The Top 5 Worst “Health Foods”
It is no surprise to many of us that when it comes to nutrition, we are being continually misled by the mainstream media. We have been told that eggs cause heart disease, then that they are good for you. The same story with bacon, then coffee, the list goes on to a daily deluge of savvy marketing disguised as “the truth” about nutrition. So who do you believe? How do you know who to trust with your health?
How do you know if the money you spend according to the “latest” scientific study is actually getting you healthier- or putting you farther down the road to chronic digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, and weakened immune functioning, eventually leading to chronic allergies, autoimmune diseases, type II diabetes, heart disease and obesity?
It is important to know not only WHAT foods to avoid and what to include in our diet, but WHY. When you understand HOW your metabolism works - HOW your body turns what you eat into energy and new cells – WHAT your body needs to function optimally actually makes sense. The human body is of infinite complexity, yet when it comes to nutrition, what the human body needs to function is amazingly simple. No, you don’t need a degree in nutrition, biochemistry, or even anthropology to understand that your body was designed to run on foods that have evolved with the planet, foods that existed prior to human manipulation and control of our food supply. Despite the amazing power of human innovation, we cannot, in fact, create food that is better for us than what Nature has already provided.
Our challenge then, as modern humans, is “to see the forest for the trees”, to see ourselves as we TRULY are, as an integral part of The Natural World. Our mental and spiritual health, as well as physical health, is dependent upon it. Our “dominion over” and endless tinkering of all things “natural” with the expectation that we can improve “what is” has resulted in the creation of an endless array of synthetic and genetically modified foods, environmental degradation of unknown consequences, and a worldwide epidemic of chronic degenerative diseases. So how can you avoid becoming a statistic? You can start by knowing what it is – exactly - that you put in your mouth! Learn to identify what ingredients are processed and refined and learn how they alter the way your body was intended to function. Then eliminate processed and refined foods from your diet, and one step at a time you will finally be able to nourish your body with the REAL “health foods” that Nature designed for you!
1. Breakfast Cereals
Believe it or not, the highly processed breakfast cereals that you find up and down the aisles of your grocery store are not healthy- regardless what they say on the box! In fact, they are among the worst foods you can eat. Americans’ reliance on boxed cold cereals involving some menagerie of machine-generated crunchy puffs of brightly colored shapes and candy-like creations is truly a testimony to the power of marketing. If you are not sure why “whole grain” and “high fiber” boxed cereal are not the best choice for breakfast, let’s review four compelling reasons to opt out of these concoctions. First, the sugar content of many breakfast cereals rivals that found in a chocolate glazed donut (an equally bad breakfast choice). Second, the process necessary to achieve these kid-enticing flakes, shapes and crunch is called extrusion. This process combines high temperatures and high pressure, ultimately rendering many nutrients useless as well as damaging the residing proteins (or amino acids) within the grain and making them toxic to ingest. A third reason boxed cereals are a poor choice for breakfast is inadequate preparation, making the grains difficult to digest. To get the best nourishment and digestibility out of grains, it is best to prepare them in such a way that inactivates such compounds as enzyme inhibitors, which would otherwise hamper digestion, and phytic acid, a compound that blocks mineral absorption in the body. And finally, even if you avoid sugary cereals and opt for the “healthier” choices, fiber is typically a focal point, often with the promise of promoting “regularity.” In fact, just one cup of some fiber-fortified cereals dishes up more fiber than the highest recommended dose for fiber laxatives. However, recent research shows that overdoing fiber—from foods or supplements—can have detrimental effects on the body. Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Fiber Menace, offers compelling arguments and research that proves that high-fiber diets contribute to a whole host of conditions—the very conditions believed to be improved by more fiber—including hemorrhoids, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and even colon cancer. Then the manufacturers fortify these highly processed non-foods with some synthetic vitamins and have the nerve to market their products with labels that say “heart healthy” and “lowers cholesterol”. Don’t be fooled by the labels… just check the ingredients list on these products and you will see that they’re usually loaded with sugar. Starting the day with a high-sugar cereal will set you up for a blood sugar crash later in the day, followed by hunger, sugar and carb cravings, and another high-carb meal.
