When it comes to our diets, everyone seems to have a different idea of what healthy food means. It seems that, over the years, we have lost track of the knowledge that came naturally to our ancestors. And no wonder- with the typical western diet, our bodies have become prone to disease and obesity. Then, when we try to take control of our health and turn our diets around, we are bombarded with fads, quick fixes, and money-hungry companies selling “diet food” as “health food” that in reality is anything but.
So, we have become lost, not knowing if these foods are truly nourishing our bodies, or if we are only believing the lies that the people selling these foods are telling us. Here is my list of 8 foods that are commonly perceived as health foods, but when we take a deeper look into their nutritional content, we find that they are actually quite harmful.
- Canola oil
If you scan Google looking for information on Canola Oil, you will likely find a few articles boasting its “heart healthy” benefits and low saturated fat content. We even see on most bottles of canola oil, that cute little red heart with the words, “heart-healthy” in big bold letters. This is all in an effort to keep people coming back to this affordable “Health food” amid the rising popularity of coconut oil over the past few years. But the truth is that canola oil is a genetically modified version of the rapeseed plant, which- on its own- harbors toxic compounds called erucic acid and glucosinolates. Anything but “heart-healthy”, this oil should be avoided as much as possible. Tip- Check your salad dressings! Many of them contain this toxic oil.
With the rise of celiac disease and the ever-increasing popularity of the gluten-free diet, most of you are probably familiar with Cassava chips, flour, crackers, and other products. Though it is known as a healthy, affordable, gluten-free alternative, in reality, the Cassava is a starchy root that is actually quite poisonous when not thoroughly processed. Just two cassava roots can contain a fatal dose of its cyanogenic glucosides. Processing makes this root “safe” for consumption, but it is still not a healthy choice- especially if it is something you are consuming regularly.
We have all seen the commercials, the posters, and billboards of celebrities and the milk stache, and heard our mothers and childhood doctors say that three servings of dairy every day will give you strong bones and teeth. The reality? Casein, the main protein found in dairy, has been shown to be a leading cause of cancer. The irony? Dairy actually increases calcium LOSS from our bones.
4. Farm-raised salmon
Salmon has many health benefits, between its omega-3 content, B vitamins, potassium, antioxidants, and protein. A lot of people don’t pay attention to where their fish comes from. But did you know that, aside from being fed an awful diet that leads to farmers adding supplements from petrochemicals to make the salmon pink (As it should be) rather than grey, farm-raised salmon is significantly higher in PBDE’s, which are toxins that bioaccumulate in the body and have been associated with hormonal and thyroid disruption, brain damage, and cancer. Yuck. Stick to wild-caught whenever possible.
5. Plantain chips
Plantains are a type of banana that is much less sweet and actually considered a starchy vegetable. In general, I have nothing against plantains, except their starch content that causes inflammation in the body. But when this plant is taken and deep-fried, heavily salted and sold as a healthy snack when it is actually just a glorified potato chip? That’s when I find it problematic. (Although kale chips are gaining popularity, and I personally find them delicious, you are better off making your own since store-bought brands have lots of added sugars and preservatives.)
6. Black pepper
Though black pepper is not necessarily considered a “healthy food”, I thought I should include this one because many people just pour on the pepper without considering how it might affect their health. In fact, I am guilty of this one as well since I LOVE pepper. But the sad truth is that black pepper can increase free-radical production, and cause harmful intestinal irritation such as micro-bleeding in the gut and intestines.
7. Store-bought bread
Most of the bread we buy at the grocery store is full of harmful chemicals and toxins, stripped of any nutritional value, and loaded with inflammation-causing starch. It doesn’t matter if the bread is organic or not, made with whole grains or not, it is almost all pure junk. In fact, the healthier the bread looks, I.E. the darker in color and full of seeds, oats, and whole grains, the more sugar is added to make it taste good. I have even tried buying bread from the Amana bakery, only to find that it too contains chemical additives and sweeteners. Your best bet is to make your own bread at home with Spelt, Amaranth, or Kamut flour. In a pinch, you should buy your bread from the freezer section where you can find good products such as Ezekiel bread
8. Starchy vegetables
Just because something grows out of the ground and is called a vegetable, does not mean that it is automatically something that is good for our health. A diet rich in starchy foods (yes, that includes veggies) has been linked to a myriad of health problems including diabetes and heart disease. These veggies include; corn, potatoes, peas, parsnips, water chestnut, carrots (Yes, carrots) and yams. Especially if you find yourself with chronic inflammation, thyroid problems, or high blood pressure, it is best to limit these veggies or omit them from your diet entirely.
I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you or discouraged you on your journey to better health. It takes patience, knowledge, and perseverance to succeed in achieving your fitness goals, and your internal health is no different. Just as you would slowly climb towards longer and harder workouts, so too will you climb towards a clean, healthy diet. Good luck as you browse the grocery store shelves this week, and don’t forget to be creative and have fun in the kitchen as you prepare clean meals that you can be proud of.