3 “Healthy” Foods That Aren’t So Healthy
Navigating the aisles at the grocery store can often be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many different types of foods and products, many with labels claiming multiple health benefits. How do you know which foods are really healthy and which aren’t?
Become a savvy shopper.
The first step is to start learning as much as possible about healthy eating. Always read labels and ingredient lists to get a better idea of what is in the food you’re buying. Limit the amount of boxed and processed foods you eat as many packaged foods have limited nutrients, added sugars, and chemicals. Finally, always question any claims you see written on a box. Disguised beneath clever advertising and marketing ploys, the claims on products are often misleading.
Below are three foods that have been promoted as being health foods but, in reality, aren’t as good for you as you may think.
Soy and soy-based products
Common culprit: tofu
Soy-based products were introduced to the marketplace in the early 1990s, touted as the latest and greatest health product. In addition to being promoted as a cheap plant-based, high protein alternative for vegetarians, other soy health benefits included its ability to lower cholesterol and protect against cancer.
However, what is often not discussed is just how processed some soy products can be and the long-term risks of soy consumption. Soy is often genetically modified (GMO), a process for which the effects are still not well known. GMOs have not been tested for long-term safety, and newer research shows genetic modification of food and food products may not be healthy. Current statistics show that 90-95% of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified, so it’s hard to find soy products that aren’t GMO.
Additionally, soy has been found to disrupt hormone balance and negatively impact the thyroid. It can increase estrogen in the body, and too much estrogen is NOT a good thing. One negative side effect of imbalanced hormones is difficulty losing weight. Other side effects include insomnia and digestive problems. Furthermore, soy can potentially cause infertility in women and loss of libido and erectile dysfunction in men.
Healthier alternatives: A diet filled with fresh and colourful fruits and vegetables will have many of the same health-promoting and cancer-fighting benefits as claimed by soy advocates. For alternative protein sources, other non-meat sources include eggs, fish, beans, legumes, grains, and nuts.
Common culprit: aspartame
Artificial sweeteners may seem like an ideal alternative if you are trying to cut calories. However, research has revealed that artificial sweeteners can actually trigger stronger cravings for sugar and tendencies to overindulge because you’re tricking your brain into thinking you’re consuming calories when you’re really not. You then look for the calories elsewhere and so they’re often easily replaced.
Additionally, the chemical make-up of artificial sweeteners can be very toxic to our bodies, have been known to damage beneficial bacteria in the gut, and can stimulate fat storage and weight gain.
Healthier alternatives: A better plan is to stay away from “diet” or “sugar-free” products and always read the ingredient list as artificial sweeteners are hidden in a lot of different products. Look specifically for Splenda, Sucralose, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Acesulfame Potasssium (K). Get your sweet tooth fix from treats like fruits or try natural sweeteners such as stevia, honey, or maple syrup.
Common culprit: High fructose corn syrup
While fructose that naturally occurs in fruit is healthy, the high fructose corn syrup that is added to many packaged products is not. Derived from corn, fructose, like soy, is often genetically modified and foods made with corn fructose tend to be highly processed and full of calories.
Different kinds of sugar are processed in the body differently. Fructose, especially processed fructose, is not utilized in the body the same as other forms of carbohydrates. The body has no immediate need for fructose and, consequently, any excess fructose is easily stored as fat.
Healthier alternatives: If you are going to eat fructose, get it from fresh fruit! The fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and enzymes in fruits help counter the detrimental effects of the fructose. If you want to lose weight, cut out the junk food, especially items that contain fructose on the label.