There are some common “health” foods that aren’t really that great for you. You know I’m all about bio individuality, but these are definitely not good for anyone…
Just because these products have great marketing and are advertising a wealth of benefits, doesn’t mean they are really good for you! It’s easy to get lost in a sea of seemingly healthy foods, and it can be frustrating to learn that some of them are worse for you than junk food. Actually, beautiful packaging is usually not a good sign: the more money goes into packaging and advertising, the less budget there is for quality ingredients.
Let’s dig deeper and dive into some examples:
One of my favorite examples are smoothies and juices: they are so popular these days with juice and smoothie bars popping up everywhere and many cafés also offering them on their menu. So what's the problem with them?
None of the ingredients are usually organic so you’re actually consuming a concentration of pesticides
How fresh are the ingredients? Frozen is actually best since the vitamin content will be highest. I often see fruit being kept out though and you don't possibly know how long it's been there…
Which is bringing me to the last point: drinking a soda or coke is certainly not better than drinking a juice or smoothie, but the sugar content might actually be the same (or even worse) and give you the same blood sugar spike
Blended coffee at “Starbucks”: the caffeine alone can bring on a big blood sugar rush, but what else is in there? Any syrups, flavorings? Do the flavorings contain (artificial) sweeteners or preservatives? What kind of milk or plant-based milk? A friend of mine recently had this experience: she’s wearing a continuous glucose monitor and got a blended coffee from Starbucks, even asked if there was really no sugar and she was assured there wasn’t. She didn’t get any milk with it, just coffee and ice and the blend they use. This drink caused her the BIGGEST blood sugar spike she’d experienced since she started wearing it four months ago. Now it’s hard to tell if it was just the caffeine that made such a bad impact for her (and you know I recommend to always have coffee AFTER a healthy meal to mitigate the impact on your blood sugar) or what was in the coffee blend they use - artificial sweeteners can definitely negatively impact your blood sugar too.
Oat milk or other plant-based milks: first of all, oat milk usually has a pretty high sugar content but may still be ok depending on the quantities you consume. Plain rice milk would be the worst choice. But there’s another reason why I don’t recommend most of them: if you pay attention to the packaging, you’ll see that almost all plant-based milks have added sunflower oil which is processed and therefore highly inflammatory. And the non-organic ones also often have added synthetic vitamins and flavorings. As most of you know, I make my own nut and seed milks (also for economic reasons) and that’s the best choice. If you do buy plant-based milks though, pay attention to gluten-free, organic, total carb and sugar content (sugar content per 100ml should be below 5g), avoid added vegetable oils, flavorings and vitamins.
Gluten-free foods: Just because it’s “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Gluten can cause so many health issues, and I recommend to anyone to best avoid it. Go back to last week’s article on gluten. The gluten-free trend has led to a wide range of “gluten-free” foods that may seem like healthier alternatives at first glance. And when you eat a gluten free or vegan cake at a café it’s healthy(ier) right? Sure, you may not be eating gluten, but you are most likely consuming the same calories and high sugar content.
Go back to my previous article listing healthy foods that are known to spike your blood sugar
Another trend I’m seeing is the food labeled vegan! And here again: just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy… All this means is that there’s no animal protein in what you’re consuming… Vegan doesn’t mean gluten-free and same as I mentioned with gluten/gluten free: vegan products can totally have high sugar and carb content and they often have a ton of extra ingredients to compensate. Vegetarian and vegan products also often contain processed vegetable oils to replace butter. And yes, dairy and butter are high in saturated fats, but processed vegetable oils increase even more your Omega-6 intake and they are highly inflammatory from the start (go back to my article on inflammatory fats). Vegan also doesn’t mean it’s organic.
The reality is that there are no true mandates on how food can be advertised unless of course there is a medical claim or guarantee attached to it. There are very few regulations that dictate what a “healthy” food is, so you should be aware of that before buying. I see many companies using the label “trick” when promoting their products, but when you pay attention, you can often see that it’s a self-created label and not an official one like USDA Organic, EU-Bio, AB-Bio etc.
So here are my best tips on how to avoid unhealthy foods:
Simple is best: the less ingredients, the better!
Avoid all packaged foods
You can pronounce (and recognize) all ingredients: When you look at a food label, and you don’t understand or can’t pronounce half of what’s listed, chances are it’s not a great option.
Look at what’s listed first, this is usually the main ingredient: If the first ingredient is for instance corn (like in most gluten-free crackers, bread, pasta, etc.), it may be gluten-free and in a way a better choice for you, but from a dietary perspective it’s just as bad: you are taking in far too much of a simple carbohydrate that will spike your blood sugar. And as you know by now: it will negatively impact your hormones, migraine and overall inflammation levels in your brain.
Watch out for processed vegetable oils: sunflower, canola, safflower, soy…. You’ll find that most plant-based milks have them, but also salad dressings, vegetarian burgers or meat substitutes, premade pasta sauces, pesto etc will have cheap oils that you should stay away from to avoid inflammation.
Avoid the inner isles of your grocery store (produce, meats, etc.) and avoid things that come in packages: Think of the layout of your local grocery store. The perimeter of the grocery store is where you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats, and all the right things to eat and enjoy. The inner aisles are where you will find a lot of processed foods and therefore the questionable choices.
Ask questions! When you eat at a restaurant, coffee shop or else, don’t be afraid to ask for ingredients, change or swap something to accommodate your needs.
You probably know that alcohol isn’t good for you or your health, but it is especially bad for hormone balance, sleep and migraines. Besides spiking your bood sugar and being high in sulfites and other preservatives, alcohol can increase estrogen production while also decreasing progesterone production. This accelerates aging, causes more hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and stubborn weight, and can make perimenopause a much harder stage than it needs to be. My recommendation: keep it to a minimum and if you do drink alcohol, choose Biodynamic wine: it is free of additives, sugar and lower in sulfites and alcohol
As always: these are some guidelines - you need to be able to manage these things depending on your time, budget and priorities. If you have a bit of oat milk every day, it will probably not do much harm to your health, if you are otherwise not consuming lots of processed vegetable oils and grains. It’s all about the balance!
Eating for your health means focussing on the foods that will nourish you, rather than work against you.