7 Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy…But Aren’t

Sometimes those “healthy choices” aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be! Here are 7 foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t

Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy
Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy

Processed foods are the main reason that we, as a society, are heavier and sicker than ever.  Unfortunately, food manufacturers have spent years and billions of dollars to convince us that there’s no better way to be happy, healthy and (gosh darn it!) full than to take advantage of the many foods they offer.

The foods (and claims) have evolved over time so I thought I would go over 7 of the current foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t.

The Big Empty (Calorie, That Is!)

Empty Calories
Empty Calories

Rice cakes and Pretzels

How did these guys become knighted heroes in the world of healthy eating? They’re nothing but highly processed foods that are full of empty calories. They must have a great PR guy!

Breakfast Cereals

The first commercial breakfast cereal, marketed in 1863 was called Granula. It was made from graham flour baked into a lump so hard it had to be soaked overnight to even be edible.  Graham flour was, interestingly enough, named after Reverend Sylvester Graham, who soon joined forces with John Harvey Kellogg.  After a falling out, Kellogg went on to start his own company to distribute his newest cereal, Cornflakes, which was considered to be more palatable than Granula.

In the years that followed, the quest to make cereal desirable to the general public has resulted in having even the healthiest brands become highly processed products. They contain loads of refined sugar while being devoid of protein and nutritional value.  In an effort to make them seem healthier, they are often “fortified”, which simply means synthetic substances have been added to replace the nutrition that was destroyed during the manufacturing process.

Microwave Popcorn

From the chemicals in the bags to the “buttery” flavor and “artificial and natural flavorings”, this stuff just has to go.  Studies show that dangerous emissions (their word, not mine) released both during and after popping can lead to serious health issues including lung disease.

So what’s a girl to do when she really, really wants a crunchy snack?  No, I’m not going to tell you to get a stalk of celery.  (I hate it when people say that because they know that’s not what I’m asking…)

How about some good, old-fashioned, pop-it-yourself popcorn?  It’s low in fat and calories but it also has a good dollop of nutritional value as well.

The Low Fat Low Sugar Wars

Low Fat Yogurt
Low Fat Yogurt

You see the claims blazing from every shelf in every aisle of the store.  Low fat!  Fat-free!  Low sugar!  Sugar-free! We all know that too much fat and sugar in our diets lead to a plethora of health problems so it’s best to stay completely away from it, right?

Well, no.

First of all, let’s clear up all the claims on those processed foods such as bottled salad dressing, baked goods, yogurts and the like.  It’s a fact that when manufacturers reduce the fat in products that normally would contain it, they add more sugar or sodium.

Low sugar items usually contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose, which are associated with health risks.

Now for some real facts: Not only is fat necessary for our bodies to function properly, it’s also necessary for our bodies to actually absorb the nutrients from our foods. The same is true for sugar.

So, although we don’t need lots of added fats and sugars in our diets, we do need some and a balanced diet of varied whole foods will take care of that nicely!

Magical Healing Foods

Superfood
Superfood

Superfood

There’s no scientifically based or regulated definition for the term superfood, the word has long been used to identify a food that’s rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health.

The term was coined by the United Fruit Company around World War I to promote sales of bananas. This was right around the same time that the scientific world was beginning to isolate different vitamins and nutrients in regard to how their use (or lack of use) specifically affected the human body. When The American Medical Association published an article claiming that bananas cured Celiac Disease in children, United Fruits ran with it. We now know this scientific finding to be faulty and that a banana is, sadly, just a banana.

You would have thought to be the end of the banana-as-a-superhero movement but, no. There was money to be made so the SuperFoods Express remained firmly on the tracks despite the fact that scientific studies show little benefit to focusing on them as a superior form of nutrition.

Many studies today look at the benefits of certain nutrients when used in very large quantities…certainly, more than we could consume in a single sitting. They also look, in most cases, at just that nutrient or food, without considering that humans do not exist on a single source of nutrition. And the scary part? Some “superfoods”, such as açaí berries and pomegranates, can actually damage your organs when ingested in large amounts.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that inhibit free radicals from doing damage to our bodies. They rose to media fame in the 1990s when scientists began to discover that people with a low antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetable intake were more likely to experience damage from these free radicals.

As trials began to run on these findings, the food industry began to tout and market antioxidant-rich foods such as green tea and blueberries. Supplements also became popular.

Despite the fact that studies are inconclusive on the benefits of upping your antioxidant intake (and, in some cases, indicated it could increase health issues), these products continue to see – if you’ll excuse the pun – healthy sales.

One thing the studies did prove? That people who ate more fruits and vegetables of any kind were healthier overall than those who ate less,

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line

Focusing your attention on certain foods that are perceived to have some magical advantage over other foods may draw you away from the balanced, yet varied, diet that is so important to your health.

Let’s just ignore the hype, shall we? Get out there and grab some whole foods…anything you want. Take any kind of fruit or veggie, any kind of lean meat, any kind of whole grain and turn it into something delicious! Feel free to take a stroll through the Let’s Get Cooking section of this website for some great recipes including homemade salad dressing recipes such as thousand island, blue cheese and Caesar!

