Food trends are an interesting topic, right?
One day kale has its glory days, and the next it’s quinoa. Food companies stay on top of the trends to know exactly what to market to people like you and me. They know “healthy” people will scan the aisles of their local store to find healthier options that are quick, easy and fits their dietary needs.
BUT… they’ve underestimated those of us who are reading labels and really studying what is being put in our food.
This is a principle I teach to all of my clients and I’ll pass it on to my beloved readers as well:
Always, always check the back of the package to see the ingredients listed. You may be surprised to find some of these exact “healthy” ingredients that are sabotaging your health!
Not so “healthy” options
- Low-fat dairy – The label “low-fat” is meant to lead the buyer into thinking it’s a healthier option, but more often this can mean more sugar and other fillers. Fat does not make you fat, my friend! Sugar is behind all sorts of health problems, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes and depression. Opt for: whole milk plain yogurt or kefir from grass-fed cows, goats or sheep. Add your own raw honey or maple syrup for a little sweetness.
- Agave syrup – Another form of sugar, agave syrup contains anywhere from 55-90% fructose, which is the most damaging form of sugar . It’s touted as a natural sweetener, but most of its antioxidant properties are no longer in tact once in the grocery store. Opt for: raw local honey, maple syrup, or organic stevia for sweeteners.
- Tapioca starch – Popular for adding to gluten-free products, tapioca starch is usually devoid of any fiber, fat or protein. It’s extracted from the cassava plant and bleached making it a more heavily processed option for gluten-free eaters . Opt for: cassava flour, coconut flour, almond flour, buckwheat, millet, chickpea, and quinoa flours for naturally gluten-free options.
- Soy protein – Typically found in “healthy” protein bars and shakes, soy protein can actually be detrimental to your clean eating habits. Most soy is genetically modified in the United States to withstand Roundup sprayings – the main ingredient being glyphosate. Meaning, non-organic soy products have high amounts of this weed killer. This is not good. Opt for: organic, fermented soy like natto, tempeh and miso soup. Or even grass-fed whey protein, collagen protein, egg-white protein. For a vegetarian option, try pea protein and hemp protein.
- Rice starch/flour/syrup – These rice products are typically added to gluten-free flours or mixtures since they are inherently gluten-free. However, processed rice can spike your blood sugar levels the same way sugar does. There is also heavy contamination of rice with arsenic, a known human carcinogen . Opt for: sprouted quinoa or millet, beans and legumes. Make your own gluten-free baked goods at home with healthier flours like coconut, almond, cassava and chickpea.
- Vegetable oils – Canola, soy, cottonseed oils, etc are added to processed foods to lengthen the shelf life of seemingly healthy snacks. Don’t be fooled by these oils! Not only can they come from genetically modified organisms, but are heated at such high temperatures and so heavily processed, they become rancid before even hitting the shelves. Soy and canola oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to inflammation if not taken in a similar ratio as omega-3 fatty acids. Opt for: avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee and grass-fed butter. These are good for cooking with higher heat and organic olive oil is great for drizzling on salads.
- Margarine – Much like the inflammatory oils listed above, margarine typically is made from soy or canola oil. The oil is usually hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to increase shelf life. Hydrogenated oil is full of trans fat, which is known to increase heart disease. Thankfully, the FDA is banning the use of partially hydrogenated oil in food products within the next couple of years. However, margarine should be avoided regardless. Opt for: grass-fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil for a dairy-free option.
- Artificial sweeteners – When sugar started getting a bad reputation, the world went crazy for artificial sweeteners to curb their sweet tooth. No calories, right? These sweeteners should be avoided like the plague! They are addicting like refined sugar and disrupt gut flora. They also cause a wide range of negative symptoms from migraines to weight gain. Opt for: organic stevia with no additives, small amounts of raw honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar if you crave sweets.
The bottom line
We should be eating food that God put on this earth and that is honoring to Him.
Ingredients that haven’t been around for a long time and/or come from a science lab, are not good for our health in the long run, even if they are touted as “healthier options”.
A rule of thumb for grocery shopping is to go around the perimeter first for produce, meat and eggs. These foods should all have only one ingredient and you can make your choice for organic or otherwise. As you go down the aisles for packaged foods, always read the label! Look for whole food ingredients and words you can actually pronounce.
Following these tips will help you avoid the marketing traps for these so-called “healthier options”. Start saving your health instead of sabotaging it!
In health & faith,
Christina Grenga is a faith-based Certified Holistic Health Educator who works with Modern Christian women who are ready to quit dieting for good, lose weight naturally, and transform their life. Christina graduated from the world-renowned Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, and is a Certified International Health Coach. She uses a Christ centered approach to guide women to create a balanced, thriving life.