by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
We all have our own ideas on what a healthy food choice is today, but somewhere in the near future, we may be chastising that very food as so unhealthy. It is actually quite interesting to look at the evolution of how food is being touted as healthy or unhealthy.
During the late 60’s and early 70’s diet soda started to become popular. All the sugar was killing us and something had to be done about this. In comes diet soda to the rescue! For most in their 40’s or older, you likely remember Diet Rite and Tab, the two leading saviors of the time. Finally, something healthy for us to enjoy that did not contain sugar. Well, at least so we thought of course. Now, we know that diet sodas are a much bigger health challenge than taking in some sugar.
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s fat was the bad guy. We were told to go low fat or no fat for years because we were going through a cultural weight gain challenge. During this time, we were told to eat carbs, so we dropped the fat and ate up wheat bread, pasta and bagels. I’m sure you remember the time, there was a bagel store on seemingly every corner. We were gobbling up bagels and drowning the bagel with our favorite non-fat spread. It didn’t take us long to recognize that this shift from fat to simple carbs actually led us down a path of even further weight gain. On top of that, the lack of fat in our diets created so many other health issues.
After the non-fat boom the next attack came down on eggs and saturated fat. You know those little dangerous cholesterol balls that were going to have as all doubled over in the pain of a heart attack. Stop eating eggs is what we were told! Instead, enjoy a good egg substitute or powdered eggs. We stopped eating butter and started enjoying the health alternative, margarine. Little did we know that margarine was this grey and foul smelling poor facsimile of a food source that has to be colored and aroma added so this would be pleasing enough to consume. So we listened again, we stopped eating eggs and saturated fat, yet our cholesterol levels continued to be an issue and heart disease had little if any change.
Let’s look at some “healthy” food choices that we may be avoiding some time soon in the future. These are what I like to call unhealthy health foods.
Gluten Free Foods
Yes, I am a proponent of eating gluten free but not necessarily gluten free foods. Now, if a whole food is naturally gluten free, have at it. The problem here is that most “gluten free” foods are actually poorly processed carbohydrates that drive up glucose and insulin, eventually leading to blood sugar issues and a host of other problems. So, if you think your diet of gluten free crackers, pasta and breads are healthy for you, it may be time to rethink this.
Soy is healthy right? After all, the Asian culture has been eating soy for generations and they are so healthy. While there is some truth here, we are missing a key point. The traditional Asian culture ate naturally fermented soy such as miso, tempeh, natto and a true fermented soy sauce. I have a secret for you, that’s not the soy our culture is eating. We are eating non-fermented soy products such as soy milk, ice cream, proteins, flour, yogurt, tofu and more. The problem with non-fermented soy products is that they block mineral and protein absorption. So keep stopping to get your skinny latte made with soy milk and pretend that you’re doing something good for you. I won’t even bring up the latte.
Thankfully, at least we know fruit juice is good for us. After all, shouldn’t we all start our day with a big glass of OJ. We need our vitamin C, right? Yes & no. While fruit itself has many benefits, fruit juice, when void of fiber, is simply drinking liquid sugar. I know, but it’s natural sugar, right? Sugar is still sugar and as a culture, we take in way to much. To top it off, taking in sugar in a liquid form drives your body crazy. This spikes blood sugar to the point that most will over produce insulin, thus dropping blood sugar too low which in turn will trigger cravings. And if you guessed that the cravings would be for sugar, you are correct. This does not even take into account that most of the commercial brands of fruit juice are contaminated with mold due to the unhealthy storage of your fruit while it awaits it’s transformation to fruit juice.
I’m sure that most of you have read the research on the benefits of daily consumption of red wine. This works out perfect because it provides permission to consume a glass or two of red wine daily, so we can be healthy of course. After all, it provides us healthy antioxidants and it is fermented. Fermented foods are good for us right? First off, no alcohol is good for us. I’m not going to pretend that I do not ever consume wine or other alcohol for that matter, but I never drink this thinking it is a health drink. You’re only kidding yourself. When you drink alcohol, this does create free radical activity and oxidative stress in your body, so at best the antioxidants are helping you with the damage you are creating but you’re likely not even reaching this point. Oh, and forget the idea of the fermented drink. While wine used to be naturally fermented and actually contain beneficial bacteria, modern wines are chemically fermented and no longer contain this healthy bacteria.
At least we have energy bars to save the day. Those quick grab alternatives that allow us to maintain busy schedules and still eat healthy. Think again! An energy bar is a candy bar because it’s an indulgence or a sweet snack, not a meal replacement. Energy bars are loaded with sugar and most of them are also packed with enriched white flour, saturated fats and corn syrup, in addition to the few vitamins the wrapper touts on the front. I know, the marketing tells you they’re healthy but remember, the sole purpose of most marketing is to sell a product, not necessarily to help you make a healthy choice.
Yay, heart healthy oils that we can enjoy! At least that is what the American Heart Association will tell us. Go ahead and use all the corn, soy, safflower and vegetable oils you can get your hands on. What we are typically not told is that when we heat a vegetable oil, this becomes a trans fat, which is actually one of the most damaging fats you can consume. This does not even take into account the fact that vegetable oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids which will through off our omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids even further than already challenged. Vegetable oils are not the healthy choice we are led to believe.
Finally, a healthy sweetener that those of us making healthy choices can enjoy. This is the health food life preserver for so many that enjoy that bit of sweetness in their foods. Don’t be mad at me on this one, but not so fast on the agave health food thought. Agave nectar is touted as diabetic friendly and low glycemic because it’s largely made of fructose, which although it has a low-glycemic index, is now known to be a very damaging form of sugar when used as a sweetener. Agave nectar has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener (with the exception of pure liquid fructose). I knew this one was going to be tough to swallow for many so please read further on this here.
I know I’m going to upset some people here but this is another important factor to address on healthy food choices. I am not sure if you have ever read The China Study, but if you are a vegan or vegetarian, it is likely that you have or at least you’ve heard of this. Basically, the China Study tells us all that we should stop consuming animal based products because they are killing us. The China Study is recognized as the largest comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted, but there is a challenge here. The problem is that the book the China Study is not the actual China Study, but rather a vegan’s interpretation of the actual China Study. The simple fact is that a 100% plant based diet is not a sustainable diet. The simple fact that every vegan has to supplement with vitamin B12 is enough to tell you that this way of eating is not optimal. While there are benefits of eating raw plant based foods, consuming animal based food along with your raw plant based foods will provide you with the macro and micro-nutrients needed to live a healthy life.
Of course, this is only a sample of some nutritional misconceptions, but as you can see in this article, nutritional thoughts will shift, change and reestablish themselves as time goes on. It is up to us to stay on top of this information. And please, do not depend on commercial marketing and mainstream information to tell you what to do from a nutritional perspective. Research, research, research and research some more, because nutrition is an always evolving subject and even our food is in a constant states of evolution, some natural and some impacted by man.
If you have a comment or question in regard to this article or want to share other unhealthy health foods, please post below for us to reply personally or post on my Facebook page.