1. Don’t be tricked by the words “all natural” on a package.
First of all, if your food comes in a package, chances are that it contains far more additives than whole foods from the produce or bulk sections of the store. Did you know that there are no FDA regulations on the “all natural” claim? Any packaged food can be claimed as “all natural” without regard to the actual ingredients. A 2011 Cornucopia Institute study found GMOs and pesticides in a host of products labeled “natural.” Also keep in mind that poison oak and lard are also “all natural,” and do not benefit your health.
2. Beware of sodium bombs.
Several national chain restaurants have “healthy” or “lite” menus featuring lower-calorie meal choices. The trick to making these entrees tasty is apparently to add a monumental volume of salt. Meals on the “Guiltless Grill” menu at Chili’s, for example, average 2,175 mg. of sodium, approaching the recommended daily intake. Not to mention that these restaurants use table salt, which is associated with high blood pressure.
3. Understand yogurt.
Yogurt is often the poster child for healthy snacks. Indeed, yogurt contains healthy probiotics to improve your gut health. However, a majority of yogurt varieties feature sugar (or worse–artificial sweetener) as their second ingredient. Some brands of yogurt have as much sugar as a small doughnut. To avoid being duped by yogurt choose the plain varieties and favor Greek style over regular for its higher protein content. Read the ingredient lists and eschew anything with sugar, cane syrup or the word ‘fructose’.
4. Butter is better.
Margarine contains dangerous trans-fats that can actually increase the risk of heart disease. Touted for nearly a decade as a healthier alternative to butter, margarine is now scorned by nutritionists for its ability to raise “bad” cholesterol levels. The butter versus margarine debate is an example of how difficult it is to find “healthy alternatives.”
5. Avoid non-organic leafy greens, tomatoes and berries (sometimes).
These three nutritionally dense, low calorie foods are occasionally dangerous. They are among the top 10 foods most likely to harbor food-borne illnesses such as the E.coli bacteria. Obviously, we should be including these items in our diets–but consumers need to be aware of the risks and continue to pressure the FDA for reforming food safety laws. One in four Americans is sickened by food-borne illnesses every year. Find organic products from vendors you trust.
6. Cereals. Be wary. Be very wary.
Packaged cereals are often marketed as miraculous health foods, but they are likely to contain adulterants and additives linked with long lists of health risks. Take for example Kellogs’ “Smart Start® with Strong Heart Antioxidants®.” A closer look at the ingredient list yields a long list of disturbing substances:
Rice, whole grain wheat, sugar, oat clusters, sugar, toasted oats [rolled oats, sugar, canola oil with tbhq and citric acid to preserve freshness, molasses, honey, bht for freshness, soy lecithin], wheat flakes, crisp rice [rice, sugar, malt, salt], corn syrup, polydextrose, honey, cinnamon, BHT [preservative], artificial vanilla flavor, high fructose corn syrup, salt, honey, malt flavoring, alpha tocopherol acetate [vitamin E], niacinamide, zinc oxide, reduced iron, sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), calcium pantothenate, Yellow #5, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), BHT (preservative), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, beta carotene (a source of vitamin A), vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Without going into too many details, we can see at least 3 known toxins:
- BHT: a substance listed by the National Toxicology Program in 2005 as a “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen.”
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Made from genetically modified corn, HFCS has been linked with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tissue damage.
- Yellow #5: This food dye is derived from coal tar and may contain trace amounts of lead and mercury.
So much for smart, or heart-healthy!
7. “Enriched” flour:
What’s in a name? “Enriched” is sure a healthy sounding one. However, beware of this attractive title. The very process of “enriching” flour involves several toxic chemicals. Enriched flour often involves a metallic form of iron that the body cannot absorb. Additionally, enriched flour is stripped of its bran, significantly reducing its nutritional value. The body actually treats all “enriched” flour as a starch due to the absence of the wheat germ.
A rule of thumb to avoid being duped by “healthy foods” is to consume foods as close to their original, unadulterated forms as possible. If it comes in cardboard or plastic, scrutinize the ingredient list. Long lists of unpronounceable ingredients should tip you off that something is amiss, and that what you are about to eat is of questionable “healthiness.”