Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you that this is good for you or that will improve your health. We have orange juice that supposedly lowers cholesterol, flavored waters that boost immune health, and even cookies that help you improve your metabolism.
While most of us are already skeptical of these types of claims, there are foods out there that fly under the radar. They masquerade as healthy, simply lying in wait in to sabotage your health.
Here are seven of the worst healthy food imposters:
#1: Farm-Raised Salmon
There’s no comparison between farm-raised salmon and the wild variety. Farm-raised salmon have up to eight times the level of carcinogenic PCBs as wild salmon, and they’re lower in omega-3 fats. Plus, these penned salmon are fed grain and fishmeal, not to mention a ton of antibiotics, and they don’t have nearly as high nutritional value as their wild relatives.
In addition, wild salmon get their red color from astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that comes from their natural food source, krill. Farmed salmon get their color artificially from a color wheel.
#2: Supermarket Cereals
With few exceptions, most supermarket cereals are fiber lightweights. The overwhelming majority are loaded with sugar. Most have a very high glycemic impact, meaning they raise blood sugar quickly, contributing to mood swings and energy dips. Whole grains are better, but only marginally, and people who are sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations will still need to be careful.
The best cereals are old-fashioned oatmeal, and a few grocery store standouts, such as Fiber One and All-Bran. Most of the others? Not so good. Look for those that pass the “5 and 5” rule: less than 5 grams of sugar, more than 5 grams of fiber.
Whether you call them energy bars, protein bars, granola bars, or breakfast, most are simply chewy versions of candy bars. They usually 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.
#4: Frozen Yogurt
Frozen yogurt is a prime example of marketing triumphing 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 that support your digestive health. The live culture content of frozen yogurt is precisely zero.
What’s more, frozen yogurt is usually filled with chemicals and artificial sweeteners, which can cause cravings just like sugar. You’re better off with real, creamy, organic ice cream. Just don’t eat too much.
#5: Canola Oil
Sounds sacrilegious, but canola oil isn’t such a health bargain. Conventional canola oil is processed with high-temperature, mechanical pressing. It goes through caustic refining, bleaching, and de-gumming.
The high temperatures needed to extract the oil from the rapeseed plant make it’s highly touted omega-3’s rancid and ffoul-smelling requiring them to be deodorized, a process that can create trans fats. Unless it’s cold-pressed and organic, stay away.
#6: Egg-White Omelets
While these aren’t exactly unhealthy, they are utterly unnecessary. The whole concept of egg white omelets is left over from the 80’s obsession with low fat anything. And when it comes to eggs, it’s a huge mistake.
The yolk contains the superstars of eye nutrition, lutein and xeazanthin, which need fat to be absorbed properly. Egg yolks are also an important source phosphatidylcholine, an important nutrient for brain health.
And you can forget the fat issue. Half the fat in the yolk isn’t even saturated to begin with and the saturated part is good for you!
#7: Apple Juice
Apples, good. Apple juice? Not so much.
One cup of apple juice has zero fiber, 117 calories, and 29 grams of carbs, 27 of which 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.
The implications of giving our kids 8 cups a day of this stuff is just now beginning to be understood. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but apple juice just may necessitate a few house calls in the future.
Stick With the Basics…
When it comes to selecting healthy foods, follow the rule of KISS and keep it seriously simple. Choose whole foods, not short cuts. That means less bars, juices, and cereals and more whole fruits, eggs, and oatmeal.
Also, up your label IQ. Check for sugar, fiber, and ingredients. If there are words you don’t know, move on.
Finally, when in doubt, go wild, pasture-raised, free-range, and organic.