The Unhealthiest of “Health Foods”

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August 19, 2013 | 573,676 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Many of the foods commonly considered to be “health foods” are not good for your health
  • Eleven of the most common unhealthy “health foods” are discussed—including fruit juices, whole grains, agave nectar, vegetable oil and sports drinks
  • Real health foods are fresh whole foods, grown sustainably and preferably locally with the laws of nature in mind, free from pesticides, fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, preservatives and other chemicals

By Dr. Mercola

If you grew up believing the best way to start your day was a bowl of cereal, a piece of whole wheat toast smeared with margarine, and a glass of orange juice, you're in good company.

If your health is ailing and you're reading this, chances are your lack of progress isn't due to apathy or poor willpower but instead, confusion over which foods are good for you and which are not.

Many foods considered "health foods" are doing exactly the opposite of what is claimed, thanks to massively successful corporate advertising campaigns. There are solid scientific reasons why America's waistline has continued to expand.

In an article by certified personal trainer and health enthusiast Kris Gunnars, 11 so-called health foods are discussed,1 and unlike most mainstream nutrition articles, I agree with all of them.

If you are stumped about why you aren't making progress toward your health or fitness goals, you might just be a victim of your "health food." It would help to take a look at those popular foods, starting with one of the most beloved beverages among children and adults alike: fruit juices.

Fruit Juices

In spite of beliefs to the contrary, there are several problems with fruit juice that make it a FAR cry from "health food." Consider orange juice, for example—particularly nearly all commercially prepared OJ.

Most all commercially prepared orange juices are actually highly processed into a liquid that bears little nutritional resemblance to fresh orange juice, as Alissa Hamilton, author of the book Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice, explains in the interview below.

First of all, it is pasteurized which decimates its vitality. Then the juice is kept in giant tanks to ensure a year-round supply. In order to preserve it, all of the oxygen is removed, and therefore all of the natural compounds that give oranges their flavor are destroyed.

Some companies add artificial flavor packs, which are essentially chemical perfumes. A common one is ethyl butyrate. If the "Best Before" date is 60 days or more, you know you have a heavily processed juice. Fruit drinks are even worse, consisting mostly of high fructose corn syrup in a mélange of artificial ingredients. Many commercial orange juices are also contaminated with mold from damaged fruit.

Additionally, fruit juice is far worse than the whole fruit, especially if it is not freshly juiced and is stored in containers, as the methanol in the juice will dissociate from the pectin and actually increase your risk of M.S.

But even fresh, pure orange juice—even freshly squeezed—is very high in sugar that is separated from its beneficial fiber and therefore detrimental to your health. One eight-ounce glass contains about 8 teaspoons of sugar, compared to 10 teaspoons in a can of soda.

Habitually downing this much sugar can increase your risk for gout, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease and a number of other serious health problems. And many commercial juices have been found to contain unacceptably high levels or arsenic.

Consuming the whole fruit causes less of a problem as the sugar is modulated by the fiber and antioxidants in the fruit, so you're better off eating fruit whole, but in moderation. If you want juice, making your own vegetable juice at home is an excellent option.

Breakfast cereals are a favorite way to start the day for many, but they are rife with toxic ingredients and misleading advertising. Of course, the first problem is that they are grain-based, which I've already covered. But even many of the so-called "natural" varieties are contaminated with toxic pesticides, carcinogenic fumigants and solvents, and genetically modified ingredients. The only label that can give you any peace of mind is the "USDA Certified 100% Organic" label.

In 2011, independent testing by the Cornucopia Institute had shown that several breakfast cereals marketed as "natural"—even some that claim to avoid genetically engineered ingredients contain high levels of genetically engineered ingredients. Typical American breakfast staples, such as cereal, muffins, and the like, are popular because of wildly successful corporate PR. You might even consider skipping breakfast altogether.

But wait—isn't that the most important meal of your day? Compelling new research indicates differently. Skipping breakfast may reduce your hunger, stimulate your metabolism, level out your blood sugar, and stabilize your insulin levels throughout the day. Properly done intermittent fasting will actually help eliminate most food cravings and help you achieve your ideal body weight.

Choose Real Food Instead!

When considering food—regardless of whether it's organic, local, from a supermarket or from a farmer's market, make sure you keep the following criteria in mind. Most often, the best place to find high-quality foods is from a sustainable agricultural group in your area. If you're unsure of what foods you should be eating and in what proportions, or you just need some help getting started, please refer to my free nutrition plan. Make sure that your food is:

Grown/raised without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods) Is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh conventional produce, the latter may still be the better option as freshness is important for optimal nutrient content)
Not genetically engineered Not grown/raised in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO)
Contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs Grown/raised with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free access to the outdoors)
Contains no preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or artificial anything Grown/raised sustainably (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 Io9 May 2, 2013