Health foods are everywhere. There are low-fat, low-calorie, sugar-free and diet options of all our traditional foods. With such a highly saturated health food market, it can be confusing to know what is good for us and what will help us achieve our health goals.
When most people begin a health kick, they not only try to cut down on food but they’ll make replacements – swapping butter for margarine, switching to diet drinks, generally opting for what they see as the healthier option.
While taking the initiative to look after your health is great, some judgements are so misguided that they’re actually doing us more harm than good.
I’ve compiled a list of the top offenders of so-called health foods that you need to avoid for the sake of your health.
1. Diet Soft Drinks
Just because they have no calories does not make them a health food – quite the opposite! It’s now thought that diet drinks as bad as their sugary counterparts, with recent research linking them with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. What diet drinks do is trick your metabolism into thinking sugar is on its way. This causes your body to pump out insulin, the fat storage hormone, which lays down more fat and slows down your metabolism. Try sparkling water with lemon to curb fizzy cravings.
This is not a healthy alternative to butter; it’s made with manipulated fats that may be GM and is a chemical cocktail of ‘ingredients’ that’s laced with additives and cheap, low-grade oils. So much so that when it’s created, it is actually an unpalatable grey colour and has to be coloured yellow and flavoured for consumption. Misleading and dangerous advice from health authorities has led us to believe we should be avoiding good, wholesome butter – please don’t listen to this advice, it’s inherently wrong. Our bodies can process saturated fats (which have now been proven to have no link to heart diseases), not the chemical load in margarine.
I am not a fan of breakfast cereals, never have been. They are the most profitable food on the supermarket shelf, they have outlandish false health claims and their marketing and advertising is full of extravagant claims. The food is barely a food, it is highly processed and as a result must be fortified with dubious nutrients. And if you read the ingredients on many of them you’ll see there are more additives then a luxury car.
How trustworthy is a food that you can extract iron from with a magnet? All you have to do is crush any cereal that has been fortified with iron (like Corn Flakes). If you then put a magnet near the crushed cereal a black powder will be attracted to it.
4. Fortified Foods
The fortification of foods has been a long term endeavour by the health authorities to stop nutritional deficiencies. All flour has been fortified with B vitamins for many decades. In 2009 the compulsory fortification of bread with folic acid and iodine was imposed on all bakers in Australia, except organic bread. I am opposed to fortification because I don’t want to be mass medicated and am concerned about the effects of over-consuming vitamins and minerals. For example, there have been studies that show if males consume too much folic acid (synthetic form of folate) then the chances of prostate cancer increases by some 30%. If a pregnant woman during 30 and 34 weeks takes folic acid then the chances of her baby having asthma increases. While we consume fortified foods with vitamins and minerals made in a chemical laboratory we risk the chance of being caught up in some huge experiment that we really don’t know the health outcome.
5. Cereal and Muesli Bars
Due to very clever marketing, these on-the-go snacks are thought to be a healthy option. Whether you have chocolate chips, fruit, yoghurt – the fact is that these are normally very high in sugar (sometimes disguised as high-fructose corn syrup) and packed full of additives and preservatives. For a sweet snack try having a piece of fruit or even make your own bars with good, honest ingredients.
In the last 20 years soy consumption has grown to be a big business. Not just for vegetarians, if you check your packaging you’ll notice that a whopping 60% – 80% of foods on grocery shelves now contain soy in the guise of soy flour, textured vegetable protein, partially hydrogenated soy bean oil, soy protein isolate and vegetable oil. Huge amounts of soy are somewhat imposed upon us and we run the risk of over-consuming, and developing intolerances – much the same as what’s happened with wheat and dairy. There are also some health concerns with soy consumption and it’s wise to be a conscious consumer, a small amount is good but be careful!
About the author
Cyndi O’Meara is a nutritionist, best-selling author, real food advocate, international speaker, film maker (What’s With Wheat) and the founder of Changing Habits, an online holistic health destination offering wellness products, programs and guides to nourish yourself and your family. Passionate about empowering people to make simple and long lasting changes to their health, Cyndi is travelling around Australia on her Real Food for Health Tour, spreading a sustainable health message to many. For more on Cyndi and her tour, visit: www.changinghabits.com.au or follow her on Instagram: @changing_habits.