“The first wealth is health” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Healthy eating is simple, right? Stop eating processed foods, start eating whole clean foods, read labels, easy peasy! I thought I had this healthy eating thing down and knew what to look for when reading labels. But it turns out that some of the foods that we think are healthy are actually super damaging to your health. Not only that, they can damage your genes which can affect your children, your children’s children and so on for generations to come. Not only can this lead to health issues, but also developmental issues because it turns out that beautiful really does start from the inside. Don’t believe me? Then I recommend you read Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods. Turns out that the difference between nutrition then and now is that our ancestors used nourishment to sculpt their anatomy, engineering bodies of extraordinary health and beauty. The length of our limbs, the shape of our eyes, and the proper function of our organs are all gifts of our ancestor’s collective culinary wisdom. But I digress. The information I learned in this book opened the door for me to explore what exactly is in my pantry and dig a little deeper into the truth behind certain so-called “health foods”. As a result, I’ve eliminated the following foods over time and am feeling the benefits of a cleaner lifestyle.
It’s no secret that sugar is one of the most damaging foods (if you can call it that) to your health. But what you might not realize is that it’s found ion stevia. Yes, those little green packets of Stevia that taste so sweet are actually a mix of dextrose (aka sugar) and stevia. Some brands also have maltodextrin and natural flavours (more of that later). Pure stevia isn’t white, it’s actually green and has a very different flavour from what you’re used to seeing. To be on the safe side, try monk fruit or 100% pure stevia and remember to read the ingredient list.
Agave has become the “healthy” sweetener over the years. It’s low-glycemic and doesn’t lead to spikes in blood sugar, so why not? But the truth is that agave is high in fructose in the same way high fructose corn syrup is. You’re better off switching to natural sweeteners like organic honey, maple syrup or date syrup.
If someone can name all the ingredients in natural flavours, you win a prize! In all seriousness though, you’ll never find anyone who can name them all because natural flavours, although derived from a natural source, is actually made in a lab and can contain hundreds of chemicals. In fact, a natural flavour can consist of 50 to 100 components, including solvents, emulsifiers and preservatives. Sounds appetizing, right? While many of these ingredients aren’t damaging to your health and most are there to preserve the flavours of the food, it’s worth questioning it whenever you see it on a label.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. This is a hard one for me to accept too. Almond milk has been a staple in my fridge for years. And while I looked at the label to make sure none of the brands I bought contain carrageenan, I failed to see what was right in front of me. It contained very little almonds and instead a whole lot of other crap. Almonds on their own are packed with good stuff, but a glass of the beverage contains less than 2% almonds and very few nutrients. Since I don’t use almond milk very often, I’ve started making my own at home and you know what? It’s actually not as hard as it sounds! Yes you need to plan ahead, but with a lifestyle of meal prepping, this extra step is really no big deal.
This is another though one for me because I love my protein bars. But if digestive issues, gas and painful bloating have taught me anything it’s that they are not your gut’s friend. Sugar alcohols are usually found in sugar-free products (you may recognize them as xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol). Even though they are marketed as natural, they are often highly processed and come from GMO ingredients, know to cause headaches, rashes, gas and bloating.
This one should go without saying, but i’m still surprised by how many “healthy” recipes I come across that use some form of vegetable oil in their dish. Vegetable oils like canola are super inflammatory and have been linked to so many health issues, including birth defects, cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, learning disabilities, and the list goes on. The worst is that it’s amazing how many people are so unaware of this fact! My go-to options: extra-virgin olive oil for salads, coconut oil or avocado oil for high temperature cooking or a ghee coconut oil cooking spray.
It’s been a tough reality for many of these ingredients. Although I haven’t quite eliminated all of these 100% of the time, I am trying to reduce the amount I consume gradually and my health has really thanked me for it. At the end of the day, you are what you eat, so choose wisely and treat your body with the love and respect it deserve.