Don’t forget to let me know how it turns out in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

 

 

Change Your Food, Change Your Life

Change Your Food, Change Your Life
Change Your Food, Change Your Life

We are all acquainted with those people who wouldn’t know a fresh vegetable if it ran them down in the street. Maybe you are one of those people. Or, rather, were one of those people.

The fact that you’re here, reading this article, tells me that you’ve changed. It tells me that you want to eat differently.

I had a dear friend who embraced the motto, “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house”. Yes, she was being funny but it was also (mostly) true and, if we’re being truthful, we all feel that way from time to time.

We’ve become a society of convenience-based, fast-food junkies. I’ve made a decision to change my life, to change the way I eat, so now I’m embracing this new motto: “Change Your Food, Change Your Life”.

Here are a few reasons why.

Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?

Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?
Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?

The US National Institutes of Health say that eating a diet full of processed foods causes a rise in hunger hormones.

In a month-long study, 20 volunteers lived in a laboratory and spent two weeks eating a diet of processed foods followed by two weeks eating a diet of unprocessed foods.

It was discovered that the unprocessed diet caused appetite-suppression hormones PYY to rise while hunger hormone ghrelin went down.

This did not happen for the processed food portion of the study. As a matter of fact, the volunteers consumed an average of 500 more calories every day while on the processed foods diet.

Why is this happening? The answers aren’t clear. Obviously more studies are needed to get to the bottom of this.

Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?

Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?
Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?

The study I’ve noted above took great care to make sure that the nutritional intake for the two diets was similar but, here in the real world, things look a little different, don’t they?

We tend to choose (and overeat) processed foods that are full of refined carbs, added sugar and fat, all of which appeals to the human palate, but tend to fall short when it comes to fiber, protein and nutrition.

When we couple that with the information garnered about hormones in the study mentioned above, it’s no wonder we’re gaining weight.

Studies have shown again and again that beings who eat (humans, mice, dogs, etc) gravitate towards foods that taste good and we don’t mind compromising our health to do it.

In past generations, this desire was mitigated by the food that was available and the process of preparing it. If you missed that deer or didn’t have wood to build a fire, then you simply had to consume what you had.

In today’s society, the plethora of readily available and inexpensive convenience foods assures that we can eat as much as we want, whenever want.

Do Processed foods make you tired?

Do Processed foods make you tired?
Do Processed foods make you tired?

We’re Bushed. Zonked. Fried. Done in. Pooped. Whatever you call it, it’s no fun to be weary.

As we struggle valiantly to stay awake during the morning meeting, we vow to do better.

We promise ourselves that tonight we’ll lose the screen time, skip that second glass of wine and hit the sack earlier. So why isn’t it helping?

While all these things are certainly issues in our day-to-day lives, the fatigue that we’re suffering could be directly linked to the foods that we eat.

More and more, experts are uncovering the reasons that processed foods make you tired. And they’re not necessarily the reasons you may think.

I think we all know that when we eat a donut, the blood sugar spike we get will be quickly followed by a dip, leaving us tired and cranky.

What many people don’t realize is that the same holds true for so-called “white” carbs. These are the refined carbs found in many white foods such as white bread, white flour, white rice and some breakfast cereals.

The better choices to avoid that sugar crash are whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal.

Things go much deeper than that, however.

Because many processed foods don’t contain the nutrients that our bodies need to function, using them as a main food source can lead to a variety of health issues such as anemia. The higher salt sugar and fat content can cause high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

The chemicals that are used in processed foods can cause fatigue as well. Inorganic phosphate, for example, is shown to reduce oxygen uptake as well as impede the body’s ability to produce fatty acids. Considering that it’s used in up to 70% of all processed foods, I think we can agree that it’s a problem.

Do processed foods make you crave sugar?

Do processed foods make you crave sugar?
Do processed foods make you crave sugar?

Why does it seem that the more we eat, the more we want?

The answer is simple: Modern industrial food manufacturers have worked tirelessly to create foods that make us want more.

They have surrounded us with food that is cheap, delicious, calorie-dense and impossible to resist.

They have created food that is, by design, addictive.

So, yes. That sugar-filled donut you ate this morning really did make you crave more sugar.

But how do they do it? This next part’s a little scary so buckle up.

Manufacturers have discovered how to use a precise combination of sugar, salt and fat to virtually ensure our overconsumption of the foods they’re pushing. This concoction lights up the pleasure centers in the brain, creating a euphoria that compels us to want more.

It’s so powerful that it’s been compared to cocaine. Yes, you heard me right. Check out these findings put together by Yale University.

The Future of Processed Foods

The Future of Processed Foods
The Future of Processed Foods

Despite the outcries of those who look to regulate the industry, I wouldn’t expect things to change anytime soon.

Where there is a demand, there will, without doubt, be a supply and right now processed foods account for more than half the calories that Americans consume.

Ultimately, it’s up to each and every one of us to educate ourselves and then map out a nutritional plan that works in our individual lives.

No, we’re not experts but we don’t have to be.

We only have to strive each day to be a little better than the day before.

We only have to want to make those small changes and see them through until they become so ingrained that we find that we have, after all, changed our lives.

Please feel free to share your personal journey in the comments below!

 

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com