(This article appeared previously on Grandparents.com.)
On the surface, a lot of everyday foods seem like good choices, but according to recent studies, they contain ingredients that have been linked to cancer, diabetes, inflammation and other serious illnesses.
To clear up the health-food confusion, we talked to Mira Calton, certified nutritionist, board-certified integrative health specialist, and co-author with her husband, Jayson B. Calton, of Rich Food, Poor Food.
Here are some sneaky “health” foods that are actually bad for you, and Mira's recommendations for tasty, nutritious substitutes.
Mira says: “Sugar can be found in bottled dressings under various aliases, including Agave nectar, brown sugar, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses and sucrose. Whatever name it goes by, sugar is sugar.
What's more, Catalina and ranch dressings often contain artificial colors — five of which (blue 1, blue 2 , yellow 5, yellow 6 and red 40) are banned in other countries, because they have been linked to cancer, gene mutation and ADHD. Even products labeled as 'olive oil' dressings generally contain little olive oil, and mostly are made of cheaper vegetable oils that aren't as good for you.”
What to eat instead: Make your own salad dressing using organic extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, and spices, or try Vigoa Lime Salad Splash or Zukay Sweet Onion Basil Dressing.
Mira says: “According to the Harvard School of Public Health, partially hydrogenated oils cause about 50,000 premature heart attack deaths annually. This dangerous ingredient has been shown to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack by 50 percent!”
What to eat instead: Try to use real cream (just a touch will make your coffee super creamy) and a few drops of stevia, a naturally occurring sweetener.
Mira says: “HFCS prevents your body from secreting the hormone leptin, whose job it is to make you feel full — this causes overeating. Also, studies have shown that eating foods containing MSG causes you to increase your food intake by 40 percent. Lastly, the can itself contains BPA, a chemical that has been linked, in some studies, to cancer, heart disease, and infertility. The Food & Drug Administration supports reducing exposure to BPA, though it sees the need for more studies to address 'uncertainties.'”
What to eat instead: Choose an organic tomato sauce in a jar (BPA-free). Organic tomatoes can contain up to 300 percent more lycopene, which boosts eye health. Mira's favorite organic brands are Mom's, Amy's, and Eden.
Mira says: “Often found in ice cream, the trans-fatty acids known as monoglycerides and diglycerides can be labeled as emulsifiers, because they allow fats and waters to mix smoothly, which extends the shelf life of processed foods. But they are no different from the hydrogenated fats associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. As for sucralose, a Duke University study found that this sweetener decreases 'good' gut bacteria, which acts as part of your immune system and can help fight heart disease, reduce cravings, and, best of all, aid in the absorption of your micronutrients.”
What to eat instead: Look for sorbets and ice creams that are low in sugar and don't include the “bad” ingredients or that list them last. Mira's favorite organic brand is Coconut Secret Madagascar Vanilla Raw Coconut Cream Non Dairy Dessert.
Mira says: “Olestra causes dramatic depletion of fat-soluble vitamins, robbing you of vital micronutrients you might otherwise be eating. Furthermore, Olestra can cause embarrassing intestinal disturbances, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Baked potato chips may not contain Olestra, but they do contain some surprising ingredients — cornstarch, sugar, corn oil, soy lecithin and corn sugar (a.k.a. high fructose corn syrup) — many of which may be linked to health concerns like obesity.”
What to eat instead: Indulge in organic, full-fat chips — you're more likely to feel satisfied with just a few and the ingredient list is refreshingly short. Mira likes Honest Chips, which are made with just organic potatoes, coconut oil, and sea salt.
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