, right?
Unfortunately, not everything that comes from a vegetable is a healthy food. Vegetable oils including corn, canola, soy, sunflower, cottonseed, and safflower oils are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. One study of more than 9,000 people found replacing healthy, saturated fats like pastured butter and coconut oil with corn oil resulted in an increased risk of death and heart disease. Better choices are extra virgin olive, avocado, and flaxseed.
Finally, what about whole wheat?
Modern, high yield wheat is nothing like its healthy ancestor of generations ago! And that’s true whether it’s organic, stone-ground, or sprouted. It is inflammatory, addictive and contributes to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia. Gluten is not the only reason to avoid wheat.
Here’s to making healthier food choices!