5 “health” foods that aren’t healthy (+ what to eat instead)

There’s a common feeling us health practitioners face.

Once you see past the haze of fancy marketing words, nothing is ever as healthy as it seems. 

“HIGH IN PROTEIN”

“99% FAT FREE”

“SOURCE OF FIBRE”

“SOURCE OF IRON”

“CALCIUM FOR HEALTHY BONES” *eye roll*

“ENERGY BAR”

“GLUTEN FREE” 

Sound familiar?

And have they roped you in?

The problem here, is that unless you’re reading labels, it doesn’t matter what these labels say.  They can still pack as much other crap in there as they please. 

So let me dissect these for you so you know where they go wrong. 

“HIGH IN PROTEIN”

What I say:

“Woopdee doo. You have one of the three macronutrients in your food.”

Protein is found in every living food on the planet. 

Meanwhile, this said product may be loaded with sugar, gums, thickeners or lacking in any other nutrients. 

The truth is, unless you’re training to be Arnie, most people in our western culture get more than enough protein. It has even been suggested that overfed nations such as ours are getting too much. Go figure. 

“99% FAT FREE”

What I say:

“Mate, it’s 2019. Did you miss the memo about fat not being the issue anymore?”

(And mark my words, I only ever use the word ‘mate’ in a condescending manner).

It’s the SUGAR that this product is full of that’s the problem. (Or the processed carbs that break down into sugar anyway). 

Saying something is fat-free is possibly the biggest crime in health today. Because not only is fat not the main problem, but often when a natural product has been meddled with, such as milk, it increases the concentration of sugar, and has removed an important component of what’s needed to help deal with that sugar (listen to the ATP Project Podcast – ‘Scary Dairy’ episode for a good explanation).

Sure, not everyone should be having gross amounts of fat either (and believe me, everyone IS DIFFERENT – not everyone can physically do Keto). But the biggest thing we don’t want too much of is sugar and processed carbs. 

I still laugh at my old self who used to drink coffee with skim milk, yet still add sugar. 

“SOURCE OF FIBRE”

This is mainly directed at the cereal and bread companies. 

Fibre is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of regular bowel movements, and healthy gut bugs. But unfortunately in the mainstream bread and cereal world, there’s not much else going for these products.

I bang on about this on the daily; eat real living food.

Think about it. Cereal has been sitting on a shelf for months right. What’s alive in that product? Those dried berries ain’t gonna do much either. 

Okay perhaps I need to break this down further so you catch my drift. 

There’s often a lot of focus on macronutrients; carbs, fats and proteins. 

But that’s the easy part. 

What’s absolutely critical to optimal living and disease prevention are the MICRO-nutrients. Your vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (unique plant compounds that exert protective effects such as antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds – think ‘curcumin’ in turmeric or ‘resveratrol’ in grape skins). 

I am not over exaggerating when I say that MICRO-nutrient deficiencies are the biggest reason people have the health conditions they do when coming to clinic.

“SOURCE OF IRON”

The same principle can be applied here for all sorts of added nutrients such as vitamin C, folate, calcium etc. 

Unfortunately they often share the same commonality – they are fortified with synthetic nutrients, into an often unhealthy food. Again, the biggest culprit is cereal. Even worse, often things like Nutri-grain, coco pops and cornflakes (the fact these companies get to make health claims is beyond me). 

If increasing one of those nutrients is an issue for you, then I’d be looking to supplementation, and ultimately correcting the diet. Always seek professional guidance.

“CALCIUM FOR HEALTHY BONES” *eye roll*

Same deal as above. But what’s worse, is that sometimes there are other ingredients in these foods that compete with calcium uptake, or have their own affects on bone de-mineralisation. E.g sugar is acidic to the body. And acidity causes bones to leach calcium to help buffer the pH. 

“ENERGY BAR”

As you’re quickly learning, this is an ambiguous term. Energy can mean packed with sugar or carbs. Great for a marathon race, but not great for a desk-job snack. 

If you’re persistently low in energy, chances are there’s something else going on that needs to be investigated.

“GLUTEN FREE” 

Well this wins the badge for most deceiving marketing term for the past 5 years. 

Sure, gluten and wheat itself, are certainly problematic for some people (including myself). But a gluten-free banana bread ain’t gonna by-pass how much white powder was lovingly added to that thing.  

TOP 5 “HEALTH FOODS” that aren’t so healthy – and what to swap them with. 

In light of what we’ve just learnt (sorry to disappoint you), I’ve listed my top 5 most common ‘health’ foods seen consumed by the general population. I was certainly one of the masses who once consumed these foods.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

I’ve provided some easy swaps and suggestions for each one.

Wholemeal bread

Whilst slightly better for a little more fibre. You’re still eating processed carbs that get broken down into sugar. If not used as energy, it will be stored as fat. Furthermore, processed carbs spike blood sugar levels, and drop quickly. Thus you don’t feel as sustained.

Cue a big bready-baguette for lunch and a bowl of pasta at dinner because your body can’t get enough.

Gluten-free breads are often even worse. 

Sure, there are better quality breads than others, just like my tea is to Tetley (cheeky metaphor if I don’t say so myself).

But generally, our culture just eats way too much. And we’re not getting any healthier.

