Marketing companies run riot on the packaging of our foods. 'Fat Free', 'Low Fat', 'All Natural', 'Vitamin Enriched' - are often terms created to make us believe these products are healthy and, in turn, good for us. And with so little free time, is it any wonder that we read these labels and buy these foods assuming that we are purchasing the healthy option?
Sadly, products which feel the need to advertise their health benefits, are often the least good for you.
So, what does this mean? Well, it means we need to take a little longer over our purchases and have a look at the ingredients within our foods. It also means we need to learn a little more the sources of our foods and the preservatives, pesticides and potential toxicity of what we put into our bodies.
Sorry about that.
But, to get you started I've listed my top 10 healthy foods you should try to avoid:
1) Dried Fruit
Problem: Sugar is added to dried fruit to make it taste sweeter because, with age, the natural fructose in the fruit breaks down causing the fruit to lose most of its flavor. What's more, a sulfite called 'sulfur oxide' is often added to stop the fruit from browning and starting to look bad. This sulfite is often associated with allergies, asthma and breathing difficulties in those who consume it.
Solution: Try drying your fruit at home and eating it immediately, or, be old-fashioned and eat your fruit fresh. Fresh fruit contains more vitamins and minerals and is often cheaper.
Problem: We hear granola, we think healthy. Those marketing gurus have done an excellent job. Sadly for them, their time is up. With most commercial granolas we're looking at large quantities of sugar and trans fats. Both of which are utterly toxic to the body.
And, with all this sugar and trans fat comes bucket-loads of calories. A small bowl of shop-bought granola can contain as much as 600 calories. Ouch!
Solution: Either make your own granola with rolled oats, nuts and seeds with a small amount of honey, maple syrup or agave or check the ingredients on the back of the packet and opt for versions which are high in fibre and low in sugar.
3) Fat-free... anything
Problem: We've ALL fallen for this one! Fat-free products are everywhere. And, when we thought that all fat was bad for you, the idea of something being 'fat free' - seemed ideal. Unfortunately marketers literally jumped on this band-wagon and are riding it to this day, hoping that unwitting consumers will continue to fall for it.
But the truth is out. Fat free is a problem. It's a problem because when people see the label 'fat-free', they assume it has few, if any calories, and gorge themselves. Fat free does not mean calorie free.
The next problem is that fat-free foods generally have sugar added to them in order to make them taste good. Sugar is really bad for you. Worse, in fact, than fat, in many instances.
Solution: Avoid fat-free products where possible. If you want to reduce your calorie intake - check the back of products for calories and sugar content before buying.
4) Tuna Sushi
Problem: We assume all tuna and all sushi is good for us. And, on the whole, fish is an excellent, low calorie source of protein, and essential fatty acids whilst sushi is a healthy, low calorie, and low fat meal option. However tuna sushi, in large doses, can be incredibly bad for you.
And it can be so bad for you because it may be a source of excess mercury. When we eat too much mercury it becomes toxic within our systems and is linked to insomnia, headaches, nose bleeds and a poor short-term memory. In a worst case scenario, you could be at risk of sustaining permanent neurological damage. Yowsers!
What's more tuna from cans and that served in restaurants typically contain higher levels of mercury because they use farmed rather than wild caught sources of fish.
Solution: Don't eat more than 6 ounces of tuna a week and, if possible, opt for wild tuna rather than a farmed version.
5) Non organic apples
Problem: Non organic apples are covered in pesticides. Farmers have to cover them in these toxins to help them resist the pests which love to infect them. Because apples are small, and particularly likely to be a target for these pests they are regularly doused with pesticides, all of which we also consume when we eat apples - a supposedly healthy snack.
Recent research has linked consumption of pesticides to a multitude of diseases including cancers and Parkinson's disease.
Solution: Buy organic apples.
Problem: High in polyunsaturated fats? Awesome! Shame about the fact most margarines are filled with trans fats as well. Trans fats are a type of toxic fat that work to increase levels of the bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreases levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Margarine can also be high in calories and taste pretty bad.
Solution: Stick to all natural un-salted butter.
Problem: Marketed to the healthy shoppers muesli is rarely the way to go, particularly if you're wanting to lose weight. Most mueslis are high in calories, high in fat and contain added sugar.
Solution: Make your own muesli. Buy some plain rolled oats, add hemp seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, sun flower seeds, pumpkin seeds and some goji berries, mix and serve with semi skimmed milk. Delicious.
Problem: We see the term 'smoothie' and we assume fresh fruit, vitamins, fibre and health. Sadly many mass produced smoothies are made with fruit juices and concentrates rather than just fruit. Fruit juices have sugar added. Smoothies may also contain sweeteners, colouring agents, preservatives and other nasties.
One other problem, that I see all the time with my clients, is that people don't realise the number of calories that they're consuming when they drink a smoothie. Smoothies can contain a lot of fruit. Each piece of fruit has calories in it. By consuming all this fruit you are adding to your daily calorie consumption, oftentimes without even realising. And these liquid calories are less likely to fill us up than the non-liquidised fruit would, what's more the sugar content within the smoothies can have us grabbing more food along the way too. All these extra calories may lead to extra stored fat - oftentimes the opposite result we're hoping for when drinking smoothies!
Solution: Make your own smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit in the blender, and take note that this 'drink' is full of calories that need to be taken into account in your daily calorie allowance.
9) Multi-grain Products
Problem: Multi grain products don't necessarily contain whole grains. Whole grains are good for you. They contain the entire kernel including the bran, the endosperm and the germ itself. That means that whole grain products are high in fibre and vitamins.
Refined grains do not contain the whole kernel. In fact, refined grains only contain the endosperm making them an inferior source of fibre and nutrients. Refined grains are used so often because they have a longer shelf life - good for manufacturers, less good for you.
Solution: Go for whole grain rather than multi grain products.
10) Gluten-free Products
Problem: The number of clients I see that eat gluten-free foods without having an allergy to the protein in gluten, is worrying. When I get to the bottom of why they eat gluten-free they tell me it's because they want to lose weight and assume gluten-free products are better for them.
The reality is that very few people are really gluten-intolerant yet thousands of people eat gluten-free because they think it's a healthier option. They're wrong.
Gluten free foods are highly refined amalgams of grains and sugar which means that they rarely contain the whole-grain. This makes gluten-free foods lower in both fibre content, natural B Vitamins and other antioxidants that we need for optimal health.
Solution: If you don't have a gluten intolerance, don't eat gluten-free. If you do want to eat gluten-free then make sure you check the back of the packets and only eat products that list a whole grain.
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