Stroll the aisles of any supermarket and you’ll see them. Flashy “health food” packages, designed to catch your eye and open your wallet. In big, bold colorful letters they scream things like “Low Fat!” and “Heart Healthy!”
But, the truth is, many of these so-called health foods are anything but good for you. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing into compromising your health.
Following are four so-called health foods that should never pass your lips again.
We’ve been encouraged to eat vegetable oils for years now, in the name of lowering cholesterol. And sure, they sound like a healthy choice. After all they even have the word vegetable right in the name. But the truth is they’re bad news.
Vegetable oils, such as canola, safflower, grapeseed, corn and soybean are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. And while we do need some omega-6s, the Western diet is drowning in them. At the same time we eat far too few omega-3 rich foods to balance them out. This imbalance puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes cancer and more.1,2,3
Ditch the vegetables oils and embrace healthy fats instead including coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, grass fed beef and fatty fish.
Low fat foods:
You’ve decided to go on a diet. So you head to the grocery store and load up your cart with “healthy” low-fat and fat free foods from lunchmeats to yogurts. Sound familiar?
The trouble is this kind of dieting is built on a myth, because saturated fat isn’t the enemy.4 And denying your body the fat it craves is a set up for failure. In fact, low fat dieting can reduce the size of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, making it significantly more harmful, while at the same time reducing your “good” HDL cholesterol.5,6,7,8
But to make matters worse, take one guess what happens when they take the natural fat out of our food? That’s right, it tastes terrible.
So, to make the food edible food manufacturer’s dump a bunch of palate-pleasing, inflammation- boosting sugar into it. And excess sugar, of course, sends your risk for obesity, diabetes and deadly heart disease skyrocketing.
Skip the highly processed low-fat and fat-free foods and choose the real deal instead.
If you’re a “fruit juice” fan pause before you’re next sip and take a closer look at the label. In many cases that “juice” isn’t actually fruit juice, but rather a fruit flavored punch or drink with very little real juice in it at all. And when you take a look at the sugar line on the nutrition label, chances are it will be swimming in added sugars.
But even if you find out you’re drinking real 100 percent juice, don’t start celebrating just yet. If you have a regular fruit juice habit—downing several glasses a day—you still may be doing yourself far more harm than good.
Because when you juice a fruit you lose all the healthy fiber so you end up with a sugar-filled beverage that’s kind of like drinking a liquid blood sugar bomb.
Unless you’re drinking a modest amount of fruit juice for a specific health reason—such as unsweetened cranberry juice to help combat a urinary issue—you’ll be far better off going for the whole fruit instead.
If you’re shocked to find oatmeal on a list of unhealthy foods, I can assure you you’re not alone. Countless folks mix up a steaming hot bowl of instant oatmeal every morning convinced they’re doing something good for their health.
But the truth is instant flavored oatmeal is highly processed and loaded with added sugar—with some brands swimming in up to 15 grams. All that sugar undoes any benefits the oatmeal might have brought to the breakfast table.
Although oatmeal is a high carb food which we typically recommend limiting, it has been shown to have heart benefits9,10 and may help some folks stabilize their blood sugar as well.11,12,13,14 If you’re an oatmeal fan switch to steel cut oats which are lower on the glycemic index and digest more slowly than highly processed instant oatmeal, or even rolled oats. Feel free to sweeten up your oatmeal with fresh organic apple slices or berries.
With so many unhealthy foods masquerading as health foods, the supermarket can start to feel like a minefield. But here are three simple guidelines that will help take the stress back out of grocery shopping.
- Ignore flashy packing with gimmicky buzzwords such as low-fat, low-carb or heart healthy. Flip them over and read their nutritional labels instead.
- Keep in mind that the less processed your food is the healthier it’s going to be. So, for example, instead of juice pick the whole fruit, instead of instant oatmeal choose the steel cut variety and instead of lunch meats try organic grass-fed cuts of meat you slice on your own.
- Choose fresh organic ingredients and make your own meals from scratch whenever you can.
And, of course, don’t forget to remove these four fake health foods from your shopping list starting today.
1. “Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis,” BMJ. 2013 Feb 4;346:e8707
2. “INCIDENCE OF CANCER IN MEN ON A DIET HIGH IN POLYUNSATURATED FAT,” The Lancet, Volume 297, Issue 7697, 6 March 1971, Pages 464-467
3. “n-6 fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials,” Br J Nutr. 2010 Dec;104(11):1586-600
4. “Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(6):398-406
5. “Reduced LDL particle size in children consuming a very-low-fat diet is related to parental LDL-subclass patterns,” Am J Clin Nutr June 2000, vol. 71 no. 6 1611-1616
6. “A very low-fat diet is not associated with improved lipoprotein profiles in men with a predominance of large, low-density lipoproteins,” Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Mar;69(3):411-8
7. “A low-fat diet decreases high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels by decreasing HDL apolipoprotein transport rates,” J Clin Invest. 1990 Jan; 85(1): 144–151
8. “Effect of low-fat diets on plasma high-density lipoprotein concentrations,” Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Mar;67(3 Suppl):573S-576S
9. “Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to oat beta glucan and lowering blood cholesterol and reduced risk of (coronary) heart disease pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006,” EFSA Journal: 8 December 2010
10. “Oat beta-glucan reduces blood cholesterol concentration in hypercholesterolemic subjects,” Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994 Jul;48 (7):465-74
11. “Oat products and lipid lowering. A meta-analysis,” JAMA. 1992 Jun 24;267(24):3317-25
12. “Review of human studies investigating the post-prandial blood-glucose lowering ability of oat and barley food products,” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;67(4):310-7
13. “Clinical benefit of a short term dietary oatmeal intervention in patients with type 2 diabetes and severe insulin resistance: a pilot study,” Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2008 Feb;116(2):132-4
14. “Whole grain intake is associated with lower body mass and greater insulin sensitivity among adolescents,” Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Aug 1;158(3):243-50
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