Things are not always as they seem. When dreaming up a Halloween costume, a little playful deception is key. And although misleading appearances may make for the best disguises and haunted houses, they’re downright scary when it comes to the health industry – and not the fun kind of scary.
Nutrition and wellness are trending hard. From kale and kombucha to sports drinks and nutrition bars, food brands far and wide are hard at work to get in on the latest health trends. As a consumer, its important to remember that cost and profit margins lead the way for most companies – not the mission to heal with food. With that said, be advised: not all foods labelled or marketed as healthy are.
The good news is that there are plenty of dependable brands and foods that do in fact heal; you just have to know what to look for. Move beyond the make-believe and check out our list of the worst “health” foods out there – take the “scary” out of your next trip to the grocery store by noting our list of health foods to avoid…
The 12 Scariest “Health” Foods to Avoid
Whole Grain Bread
Just because a bread claims to be whole wheat, does not mean that it’s 100% true. Most often whole wheat contains white flour as well, and there is no guarantee that it is even predominantly whole wheat. This makes it not much better than its white-flour alternative, other than the possibility of a higher fiber content. Many brands also add high-fructose corn syrup, GMO-soy oil and flour, artificial flavors and artificial sugars such as sucralose. Finally, unsprouted breads are high in gluten, making them a difficult food to digest for many people. Opt for organic, sprouted bread instead to increase digestibility, and nutrition content.
Despite being void of calories, diet drinks are a quick ticket to an increased waistline. Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, acesulfame potassium, aspartame and others, are being linked to just as many negative health problems as conventional sugar. Research has proven that artificial sugars lead to weight gain, causing the body to crave more sugar and calories throughout the day. In addition, the artificial sugars used in diet drinks can lead to blurred vision, fibromyalgia, neurological disorders, metabolic syndrome, cancer, indigestion and diarrhea.
TCM Tip: Switch to Kombucha
It has the word vegetable in it so it must be healthy, right? Wrong. Vegetable oil is one of the secret toxic offenders. It’s made from an array of low-quality oils including soybean, canola (rapeseed), corn and cottonseed. Unless labeled explicitly, corn, soybean, cottonseed, and canola oils produced in North America almost certainly contain genetically modified products. In addition, they are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to heart disease, raise inflammation levels, and may lead to cancer and depression. Finally vegetable oils may also contain trans fats which lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
TCM Tip: Cook with the Right Oils
What could be unhealthy about about a sub sandwich? Well sadly, a lot. From the refined white gluten-laden bread to the highly processed meats, cheeses and dressings, a whole lot can go wrong in a sub sandwich. While the ingredients seem simple enough, each one can be packed with preservatives, hidden MSG, refined sugar and chemicals. The bread alone has over 50 ingredients! The processed meats are loaded with sodium and harmful preservatives such as nitrates, which are known to lead to high blood pressure, kidney stress, bloating and an increased risk in cancer. The bread contains a chemical ingredient called azodicarbonamide, which is banned as a food additive in the U.K., Europe and Australia, and is known to be harmful to health. Worst yet, even the vegetables aren’t off the hook. Preservatives and even artificial colors are added to many of the “fresh” vegetables, and even the cheese contains artificial colors, preservatives and cellulose.
TCM Tip: Ditch the toxic sub sandwiches and make your own at home!
As much as we love tuna – especially ahi tuna in our sushi and salad – based on the advice of experts, we’re steering clear. Tuna is a large fish that accumulates alarmingly high levels of the heavy metal mercury. Eating tuna exposes us to this neurotoxin, which can quickly build up in the body. High mercury levels are known to lead to psychological, neurological and immunological issues. Alzheimer’s Disease, autoimmunity, kidney dysfunction, infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, neurotransmitter imbalances, food allergies, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid problems are just a few conditions that are linked with mercury toxicity, so ditch the tuna!
