Should You Avoid These Eight “Health” Foods?


Jess Ainscough’s recent article “8 Foods People Think Are Healthy (But Aren’t)” on Mind Body Green, one of my favorite sites for real health articles, sparked some thoughts about what healthy food is and isn’t. Although I agree with her on most counts, I can’t help but add a few provisos.

 Should You Avoid These Eight “Health” Foods?1. Agave Nectar

I 100% agree that this “health” food is anything but. It’s highly processed and has the highest fructose of any commercial sweetener. It seems that when you take fructose out of its natural state (e.g., fruit), it’s pretty bad for you (high-fructose corn syrup, anyone?).

The Solution: Increase whole-food sources of sweet flavor: fruit, of course, and sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, all squashes, and cabbage.

 Should You Avoid These Eight “Health” Foods?2. Soy

Jess reminds us that soy is traditionally consumed fermented and in small quantities. Also, if you’re not getting organic soy, you’re most likely getting genetically modified soy. Like most whole foods, soy can be used to make junk fake meat and dairy products that really aren’t any better for you than their original counterparts.

The Solution: Jess recommends lentils, beans, chickpeas, quinoa, spirulina, and leafy greens as vegan sources of protein. If you’re a meat eater trying to cut down on your consumption of meat, I recommend that you try buying (and eating) smaller quantities of organic, grass-fed, pastured beef; pastured, organic chicken and pork; and wild-caught fish. It’s very satisfying in small quantities, just like dark chocolate.

Should You Avoid These Eight Health Foods?3. Fish

Jess claims that farmed fish is as bad for you as corn-fed cattle that never see the light of day. I agree. Avoid these like the plague. But there are plenty of wild-caught fish that you can eat that have medium to low levels of mercury. In addition, mercury absorption can be largely prevented in a healthy digestive tract.

The Solution: There are many types of seafood that contain very low levels of mercury, including the familiar salmon, sole, and flounder, as well as shrimp and scallops. A probiotic supplement can also help a lot when it comes to reducing mercury absorption, in addition to a diet including lots of fresh vegetables and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, nama shoyu, and yogurt.

Should You Avoid These Eight Health Foods?4. Fruit Juice

No quarrel here. I do not understand where people get the idea that it’s a good idea to give children fruit juice. No offense, parents, but this is not doing your kids any favors. It teaches them to drink their calories and provides a sugar spike without any fiber. Fruit juices often have sugar, colors, and preservatives added to them as well.

The Solution: Jess suggests a combination of homemade vegetable and fruit juice, which I love, but if you don’t have a juicer your options may be limited. Adding fruit juice to sparkling water makes a little go a long way and also provides satisfying carbonation for soda addicts. An undiluted glass of fruit juice should be treated like a dessert—a little goes a long way.

Should You Avoid These Eight Health Foods?5. Subway (and Chick-fil-a!)

There is no such thing as “healthy” fast food. According to Jess and this list of ingredients, Subway lists partially hydrogenated vegetable fat and oil (trans fat) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (another name for MSG) among the ingredients in its sandwiches.

I have to add a discovery of my own: one of the very first ingredients in the classic Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich is monosodium glutamate! Then follows a long list of nearly unidentifiable ingredients, including high-fructose corn syrup, a host of poisonous food colors, and something that is an “anti-foaming agent,” just in case your chicken grows teeth and starts foaming at the mouth, I assume. Uh, no thank you.

The Solution: While Jess suggests a homemade sandwich as an alternative, don’t forget to watch out for regular deli meats as well, which often contain chemicals, MSG, cancer-causing nitrates and nitrites, and way too much sodium. All-natural, low-sodium, organic lunchmeats and/or organic, grass-fed meat you cook yourself are the best sandwich options.

Should You Avoid These Eight Health Foods?6. Cooking with Olive Oil

This has been a tough one for me to swallow: if Italians have been doing it for centuries, can they really have gotten it so wrong? The research says that you don’t want to heat olive oil beyond 250 degrees Fahrenheit, so the best thing I’ve found to do with olive oil is drizzle it on food that’s already cooked, like pasta or steamed vegetables.

The Solution: Avoiding cooking with olive oil has become much easier for me now that I have Nutiva organic, extra-virgin coconut oil, which I buy in bulk on at an amazing deal. Another highly overlooked cooking fat is organic, cultured butter from pastured cows, which contains many nutrients and health benefits and is stable at higher temperatures. In addition, I’ve compiled some reasons why it’s actually important to eat saturated fat.

Should You Eat These Eight Health Foods?7. Braggs Liquid Aminos

If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a soy sauce substitute made with non-GMO soybeans that contains sixteen amino acids and no additives. Not the worst thing you can eat. Jess points out that it’s not fermented, which is a fair point, but then she makes the appalling suggestion of going without soy sauce altogether!

The Solution: Look for organic shoyu or nama shoyu, which is traditionally fermented Japanese soy sauce.

Should You Eat These Eight Health Foods?8. Dairy

I have to agree that there is no circumstance in which conventional dairy products of any kind (nonfat or otherwise) are good for you. Conventional dairy is full of pus, genetically modified rBGH growth hormones (which have been linked to tumor growth and cancer), and antibiotics; it contains none of the benefits (like vitamin D) of dairy from pastured cows; and it is not the best source of calcium—not to mention that it’s not really people food, if you think about it.

The Solution: Since it’s unrealistic for many people to completely eliminate dairy, my recommendation is to consume dairy in small quantities and on a sliding scale. If you can, switch from drinking milk to drinking water, and eat dark, leafy greens for calcium. Then, follow these guidelines:

  • Organic dairy is better than conventional dairy.
  • Organic dairy from pastured cows is better than that.
  • Low-temp pasteurized organic dairy is a great choice because it still contains much of the beneficial bacteria found in raw dairy.
  • I always recommend the full-fat, nonhomogenized version of any dairy product, which enables the maximum absorption of calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients, and keeps you satisfied longer with less. Plus it tastes better.

For information about raw milk, check out the Real Milk website. And for a surprising perspective on The China Study, check out Raw Food SOS.


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