Most of the time it’s easy to pick the unhealthy food option out of the line up…fried foods, refined sugary treats, processed high fat foods… you know the ones! But what about the other common foods items that seem harmless? Who buys whole wheat bread because they think it’s “better” than white bread…anyone, anyone? Even worse are the foods that we’ve been told are HEALTHY, and so we don’t think twice before putting them in our shopping cart.
It’s true, some of the worst foods for us are those masquerading as “health foods,” when in reality they are anything but.
To help you sort through the confusion, I’ve put together my list of 5 common foods that may be contributing to weight gain (and other unhealthy side effects)…
1. Vegetable Oils –
Vegetable oils are oils that have been extracted from various seeds including rapeseed (canola oil), soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, etc and are highly processed and contain high amounts of omega-6 pro-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats. Omega-6 fats in relatively low quantities, and consumed in the right ratio to Omega-3 fats, can actually be beneficial to your health. The problem is that most people actually have too much Omega-6 in their bodies. And too much Omega-6 can lead to an increase in inflammatory diseases including, but not limited to:
- cardiovascular disease
- type 2 diabetes
- metabolic syndrome
- irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
- macular degeneration
- rheumatoid arthritis
- psychiatric disorders
- autoimmune diseases
SWAP: Opt for traditional fats including unrefined extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil.
2. Margarine & Fake Butter –
The truth is, there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. In fact, current studies now conclude that when it comes to the butter vs. margarine debate, butter is unlikely to harm your health… but margarine could be deadly!
Margarine contains trans fats. These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat.
Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems and learning disabilities in children.
SWAP: Your better off choosing real butter! Real butter contains antioxidants, along with Vitamin A, D, E, and K. Another healthy choice is ghee, which is clarified butter. Ghee has a higher smoke point, so it is ideal for cooking. It is also considered lactose free, and is higher in fat that regular butter making a good choice for Paleo or Keto diets.
3. Fat-Free Products-
One of the diet trends that I am so happy has been debunked is the low-fat foods as part of a healthy diet trend! In general, fats have gotten a really bad rap over the years… mostly due in part to the sugar industry publishing research spouting that fats are bad for us! It actually could not be further from the truth! Fats are an essential nutrient and one of the primary energy sources for the body. Fats play a vital role in brain function, hormone production and balance, weight management, and supporting immune function.
The problem with fat-free, low-fat, reduced fat or “light” foods is that when you remove fat from a naturally fatty food, you have to make up for taste by adding sugar, additives or other artificial sweeteners! This can mean added calories. Additionally, without the fats, these foods are not as filling or satisfying which can lead to over-eating!
SWAP: Go for the full-fat version of products including cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt! Just be mindful of portion size, and make sure overall you are eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
4. Natural Flavors –
Pick up any packaged food item in your pantry, or on the grocery store shelf, and you’re likely to find the word “flavor” somewhere on the ingredient list. Am I right? The processed food industry adds flavors to nearly everything! There is a multi billion dollar flavor industry dedicated to creating chemicals that make all that processed food taste like… well… real food.
As Vani Hari writes on her Food Babe blog, “The term “flavors” on a package is highly misleading. It sounds innocent and is on SO MANY products that we are desensitized to it. Flavor companies own these proprietary formulas… making it near impossible to find out exactly what’s in them. You’d like to think that “natural apple flavor” is just some juice extracted from an apple and inserted into the food. Nope. That “natural apple flavor” needs to preserved and stabilized and has agents added to help it mix well into a product. This is why flavors can contain upwards of 100 ingredients like propylene glycol, polysorbate 80, BHT, BHA… all considered “incidental additives” not required to be labeled by the FDA. The FDA doesn’t require companies to tell you what is in the flavors they use. It’s a complete mystery ingredient.”
SWAP: Put down the processed foods, and eat more real, whole foods! Basically, if it has a barcode, or you didn’t make it yourself from whole food ingredients, leave it on the shelf!
5. Artificial Sweeteners-
There are many varieties of artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes on the grocery store shelves today. Just like the low-fat diet trend, we’ve been led to believe that sugar-free products are the healthy alternative! By offering the taste of sweetness without any calories, artificial sweeteners seem like they could be one answer to effective weight loss. Diet soda is a perfect example of this!
There is nothing healthy about these artificial sweeteners. They are manufactured chemicals additives that have been shown to be 700 times sweeter than natural sugar! Over time, artificial sweeteners can alter your taste buds resulting in a constant craving for foods that are overly sweet.
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to:
- respiratory problems
- toxic liver
- toxic kidneys
Many processed products contain these artificial sweeteners including chewing gum, breath mints, beverages, alcoholic beverages, dairy products, salad dressings, desserts, candies, gelatin, preserves, baked goods, toothpastes, mouthwashes, yogurts, vitamins, children’s vitamins, pharmaceuticals, breakfast cereals, snack foods, soups and tabletop sweeteners.
As a general rule, if it’s a yellow, blue, or pink packet, throw it away! Or if packaged foods say sugar-free, leave it on the grocery shelf!
SWAP: Use natural sweeteners like honey, 100% maple syrup, stevia, monk fruit, unsweetened applesauce, dates or date syrup.
My go-to new favorite natural sweetener is Just Date Syrup!
To your health,
PS- I’d love to hear what you think about this post! Join the conversation on my Thrive Wellness FB page.