You can’t open a newspaper, website or iPhone app without reading about the dangers lurking on our dinner plate (OK I’m kidding about the iPhone app.) Trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup are the demons d’jour and with the modern diet being what it is, the food police don’t seem to be in any danger of running out of new material to warn us about.
Fair enough. But what about all the “health” foods we’ve been told are our nutritional salvation? Are they all they’re cracked up to be?
There’s no better place to start than with salmon, generally thought to be one of the best of the superfoods. And it is– when it’s wild. Farm raised salmon have up to 8 times the level of carcinogenic PCBs as wild salmon. Kept in crowded pens, they’re fed grain and fishmeal and a ton of antibiotics. Wild salmon are a health food. Farmed salmon… not so much.
Then there’s cereal, believed by many to be the center of a healthy breakfast because of its high-fiber content. But with few exceptions, most supermarket cereals are fiber lightweights. Most are loaded with sugar (contributing to mood swings and energy dips). Whole grains are better, but those who are sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations will have still have to be careful. The best cereals are old-fashioned oatmeal, and a few standouts like Fiber One and All-Bran. Look for those that pass the “5 and 5” rule: less than 5 grams of sugar, more than 5 grams of fiber. (You’ll be surprised at how few make the cut.)
Granola bars are simply candy bars masquerading as a health food. Most are simply chewy versions of candy bars–they have very little fiber, lots of processed carbs, and a ton of sugar. You’re better off “rolling your own” out of raw oats, chopped almonds, coconut flakes, raisins and a dollop of raw organic honey or molasses to hold it together.
Frozen yogurt is a prime example of the triumph of marketing over good sense. The only thing frozen yogurt has in common with real yogurt is that they’re both white. Real yogurt- one of the healthiest foods on earth– is loaded with live cultures which support your digestive health. The live culture content of most frozen yogurt is precisely zero. What’s more, frozen yogurt is usually filled with chemicals, and the artificial sweeteners in the non-fat kind can cause cravings just like sugar. You’re better off with real, creamy, organic ice cream. Just don’t eat too much.
Though most of us have been led to believe canola oil is the bees knees, it actually isn’t such a health bargain after all. The high temperatures needed to extract the oil from the rapeseed plant from which it comes make canola oil’s highly touted omega-3’s rancid and foul smelling, requiring them to be deodorized, a process which creates some trans-fatty acids. It also goes through caustic refining, bleaching and degumming. Unless it’s cold-pressed and organic, stay away.
And what could possibly be healthier than an egg-white omelet? Give up? Whole eggs! While an egg-white omlette isn’t exactly unhealthy, it’s hardly as good as the real thing. The yolk contains the superstars of eye nutrition, utein and xeazanthin which need fat to be absorbed properly. Egg yolks are an important source phosphatidylcholine an important nutrient for brain health.
Apples- healthy. Apple juice- maybe not. One cup of apple juice has zero grams of fiber, 117 calories, and 29 grams of carbs of which 27 are sugar (and your typical serving is a lot more than a cup). Sorry, but that’s not a health drink, it’s sugar water with apple flavoring. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Wish I could say the same about apple juice, but I can’t.
So what’s the take home? Simple: eat real food. Food your grandmother would have recognized as food. Food you could hunt, fish, gather or pluck. Food as close to its natural form as possible. Food without a bar code. Whole fruit (not the fruit juice). Whole eggs (not the egg whites). Meat, eggs and milk from healthy, grass-fed cows and chickens that roam around pecking at worms (free-range). Any vegetable in the world.
Even if you don’t hit the “bulls eye” 100 percent of the time, you’ll still be way ahead of the game.