SWAP: No Grainger bread or other paleo loaves (see previous post about toast). I have made this recipe before and it’s an absolute winner.

Cereal

You should know why by now.

But generally your mainstream supermarket cereals like mueslis and cornflakes don’t provide much more than carbohydrates. When washed down with your 99% fat free milk, you’re only a few steps away from eating spoonfuls of sugar swimming in sugar water. 

Your body wants nutrients!

Real living phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. 

One thing I often say to clients, is when you wake up, you want the first meal to hit your hungry gut to be full of the best quality nutrients possible so that it can soak those vitamins and minerals up for vibrant energy, all day long.

SWAP: if you’re dead-set on being a cereal person, why not make your own granola with nuts, seeds, coconut, goji and cacao nibs… but always top it with fresh coloured fruits like berries, kiwis and mango. Team with some coconut yoghurt or unsweetened almond milk.

Yoghurt

I’ll make this one short and ‘sweet’. 

Yogurt CAN be a health(ish) food. But unfortunately most of you wouldn’t it eat if it tasted like it should (trust me, I’ve tried this with my husband and he hates it like a baby to broccoli). 

Those fancy flavoured fruit yoghurts are packed with sugar, and often other things like thickeners, gums and binders. 

SWAP: authentic natural Greek yoghurt (not “Greek-style”), or natural coconut yoghurt. Add natural sweetness with fruits and a little rice malt syrup. I don’t mind a drizzle of maple syrup here and there if I’m really craving sweetness.

Muesli/protein bars

Same principle as cereals. They don’t offer a lot of bang-for-your-buck. Sure, they taste nice to many people (I’m not big on them myself), but don’t seek them out as a health snack.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and eggs are health snacks. 

Swap: homemade bliss balls or raw slices. Or good old fruit, vege or boiled eggs. Of course there are some much better bars on the market these days. I’ve seen some popping up even in mainstream supermarkets that are merely dates, nuts, cacao and some natural flavours like peppermint or orange.

Tuna and rice 

Just.

No. 

This is highly influenced by the gym world.

You’re forgiven. 

Now time to move on. 

When you look at this meal, what do you see?

A sea of beige and white. 

What does that mean? Not a lot of rainbows and butterflies. 

Why are foods like dark leafy greens, berries and turmeric so good for us?

Because those beautiful colours are packed with antioxidants and disease-fighting nutrients. The darker/more vibrant the colour – the more highly concentrated the nutrients. 

So what about tuna being healthy though? 

Tinned tuna – it sits on a shelf for months on end. 🤔

Furthermore there are big issues with heavy metal contamination in large tuna types such as yellow fin. This is problematic particularly for female hormonal conditions. There are also some concerns around the plastic lining of tins containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals (think BPA and the like – that give our hormones a hard time). 

“What about brown rice? I thought it was healthier?”

Well sure, it’s higher in fibre. And not too bad as a side note to a big bowl of vege and proteins to make your meal go a longer way.

But tuna and rice on their own with a measly broccoli floret isn’t going to turn your body on if you want to keep it perky. 

As you’re probably learning, it’s never about one thing on its own; it’s about the variety and balance. 

SWAP: fresh, smaller wild caught fish or other proteins, cooked veggies/spinach/greens with a smaller portion of rice, quinoa, or better still – more veggies. 

Honey

This one is subject to context. So don’t throw out your expensive liquid gold just yet. 

The problem with honey, is that people assume it’s healthier. Like you suddenly get to skip the sugar problem. 

But also, for some reason when foods have honey in their title, people assume it’s healthy. Eg “banana, oat and honey muffin”. Or “muesli bar with real honey”. 

Unfortunately using honey doesn’t get you a free pass to healthy eating. 

BUT! Good quality local unadulterated honey (I’m looking at you Capilano) is okay in moderation, and may serve some ‘slight’ extra bonuses with antimicrobial affects and some possible pre-biotic benefits. Honey may be problematic if you have fructose malabsorption issues, IBS and/or SIBO. 

Of course honey is slightly lower on the glycemic index (GI) scale than table sugar, but you don’t miss out completely. Again – all in moderation.

*Bonus food*

Orange juice 

Just as I was about to post this blog, I remembered this one.

I’m hoping you guys should know better. But store-bought orange juice doesn’t get you the same benefits as vine-picked in-your-glass-that-day.

Firstly, orange juice is pasteurised in order to pass food regulation standards. Meaning it’s heated to a high temp. And what does vitamin C hate? Heat.

Thus, you wouldn’t believe it, but for orange juice co’s to maintain their claim, they ADD vitamin C to the orange juice. Don’t believe me? Check the ingredients next time your by-passing that section at woolies, and notice “vitamin C” or “ascorbic acid” in the list.

But not only that, it’s highly concentrated in natural sugar, when you remove the fibre.

A freshly squeezed glass certainly doesn’t go astray. But remember folks, vitamin C comes from every plant on earth.

*********

As always, I promote a diet and lifestyle that comes with a fair bit of health, but also its indulgences. Life’s too short to be forever hard on yourself. 

But if you’re lucky to have a long one, you want to live it thriving. 

So making these changes 80-90% of the time will go a long way to a fruitful life. 

Jade xxx

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