TCM Tip: Detoxifying Foods To Eat Daily
We want fast-food salads to be healthy so badly, but they just aren’t cutting it. Not only are the ingredients less than fresh, the salad dressing and “extra” toppings are also packing in tons of calories and preservatives. Dressings and toppings such as candied nuts, tortilla chips, croutons and fried Asian noodles are laden with unhealthy oils (trans fats), GMOs, refined sugar, MSG and lots of preservatives and chemicals.
Sports drinks should not be consumed as a water alternative and definitely shouldn’t be viewed as health beverages. Loaded with sugar, drinking even one a day can increase your waist line, age your skin and increase inflammation. Sports drinks also contain artificial colors, which are known to cause anxiety and worsen ADD symptoms, as well as an emulsifier that may be harmful to your health. There many healthier alternatives to choose from including coconut water and green juice, both of which are naturally rich in energy-boosting, muscle-rebuilding electrolytes.
Non-organic yogurt is made with conventional milk, which comes from cows that are pumped full of antibiotics, growth hormones (rbGH) and steroid hormones. Not to mention the cow’s diet of GMO grains (not grass) that have been doused with pesticides. Consuming these ingredients can lead to hormone imbalance, early puberty, fertility issues and antibiotic resistance. In addition, conventional yogurt brands are loaded with sugar – containing up to 26 grams per container. Finally, yogurt contains lactose, a sugar that many people are unknowingly allergic to as well. Lactose intolerance can lead to indigestion, bloating, IBS, constipation, depression, psoriasis, eczema and acne. The best thing is to opt for a non-dairy yogurt, or to increase the quality of your current yogurt choice.
TCM Pick: 6 Tips For Buying Healthier Yogurt
Energy bars, also known as food bars or protein bars, are often just another name for a glorified candy bar. Loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats (even trans fats), artificial flavors, GMO soy, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, often there are no healthy ingredients to be found at all. Always check the ingredients, looking for bars made from whole foods. The best bars are made from real fruit, raw nuts and seeds and natural sweeteners such as dates, coconut sugar and figs. Great protein sources are brown rice protein, raw almond butter, and organic whey.
TCM Tip: Our Top 8 Grab-And-Go Protein Bars
Breakfast cereal and granola often miss the mark on execution. Loaded with refined grains, unhealthy oils, synthetic minerals, and, of course, white sugar, you are eating spoonfuls of sweet carbs – not something that will provide you with the nutrition you need for the day. Your morning breakfast bowl can quickly cause a sugar crash, leaving you tired and unable to focus. To truly start your day off right, look for sprouted, raw cereals instead, and granolas made with whole oats, coconut oil, dehydrated fruits and sprouted nuts.
TCM Tip: Detox Your Breakfast Bowl
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 as well as roasted; and too many mixes often contain cheaply produced, unhealthful oils. In addition, most conventional trail mixes contain chocolate chips and candies making them more of a dessert than daily snack. The oils used in these mixes are most always rancid, which increases inflammation and risk for cardiovascular disease, putting an unnecessary stress on the body. As for additives, corn syrup is a popular one. Corn syrup is also a refined sweetener, which quickly raises blood sugar. This can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Our suggestion is to make your own version at home, complete with superfoods, sprouted nuts and seeds and healthy oils like coconut or sesame.
When we think of sushi, we imagine raw fish, a scant amount of white rice, and maybe a piece of avocado, all rolled up in a seaweed wrap. A perfect combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat. And that would be healthy if that was the whole story. The problem is that sushi should look like this, but often doesn’t. Instead, a piece of fry-oil drenched, crunchy tempura shrimp or mercury-laden tuna makes its way to the plate, along with some heavy duty “dynamite” sauce and now we have a plate full of unhealthy fats and heavy-metal-filled protein. The good news is that there are tons of super healthy, low calorie, nutrient-dense options, you just have to know which ones to choose. Keep it simple and focus on the basic elements of raw fish and fresh vegetables.
TCM Tip: 6 Healthy Sushi Swaps