Trail mix might seem like the perfect health food: a blend of nuts, seeds and fruits, it provides quick energy, healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals, as well as a host of anti-aging antioxidants. But – just like trail mix’s cousin, granola – this crunchy snack is not always as innocent as it claims to be. And it’s not because of those chocolate chips.
There are quite a few ways in which trail mix can go terribly wrong. The dried fruits can contain sulfur and added sugar, the nuts can be less than fresh, and too many mixes can contain cheaply produced, unhealthful oils. Don’t worry – if you’re like us and love this hiking staple snack, you certainly don’t have to give it up! We’ve gathered a short list of great mixes that are ultra-clean and healthy, plus we’ve gone one step further and outlined all the dirty details you should be avoiding. Stay aware and learn to spot the difference between this potentially fake health food and its superfood-filled snacking counterpart…
Detox your Trail Mix
Check labels and avoid these ingredients at all costs
Corn syrup is a popular sweetener that is commonly added to most packaged and processed foods. Corn syrup is derived from corn, which is almost always genetically modified. The consumption of genetically modified foods have the potential to cause birth defects, immune suppression, cancer, infertility and liver and kidney damage. Corn syrup is also a refined sweetener, which quickly raises blood sugar. This can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.
Fruit is sweet enough, so there is no need for added sugar in trail mix! Cane sugar (or white sugar) is better than corn syrup, but is still damaging to the body. Sugar can not only lead to an expanding waist line, but it also feeds pathogens in the body. From fungus to Candida, to bacteria and parasites, sugar is their preferred form of fuel, so the more sugar you consume, the harder it is to rid yourself of them.
Canola, Soy, Corn and Peanut Oil
Toxic oils are often times added to trail mix, so it is important to always check the labels. Canola, corn and soy oil are almost always derived from genetically modified crop, making them potentially harmful to the body. Peanut oil is most always contaminated with aflatoxins, a mycotoxin that is toxic and among the most carcinogenic substances known. Aflatoxins have the ability to lead to liver cancer in addition to damaging the heart and kidneys.
Nuts contain a high fat content, which is what makes them so healthy. The problem is that some of these fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, are very delicate, and can easily be damaged by heat. Once heated in the roasting process, these oils become rancid. Rancid oils are pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic, so stick to raw nuts only.
Soy lecithin is added to trail mix on occasion to act as an emulsifier. Soy lecithin, just like its unprocessed version, is a phytoestrogen. A phytoestrogen is a plant compound that can mimic the physiological effects of the hormone estrogen in the body. An imbalance in estrogen in the body can lead to weight gain, mood disturbances, infertility, a lowered sperm count and even cancer. Best to avoid soy lecithin all together.
The majority of conventional brands of trail mix contain sulfur dioxide. It is used as a preservative and to retain the color of the dried fruit. Sulfur dioxide has been found to cause breathing complications for asthmatics, and people with sensitivities and allergies.
Natural flavors can often be found in trail mix. Natural flavors are an additive that has the potential to be MSG – monosodium glutamate. MSG is a known neurotoxin, exciting cells to death. This can particularly damaging to the nerves and the brain tissue.
Artificial colors such as Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 6 and Yellow 5 are sometimes added to trail mix. Artificial colors have been shown to be a potential carcinogen. Research also indicates that their consumption may lead to ADD, ADHD, anxiety and migraines.
Depending on the brand that you choose, there’s the possibility for other additives to make their way into the mix. With names like maltodextrin, mannitol, methylcellulose, methyl and propyl parabens, acesulfame potassium and modified food starch, they are easy to spot. Added as artificial flavors, preservatives and stabilizers, avoid these at all costs. If you cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it.
4 Healthy Trail Mix Choices
Hand-picked by TCM. We hope you enjoy our favorites as much as we do!
Chewy, sweet and tart with a little crunch, this tasty superberry snack mix is loaded with vital vitamins, essential minerals, immune-boosting bioflavonoids and cell-protecting antioxidants. Each nourishing handful contains four superfoods: goji berries, goldenberries, mulberries and maqui berries, each grown organically and sustainably.
Trail Mix 3
This trail mix blends cacao nibs, cashews, goji berries, goldenberries and mulberries, meeting all your needs, both culinary and nutrient-wise. Both sweet and tart, this mix is a happy reprieve from usual health snacks.
Made with low temperature dehydrated organic hunza raisins, cranberries, and mulberries mixed with almonds and pecans, each ingredient is sprouted for optimal digestion. This hearty blend is one of our go-tos for summer snacking.
If you could live on one food and one food alone, this could easily be it. Made with the staples of goji berries and pine nuts, plus the more rare longan and peeled walnuts, this mix is it. It supports all three treasures, Jing, Qi and Shen, making it an anti-aging, beautifying food that keeps you energized and vibrant.
TCM Pick: Hermit’s Mix by Dragon Herbs