Today we’re going to take a look at 3 foods that are commonly thought of as health foods, but actually aren’t very good for you. When we, as consumers, see a food package that touts benefits like “natural” or “healthy” or even something more subtle such as the colors or look of the packaging or what section of the store the food is located, we make assumptions about the quality and healthfulness of what is in that package.
It it is easier than ever to buy healthy foods thanks to the food industry’s focus on marketing more healthful foods because we consumers are demanding more healthy options. But there is a downside to this focus on healthy foods. Sometimes foods that aren’t really healthy are marketed as being healthy just so we will buy that product. Keep in mind that all food companies and manufacturers are in the business of selling their product and making money, not looking out for your health. By taking a little time to understand what is or isn’t in the foods you are buying can help you to make informed decisions about what is going to be best for you.
Almond milk is a great example of a food that sounds like it should be healthy and many people consider it to be a natural and better alternative to dairy milk. Whole almonds and almond butter are a great source of healthy fat, protein, fiber and all sorts of vitamins and at Nourish, we give them 4 thumbs up as a healthy snack. However, almond “milk” is almost devoid of nutrients.
One of the benefits of dairy milk is that it contains a good amount of protein, about 8 grams per 8 oz. serving. Protein is necessary to maintain muscle mass and it helps to keep us feeling full between meals. When you add milk to cereal, for example, you are getting a good dose of protein along with the carbohydrates in the cereal. If you add almond milk, you are missing out on the protein altogether.
The first ingredient in almond milk is water. Besides the water used to make almond milk, it takes a whole lot of water to grow almonds. California is where the vast majority of almonds are gown in America and the state has been experiencing drought for quite some time. From an environmental perspective, drinking almond milk is not a winner.
If you are not lactose intolerant and don’t have a dairy allergy, for most of us dairy is perfectly healthy. If you want a milk alternative, I recommend going with soy milk. Soy milk is a great source of protein, unlike almond, rice or coconut milk. Look for an unsweetened version with added calcium.
Juices have gained huge popularity in recent years, particularly the fancy cold-pressed ones. These are seen as an elixir of health and there are many juice cleanses and “detoxes” out there. Some juice purveyors claim that our bodies absorb the vitamins and minerals from produce much better when it is juiced. This is simply untrue, as our digestive systems do a fantastic job of wringing out every nutrient from the food we eat.
What’s more, juices – even 100%, cold-pressed juice – contain lots of sugar but without the benefit of the fiber that is in whole fruits and veggies. This is important, because fiber is super-important to many aspects of our health and well-being. Without the benefit of fiber to slow down how quickly all that sugar enters the bloodstream, you end with big spikes and lows in blood sugar, which affects energy levels and hunger. Fiber is also a prebiotic, which leads to the formation of beneficial microflora in the gut. Having the right kind of bacteria in your gut has been linked with everything from weight to immune system to mood.
Bottom line, we should all be eating more produce than we do. But drinking juice is not the way to go.
Gluten Free Bread or Pasta
Gluten free products are everywhere and because so many products are advertised as being gluten free, many people think that gluten is something unhealthy that is to be avoided. Gluten is simply a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. People who have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease, must avoid all traces of gluten. About 1% of the population has celiac disease and for them, gluten-free is a must. For the rest of us, there is no need to avoid gluten unless you have a wheat allergy or have been tested for food sensitivities. If you suspect that you have a food sensitivity, it is best to get tested. Nourish can help you with that.
Many people claim that they feel healthier and more energetic when they eliminate gluten from their diet. If you look at all the junk food that contains wheat flour its no wonder! Eating refined flour (no fiber), sugar and fat will make you feel low energy and unhealthy. This is the reason you are feeling better, not the lack of gluten.
Bread & pasta made with wheat alternatives tend to be low in fiber and vitamins and minerals, including B6 and folate. Many have more calories than wheat bread or pasta. Your best bet is to choose whole grain bread or pasta, whether that whole grain is whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa or another grain.
If you are wondering if the foods you are choosing are really healthy, Nourish dietitians are here to help sort through the hype of food marketing.