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On Tuesday, I shared 5 foods which big food companies market as “healthy”, yet prove to be nothing more than fake food wrapped up in pretty packaging labeled with eye-catching health claims. If you missed part 1, you can read more here.
Today I am going to share 4 more “Healthy Imposters”. This is in no way an exhaustive list of foods to avoid, but rather a lesson to us all to investigate everything we buy!
Ask questions, read ingredient lists, and educate ourselves about products, even those that claim to be “the fountain of youth” in a box.
So let’s get started…
6. Alternative Milks (almond milk, coconut milk beverage, hemp milk, etc): Alternative milks are very popular today. You can find entire aisles in the health food store adorned with boxes of “healthy” animal milk alternatives. These days it seems like everything is being made into milk…
okay, maybe not everything, but there are certainly a lot of choices!
While alternative milks can be a great option, particularly for those who would like to avoid cow or goat milk, the milks that come from these boxes have some very questionable ingredients, let’s take a look at two very popular milk alternatives:
Both contain a lot more than just almonds or coconut and water! Both contain numerous chemically synthesized vitamins, including vitamin D2 which can cause vitamin D toxicity, unlike it’s better form vitamin D3. For an in depth reading on these dangerous vitamins, check out this article by The Healthy Home Economist. The most alarming in both these milk choices is an ingredient called carrageenan. Carrageenan is a sneaky little additive found in many organic and conventional foods from cottage cheese to yogurt to milk alternatives and even infant formula. Carrageenan is a seaweed extract that is used to improve texture and stability. Many studies have been done showing the type of carrageenan used in food products degrades in the gastrointestinal tract and in the liver turning it into a carcinogen, a cancer causing substance. Read more information about the dangers of carrageenan here.
What about soy milk? Well that’s another discussion, but soy milk is even more dangerous than these nut milk alternatives.
A Nourishing Option: you probably guessed my answer, since you read part 1, in this series…make your own! While it might sound complicated making your own almond milk, is actually very easy and only requires a good food processor or high speed blender! This tutorial and recipe from Tasty Kitchen is my favorite! The right kind of coconut milk purchased in the store can also be a great choice. True coconut milk is generally found in a can, and is limited to just two to three ingredients. Here is a brand our family purchases, when we use coconut milk.
7. Organic Milk: Okay, now, you may be thinking I have something against milk, however, I promise I am not anti-milk. It is sad that a beverage as simple and traditional milk has become a product we must really question. Many have switched to organic milk over the past few years with rising concerns over added growth hormones and the use of antibiotics given to dairy cows. So, what’s the problem with organic milk?
Let’s take a look…
Notice the words under “Whole Milk”? Those words are: Ultra Pasteurized!
What is Ultra Pasteurization?
According to the US Government, “such product shall have been thermally processed at or above 280° F for at least 2 seconds, either before or after packaging, so as to produce a product which has an extended shelf life.” Ever notice how some of the organic milk sold in individual sizes can be found on store shelves vs. the refrigerated section? That’s because Ultra Pasteurization kills not only bad bacteria but all the good bacteria in the milk, basically everything! So after this pasteurization has taken place you are left with a white liquid which no longer resembles the chemistry of milk and can last 6-9 months (unopened). When this new milk was introduced in 1993, consumers became very skeptical of milk that was being sold on shelves vs. needing refrigeration, so companies got smart, and started to sell the same milk in the refrigerator section, but still using the same process. Unfortunately, most organic milk sold in the store today undergoes this ultra pasteurization process stripping the milk of all nutrients and extending its shelf life.
A Nourishing Option: While it may be hard to find at your local conventional grocery store many health food stores and Whole Foods sell a pasteurized alternative. Read, read, read! Look for milk that is labeled pasteurized but not ultra pasteurized! Organic Valley as well as Natural by Nature both produce a pasteurized organic milk. If you can’t find these alternatives at your local conventional grocery store, talk to the manager, the store may be willing to order such a product for you! Our family chooses to consume raw milk from a local farm. This is also a great option as all the nutrients are retained, since raw milk comes straight from the cow. When coming from a clean farm, raw milk is very safe. You can read more about raw milk in this great post by The Prairie Homestead.
8. Low-fat Anything: Our society is obsessed with all things “low fat”. Fat is considered a great enemy today. Since consuming low-fat foods our society’s health has done nothing but decline. Low fat foods are making us sick, fatter, and skeptical of some of the foods which are most nourishing for us! It’s interesting that countries such as France which consume high fat diets have a lower rate of heart disease than Americans. Fat that is found in it’s natural state is actually incredibly healthy and nourishing. Fats that have been highly processed are to be avoided such as: Crisco, canola oil, vegetable oils, and anything hydrogenated! These products are chemically formulated by man. Natural healthy fats can be found in natural products such as: organic butter from pastured animals, tallow, coconut oil (non-hydrogenated), extra virgin olive oil, pastured meats, lard (from pastured animals…not the kind found in stores), whole fat dairy (not from ultra pasteurized milk!), as well as raw or roasted nuts. Most low fat products such as dairy, add sugars and other additives to make up for the lack of fat…after all, low fat products are pretty tasteless!
Bring on the butter!
A Nourishing Option: Products advertised as low fat are generally always…processed food! You know food that was produced in a plant! When buying products such as dairy, buy real butter from pastured animals (we like Kerrygold), and yogurt, milk, and products such as sour cream that are made with whole milk. Eliminate man-made fats like canola oil and cook with coconut oil, butter, and ghee (and olive oil when making a cold dish).
9. Gluten Free: Walk into any store these days and you will find gluten free products just about everywhere! These products are often found in the health food sections of the grocery store. Now, let me start out by saying that some people truly can’t consume gluten, however, for the rest of us, I do not believe that gluten found naturally in grains is our enemy! Grains have been consumed, when prepared properly, for thousands of years by many cultures. The problem with gluten free products is that most are nothing more than just glorified processed food with a “healthy” label that makes them seem like a great product. Let’s take a look at the ingredients in the Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread:
UDI’S BEST BLEND (TAPIOCA & POTATO STARCH, BROWN RICE & TEFF FLOUR, MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH), WATER, NON-GMO VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA OR SUNFLOWER OR SAFFLOWER), EGG WHITES, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, TAPIOCA MALTODEXTRIN, TAPIOCA SYRUP, YEAST, FLAX SEED, XANTHAN GUM, SALT, BAKING POWDER (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CORN STARCH, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CULTURED CORN SYRUP SOLIDS (NATURAL MOLD INHIBITOR), DRY MOLASSES, ENZYMES.
Does that look anything like real food?
I don’t think so!
A Nourishing Option: If you truly can’t consume gluten, you should not be consuming processed food. There are many great resources for cooking and making your own gluten free recipes. Two resources I love are Deliciously Organic and Elana’s Pantry, both use real food, not processed food products. If you can consume gluten, don’t be fooled by such products into believing they are in some way an “healthier” alternative! The healthier alternative is always making your own food in your own kitchen!
Tomorrow, I will be sharing the last “Healthy Imposter” one which is incredibly popular with many Americans and is touted as a healthy food choice, however, the ingredients may surprise you! Find part 3 here.