If you’re confused about which foods are healthy for you and which aren’t, you’re not alone. For years, most of the items on this list were considered ideal for optimum health and weight loss. And then as “alternative” or holistic health has become mainstream, we started hearing more and more about whole foods and natural ingredients, rather than artificial or processed foodstuffs.
When making a choice about what food to put in your body in order to gain energy, absorb essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and lose or maintain a healthy weight, keep one thing in mind: the closer it is to nature, the better it is for you. Which leads us to…
Ten so-called “healthy” foods that actually can make you feel worse:
1. Low-fat Foods.
The American government published a report in 1977 called Dietary Goals for the United States that supported and encouraged a low-fat diet, and since then anything with fat was considered unhealthy. Research told us that saturated fat was especially bad for you, but the problem was that this research was based on partially-hydrogenated or trans fat (i.e. man-made), not naturally-saturated fats which are important for our health. Low-fat foods also tend to be high in empty calories like sugar, chemicals, or other fillers—leading people to eat more of it because their hunger isn’t satisfied.
For decades, margarine has been an acceptable alternative to the “bad guy” of the dairy aisle: butter. Back in the ‘40s saturated fats from animal sources were incorrectly labeled as cancer-causing, and polyunsaturated margarine — formerly deemed worthy only for the poor—was marketed as a replacement. Once the low-fat fad took off in the ‘80s, butter rarely made an appearance on the dinner table again. But margarine contains trans fats, which can lead to heart disease, cancer, hormonal imbalance, infertility, and learning disabilities in children. In addition, margarine is loaded with additives and preservatives, such as cancer-causing BHT (Butylated hydroxyanisole).
3. Vegetable Oil.
Vegetable oil, touted as a “good” oil for a long time, is unhealthy primarily because it is highly processed. When you use polyunsaturated vegetable oils like canola to cook with, the high heat oxidizes the oil and once in your system converts your good cholesterol into bad cholesterol. Use coconut oil instead because it contains highly beneficial short- and medium-chain fatty acids which have antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties that are not altered at high heat. Olive oil is damaged by heat, but it’s great for using cold.
4. Microwave Popcorn.
The chemical that lines microwave popcorn bags is called PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and when heated seeps into the popcorn. If the word “chemical” isn’t enough to put you off this allegedly healthy snack, you should know that PFOA is not only linked to thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and infertility, but the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has suggested that this substance is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
If you believe the popular media, soy is the best thing since sliced bread. The fact is that fermented soybeans are the only version of this bean that have any health benefits. All other forms of soy protein contain Isoflavones which disrupt the endocrine system, resulting in increased estrogen levels which in turn can lead to breast cancer. In addition, these isoflavones have been linked to digestive, thyroid, and reproductive problems, as well as lowered immune systems and heart disease.
6. Artificial Sweeteners.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or two, you’re aware of the controversy about artificial sweeteners. While sweeteners such as Aspartame, Sucralose (“Splenda”), and Neotame (“NutraSweet”) have been idolized for their low or nonexistent calories, keep in mind that they are still artificial. According to William Dufty’s book Sugar-Free Blues, aspartame is a “neurotoxic substance that has been associated with numerous health problems including…pancreatitis, high blood pressure,…seizures, and depression.” In addition, when you digest aspartame, it converts to methanol, a known poison.
This “sports drink” is popular among athletes and others who exercise because of its hydration properties, namely electrolytes. But take a look at the list of ingredients on a bottle of Gatorade and you’ll find that it contains a host of unhealthy components: brominated vegetable oil (originally patented as a flame retardant), artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, salt, and food dye (which is a known carcinogen). Med-Health.net reports that drinking too much of this colorful beverage can produce serious side effects like weight gain, hypervitaminosis A (too much Vitamin A), hyponatremia (overhydration, which can be fatal), hypertension (800 mg sodium per bottle), and high blood sugar (56 g per bottle).
8. Energy Bars.
Most energy and protein bars are basically candy bars in disguise. They may have more protein or fiber than a Snickers, but are usually loaded with sugar or artificial sweetener, trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and protein isolate (usually soy). Like candy, they will provide an initial energy spike, followed by a blood sugar crash.
A bran muffin along with your morning coffee—what could be healthier than that? You might as well be eating a slice of cake, since a typical store- or café-bought muffin is high in calories, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed fats, and preservatives.
10. Frozen Yogurt.
This frozen treat was hyped for being the perfect ice cream substitute—just as tasty, but better for you. Besides sugar or artificial sweeteners, frozen yogurt ingredients usually include additives, carrageenan (a thickening agent that can cause digestive problems such as inflammation and ulcers), and other artificial flavors.
The articles on this website are not to be construed as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.