Diet Deception: The Health Food That Isn’t
Foods that claim to be healthier than their conventional counterparts are showing up everywhere, but are they really any better for you? In most cases, no. In some instances, they’re downright detrimental to your health. Those are the ones I want to focus on today, the junk masquerading as health food.
I could have called this piece, “Things That Piss Me Off,” because there is so much misinformation out there regarding health and wellness. Let’s look at the top three offenders on my wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing list. These choices aren’t going to aid your weight loss or get you healthier, so beware!
Smoothie Love (Handles)
If you read my articles even once in a blue moon, you know that I love smoothies as the cornerstone of a diet high in fruits and vegetables. In fact, I credit green smoothies with my own 90-lb. weight loss over a period of nine months in 2008.
However, there are healthy smoothies, then there are glorified milkshakes. Case in point: McDonald’s new fruit smoothies. Their tagline is “we’re changing the way you look at fruit.” Yeah, apparently they want me to look at fruit as the reason my hips are expanding and I can no longer button my jeans!
The Golden Arches would have you believe that you’re getting healthy food when you choose a smoothie over a burger, but their large strawberry-banana comes in at 330 calories, more than a cheeseburger.
Now, I realize that not all calories are created equal, so let’s take a look at the ingredients: strawberry puree, banana puree, water, sugar, concentrated apple juice, cellulose powder, natural (botanical source) and artificial flavors, xanthan gum, citric acid, colored with fruit and vegetable juice, pectin, ascorbic acid (preservative).
So let me get this straight. We need white sugar, juice from concentrate, plant fiber powder, artificial flavors, two thickeners, and manufactured vitamin C to preserve our “healthy food.” Wow.
To add insult to injury, there are seventy grams of sugar in this smoothie. That’s nearly six tablespoons of sugar in one smoothie. If the sugar content isn’t enough to give you pre-diabetic convulsions, consider that there are a mere three grams of protein in our smoothie.
Your blood sugar will skyrocket, and you’ll crash an hour or so later. You’ll be groggy and believe that “health food” makes you feel worse than the junk you usually wolf down. This diet deception is worse than the others, because it maligns true healthy eating. Lest you think McDonald’s is the only culprit, smoothie chains are no improvement!
Cancer in a Veggie Patty
The soy-as-health-food-myth really gets my goat. I was a vegetarian for 13 years and happily wolfed down soy-based products for most of them in the name of getting sufficient protein.
People who eat soy regularly have higher rates of esophageal, pancreatic, liver, and stomach cancers than the general population. This is the same set of cancers that lab rats develop when fed heavy amounts of soy. Coincidence? I think not.
The soy thing wouldn’t make me so angry if it weren’t for the fact that soy is in EVERYTHING! Pick up just about any packaged food and you’ll see soy lecithin (used as an emulsifier) or soy flour. Monsanto and Dow Chemical are no idiots; these products make them a ton of money. Too bad it’s at the expense of our health and safety.
Add to the list that soy is a top-eight food allergy, and you should quickly see the folly of adding it to so much of the food supply. The good news about soy being such a widespread food allergy is that its inclusion in a product must be listed on food labels by law.
It is my recommendation to skip soy products in almost all forms. Tamari, nama shoyu, and soy sauce are ok in moderation and so long as they are naturally fermented. Also be aware that upwards of 98% of soy in the United States is genetically modified, so be sure to buy organic.
Some people choose to eat naturally fermented tofu. Again, I don’t mind that in very limited amounts. However, it’s difficult to find fermented tofu. You’ll generally find this in Asian markets labeled as “stinky tofu” or “pickled tofu.” Stinky tofu is a perfect name, as the stuff stinks to high heaven–really.
If you’re a vegan and think that soy protein is the only ethical way to go, au contraire. Check out the your soy-free vegan options to up your protein quotient and stay soy-free.
Is It Really a Healthy Choice?
I have to confess, I love the convenience of frozen meals. That’s not to say that we eat them in our household, but I love the idea at least. What I’m not so fond of is the ridiculous amount of sodium, white flour, and tiny servings of vegetables in these meals.
Of course they’re low-calorie. So low, in fact, that you’ll probably be famished about an hour after you finish this “meal.” Many of them are high in protein, which is great. However, they’re so low in fat and fiber that they won’t keep you full for any length of time.
The statistics are misleading, as many of the meals contain potatoes which are counted as a vegetable instead of as a starch (but this is within federal guidelines, of course *eye roll*).
The sodium in these meals has come down significantly, but many still contain more than 25% of the maximum recommended RDA. Bearing in mind that the upper limit is the point at which people start to demonstrate salt-related disease, 25% is still quite high.
Some of the “healthier entree” frozen food companies have removed preservatives from their meals, but not all, and not across the brand’s offerings. Rather, a small selection is available for those of us who eschew chemicals parading as food products.
Enter the much-debated “yeast extract.” Just know that it’s code for “MSG,” but food companies can get away with calling it yeast extract because technically, that’s what it is.
Frozen entrees often taste like cardboard, so I can’t blame companies for trying to up the taste factor in their offerings. Too bad they choose to use a product that’s one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man to do it.
So there you have it, my top three offenders in the “health food movement.” More deception is being perpetrated each day, so be on the lookout for more lies from the food industry!