2. Whole Wheat
While it’s true that whole wheat is healthier than refined wheat, it does NOT mean that whole wheat is healthy. And there are plenty of good reasons to avoid wheat… both the refined and the whole variety. Dr. Braly, co-author of Dangerous Grains, believes that undiagnosed sensitivities to gluten and other grain proteins contribute to many autoimmune and neurological conditions, bone loss, chronic pain, learning problems, fatigue, intestinal complaints and more. Just because the seed of wheat can be harvested as a grain, that doesn’t mean that it is an ideal food for human consumption, and today’s modern wheat hybrids may contain more gluten than centuries ago. The almost exclusive use and acceptance of wheat in this country may be why many folks who have trouble with gluten fail to consider it as an underlying contributor. Moreover, there is evidence that high-carbohydrate diets (that rely on whole wheat products and result in a high-gluten consumption) alter the normal lining of the small intestine in healthy people. This opens up the possibility that gluten, particularly in large amounts, is not ideal for many of us. Gluten can cause damage to the lining of the digestive tract, pain, bloating, tiredness, stool inconsistency and other nasty symptoms. One study shows that wheat fiber can make you Vitamin D deficient, causing you to burn through your stores of this important vitamin much faster.
3. Gluten-Free Foods
So if wheat and other grains (like spelt, rye and barley) that contain gluten are bad for you, then that means that gluten-free foods are good for you- right? Not exactly. Almost a third of the U.S. population currently wants to cut back on gluten or go gluten-free, and for our savvy food manufacturers that spells “opportunity”. They have caught up on the trend and have started offering all sorts of gluten-free “health foods” that are the farthest thing from healthy. Instead of using a gluten grain, these foods are made with other starches like potato or tapioca starch that are just as highly refined, void of any real nutrients, and will spike blood sugar just like a refined wheat product would. These “healthy” gluten-free products are also usually loaded with sugar, aspartame or sucralose and a host of other harmful artificial chemicals. (This does NOT apply to foods that are naturally gluten free, like meats or vegetables, of course.) While these foods aren’t made from gluten-containing grains, the refined breads, cookies, crackers, muffins, etc. that you buy as gluten-free will not be any healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. This is because while the gluten found in wheat and other grains can cause many digestive and autoimmune problems, the bigger issue is that ANY refined grain (refined carbohydrate) is stripped of its naturally occurring fiber and minerals and will be converted to glucose (sugar) almost immediately in the body. If your body does not need that glucose at the moment, it will be stored as fat. Yes- it is sugar and refined carbohydrates that make you fat, not fat!
4. Fruit Juices
Many of you may be surprised to learn that one eight-ounce glass of orange juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar, and at least 50 percent of that sugar is fructose. That's almost as much as a can of soda, which contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. That is because fruit juice is like fruit, but with most of the good stuff removed. All that is left is the sugar and a few vitamins. There’s no fiber in it, no chewing resistance and nothing to stop you from downing massive amounts of sugar in a short amount of time. It is much better to avoid fruit juices and eat real, whole (organic if possible) fruits instead. And fruit drinks are even worse for you- they likely contain high-fructose corn syrup, or an artificial sweetener, just as soda does. In fact, soda giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are actually the parent companies to most sugary drinks on the market, and that includes fruit juices. Eating, and drinking, too much sugar is associated with all sorts of diseases - including obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. So think twice before you buy your next gallon of orange juice!
5. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is one of the newest “healthy” sweeteners to hit the market and is touted as a healthy alternative to sugar because it is natural has a low glycemic index and you will definitely find some “sugar-free” products that are sweetened with Agave. But what you haven’t been told is that the harmful effects of sugar have little to do with its glycemic index. Agave nectar is harmful primarily because it is loaded with unnatural amounts of fructose. Too much fructose in the diet can cause all sorts of problems, especially in people who don’t exercise much. All fructose is metabolized by the liver. If the liver is full of glycogen, the fructose will be turned into fat. This can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and all kinds of metabolic problems like resistance to the hormones insulin and leptin, which will ultimately lead to obesity and diabetes. While regular sugar is 50% fructose, the fructose content of Agave is as high as 90% and is no better for you than high fructose corn syrup. If anything, agave is even worse than sugar!
So now that you know what are the 5 worst “health foods” to avoid, check back next week and find out what are the 5 best health foods to include in your diet!
Weston A Price Foundation, www.westonaprice.org