Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation coming from media sources such as magazines, commercials, internet ads or from big food corporations.
I want to put the following three “health foods” on blast and give you the holistic truth so that you know exactly what to look for when you weave your way through the grocery aisles.
1. Peanut butter
What to watch out for: This should really be called peanut spread (especially with all the fancy new ones) because it contains a large amount of refined oil and sugar. To give you an idea, here are the ingredients of two of the top peanut butter brands:
Brand A: freshly roasted peanuts, soybean oil, maltodextrin, icing sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt.
Brand B: select roasted peanuts, soybean oil, corn maltodextrin, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil (cotton seed and rapeseed oil), salt, mono and diglycerides.
What to look for instead: The only ingredient should be peanuts, nothing else. Look for brands that only list peanuts in the ingredient list and switch to those brands. Alternatively, you can get freshly ground peanut butter made right in front of your eyes and it is delicious.
Consider buying organic as peanuts tend to soak up toxins as they grow.
Alternatively, try sunflower seed butter. It is a yummy nut-free option. Just make sure the only ingredient is sunflower seeds.
2. Granola bars
These bad boys are a ‘hippie’ food staple. But do they live up to their healthy reputation? Not always. Here are the ingredients of a popular granola bar brand:
Brand X: almonds, corn syrup, whole grain oats, sugar, rice flour, palm kernel oil, whole grain wheat, glycerin, modified milk ingredient, fructose, canola oil, salt, soy lecithin, corn starch, barley malt extract, refined peanut oil, honey, maltodextrin, baking soda, monoglycerides, tocopherols, palm oil, natural flavour, rice extract, rosemary extract
Whoa. Did you realize there was that much going on in one little bar?
What to watch out for: As a holistic nutritionist, what bothers me the most about this “healthy” bar is the multiple sources of refined sugar and bad oil. Refined oils (like peanut oil) promote inflammation in the body and challenge our heart, liver, brain, endocrine and nervous systems to function efficiently.
There are also SIX sources of sugar in this bar. This is done to mislead you about the true amount of sugar in the product. Make sure you look at the grams per serving on the nutrition facts panel and divide this number by 4 to determine the number of teaspoons of sugar you will be consuming. You want to stick to less than 6 teaspoons per day.
Also, modified milk ingredients can come from any chemically altered milk product. I don’t know about you but chemically altered milk doesn’t seem like it would top the list of healthy ingredients.
3. Salad Dressings
When thinking about eating healthy, salads are one of the first things that come to mind. But what’s a salad without a yummy salad dressing? This is especially true when you are at the beginning of your healthy-eating journey.
What to watch out for: In spite of all the healthy vibes salad dressing conjure up; they usually contain excessive processed sugars, refined oils and additives including artificial colours and preservatives.
Most salad dressings are loaded with refined (and likely rancid) oils. Just like in the granola bars, these oils are inflammatory, which leads to aches, pains and digestive upset. Soybean oil is the most commonly used and this is something best avoided as it is a likely source of GMOs or hidden food allergies, which may trigger symptoms like headaches or skin problems.
High fructose corn syrup (or glucose-fructose in Canada) is frequently used in salad dressings. As its name implies, this sweetener is high in fructose. Fructose can only be processed by your liver, but the liver can only sufficiently handle 6 teaspoons. This is why we want to keep below 6 teaspoons of added sugars each day. This heavily refined corn syrup is probably the largest contributor to our excessive sugar intake because it is in everything, including your salad dressing.
Artificial colours, flavours and preservatives are toxic additives that have both known and unknown harmful effects to our health. Our bodies have enough work to do processing the toxins we breathe in every day that the last place we want to add them is on top of our veggies, our biggest health supporters!
What to look for instead: When buying salad dressing, look for ones without any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Better yet, make your own. It can be much simpler than you would think. Just toss some organic coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, pure maple syrup and spices in a jar and shake. Keep refrigerated and top on all those veggies you have so proudly added to your diet.
Now that you have some food for thought, you can enter the grocery store with newfound, healthy confidence.