The Dark Side of Health Food
It’s a constant battle to eat healthy. Most of us have grown up on sugary cereals, decadent desserts, non-organic fruits and vegetables, soooooo many carbs and antibiotic-loaded meats. So, in response, a huge portion of society (and this is actually very encouraging) has decided to be food conscious and try to make the best possible decisions. But that’s particularly difficult now as well because it’s become such a large industry that the marketing machine has been kicked on and we’re getting so many untrue and deceptive messages about “natural,” “sugar-free” “health” foods.
Here are several of the real problem foods. Take note and consider when making decisions at the grocery store. Because you want results, not just the latest trend.
A lot of people think soy is healthy for you, but the bad news… it’s not. It’s perfectly healthy for you to eat fermented soy, but other than that–soy milk, soy cheese, tofu–it’s not good at all.
The problem is that soy grown in the U.S. is among the most pesticide-soaked, glyphosate-covered crops grown. And, since glyphosate is designed to kill plants, the soy we eat has been genetically modified to withstand it–and that’s not good.
Glyphosate is extremely toxic–that is not controversial. It’s a carcinogen, it opens holes in your intestines, it even kills your cells directly.
Long-term soy consumption has been linked to all sorts of issues: hay fever, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, kidney disease, asthma, urinary bladder cancer, thyroid conditions and endometrial cancer.
So play it safe, do yourself a favor, and just avoid soy in the U.S. But if you absolutely must have some soy, make sure it’s fermented. That includes dishes like tempeh, miso soup or natto.
Sugar Alcohols & Artificial Sweeteners
These sweeteners are found in almost anything labeled as “sugar-free.” Things like gum and baked items and in little packets at the restaurant. They have many names: xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol. When you see them on the shelves, the labels are plastered with labels like “Natural!” “Healthy!” But the issue is that they are often very processed and chemically derived. When they do have natural ingredients, it’s often corn and as a result, we are again dealing with very high levels of glyphosate.
Recent studies have shown that artificial sweeteners will make you put on more weight than natural sugar. Other studies have linked these products to side-effects like allergic reactions, headaches, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, rashes, gas and bloating. They have also been linked to cancer, particularly bladder cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer and leukemia.
If you’re looking for a sweetener to add to a recipe or you want to sweeten up your coffee, try stevia, raw honey or monk fruit.
Farmed fish, especially tilapia and “Atlantic Salmon”
Farmed fish is a massive health concern, environmental disaster and the benefits one usually gets from eating fish are less present than they used to be.
Farmed salmon contains extremely high levels of dioxin–significantly higher than wild-caught salmon. Dioxin is an industrial pollutant that causes cancer as well as issues with the immune system as well as damaging organs. But this is only one of the many pollutants found in farm-raised fish. There are a multitude of persistant organic pollutants (POPs) that are found in high concentration in farmed fish that can lead to everything from weight gain to metabolic syndrome to type II diabetes.
We don’t know what we’re really getting with farm-raised fish, either, as they are genetically modified. By law, fish farmers and sellers do not have to disclose the nature of existence of GM fish to consumers.
Environmentally, farm raised fish pose a couple of problems. For one, it takes as much as 4 lbs. of food to create one pound of farm-raised salmon. The salmon eat other fish like sardines, mackerel and herring, which leads to overfishing and resource depletion. Secondly, farm-raised fish occasionally escape into the wild where they spread disease and “super lice” that wild fish have no immunity for.
Lastly, because farm-raised fish are fed with the cheapest, most fattening feed, they have lost many of the nutritional benefits that normally come with eating fish, particularly the content of Omega-3 fatty acids, which has dropped by more than half in the last five years.
Good fish is so healthy, though, so don’t give up. Eat Alaskan wild-caught salmon or Pacific sardines or Atlantic mackerel to get all that fishy goodness.
Factory-farmed meat is a mess of hormones, fertilizers, antibiotics and is fed a steady diet of GMO, pesticide-soaked grains.
Certain studies have found the most disturbing things in these meats. One found FDA-banned antibiotics, painkillers, depression medications and allergy medications in chickens. Another found shockingly high levels of arsenic.
It’s tough out there. Organic, free-range, vegetarian-fed and pasture-raised have become marketing terms with very little weight behind them in terms of actual health. It’s best to make the effort to buy meat directly from local farmers if you can. You can reach out to them at farmers markets or directly. Find out how they raise their livestock. Do they use medications as a preventative measure, or only when an animal is sick? Do they use treated feed or allow their animals to graze and forage in natural surroundings? Some farmers are very proud of their methods and would be pleased to invite you for a tour. Do the research. It’s worth it.
Somehow, the idea that margarine is more healthy than butter persists despite it being completely false. Margarine was originally made from trans fats–the bad fats that cause inflammation and weight gain and lead to strokes and heart attacks and diabetes.
Margarine today is made from smaller doses of trans fats thanks to a pushback from consumers. But their methods are still disturbing. Producers use highly processed, unnatural fats that are not found in nature. They are equally bad for you and contain no redeeming health benefits whatsoever.
Real, grass-fed butter is not only a better option, it’s actually very good for you. It contains healthy fats, probiotics and good proteins. Ghee and coconut oil are great alternatives as well.
Similarly, vegetable oils are as bad as margarine, if not worse. Canola oil is probably the worst, and the most widely-used. If you eat anything fried from a restaurant, chances are it’s dripping with canola oil. The list of health issues associated with vegetable oils is long and includes atherosclerosis, birth defects, problems in bones and connective tissue, all sorts of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol, digestive problems, liver problems, learning disabilities (what???), obesity, sexual dysfunction, sterility, low birth rate, poor vision and more.
The good news is that there are easy fixes for this one. Use coconut oil, avocado oil, flax seed oil, MCT oil, ghee or butter.
Oatmeal & Pancakes
Oatmeal is extremely high in sugar. If you eat one cup of oatmeal, you’re getting ~60 grams of sugar. That’s more than a can of coca-cola. It’s almost two twinkies. And we think this is healthy for some reason? Furthermore, because it is an industrially-farmed grain, the oats in oatmeal are covered in glycosphate, that Round-Up pesticide with a list of disease-causing properties longer than your arm. Just avoid oatmeal altogether.
Pancake mix is generally made with the hydrogenated vegetable oils discussed above, the most objectionable being partially hydrogenated corn oil as well as high-fructose corn syrup. Plus, we tend to cover these breakfast dishes with high-sugar, highly-processed syrups and jams.
Look for homemade pancake recipes where you can use things like coconut or almond flour and be in control of whether or not it’s organic and safe to eat. As a topping, consider real fruits and real maple syrup.
Gluten is indeed a problem. It causes leaky gut, allergic reactions, weight gain, gas, and cellular degeneration (down the road). It is a smart move to avoid it. But it’s become such a trendy term that food companies use it to market their products–and very successfully I might add.
The problem here lies more in human psychology. When we see “gluten-free,” we think it is automatically a healthy food. But it’s like calling a donut vegetarian. Technically true, but not healthy by an means. You can still avoid gluten and load up on processed foods, additives, pesticides and all manner of industrial, unnatural components. Watch a very well-done documentary on the problem with “gluten-free” foods below.
Sugar Alcohol & Artificial Sweetener
Margarine & Vegetable Oil