Last month, I featured the first installment in our new series Foods That Seem Healthy, But Aren’t. If you missed the 4 foods featured in part 1, you can read all about those here.
In this post, we continue with part 2 of this series, and I have 4 new foods for you to think about when it comes to the definition of “healthy“.
Before we go any further, I just want to add something important. We all have to understand that one of the biggest reasons why there is so much, what seems like “contradicting” information out there when it comes to nutrition, is because there are different definitions as to what people consider “healthy.”
What some people consider healthy may be complete junk to someone else. It all depends on how one views health, nutrition and wellness. Here on Evolving Wellness, everything is approached from the natural perspective, where optimal health is the goal.
Thus, I am never going to promote foods that will give you average health. There are enough people out there doing that. What you are going to get here, is information that leads to optimal health, wellness and longevity.
So on that note, let’s dive right into some more foods that seem healthy, but aren’t.
Whether it is a continental breakfast you are thinking of, or something found in your grandma’s kitchen, when it comes to jam, there is just no way around justifying this as a “healthy” item.
For starters what is jam?
At its best, jam is a bunch of garden grown fruit, heated up with sugar and pectin. At its worst, it is pesticide laden fruit, heated up with sugar, some preservatives and maybe even a few artificial flavors and colors.
So why do some people think of jam as healthy? Well, for no other reason than the fact that it is based on fruit. But no matter how we cut it, this fruit has to be heated and to some pretty extreme temperatures too, which cancels out most if not all of its beneficial properties. So any chance of nutrition that you were hoping for from that fruit, is pretty much gone out the window. Most jams are based on fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or cherries. All of these fruits are high in vitamin C, which gets destroyed very easily, especially by heat. On top of this there is the destruction of other vitamins and enzymes.
If you are absolutely stuck on putting fruit on your breads, crackers, pancakes or whatever the case may be, why not mash up some fresh fruit? You can make delicious spreads or syrups just by mashing with a fork some fruit or putting it into a blender. And for those who really need that extra bit of sweetness, you can always add in some raw honey or blend with it a Medjool date or two. This way you are getting all the goodness of fruit, with maximum health benefits, the way nature intended.
You are probably no stranger to the long debate of which is healthier, butter or margarine. Well, sometimes butter wins, and is made to look like the “healthy” option and sometimes margarine wins. But the bigger question that those of us who are interested in optimal health should be asking, is why be stuck with picking either? There is life beyond both of these substances.
So why is butter sometimes seen as the healthy option? Well for the most part, people who only see margarine and butter, usually see butter as the “natural” option. Margarine for the most part is factory made to them and butter comes “naturally” from cows. Sorry to burst the bubble, but factory produced butter today goes through a whole slew of its own production steps that don’t make this the innocent product that it is sometimes made to look like.
So what is butter?
Butter is essentially the fat of the milk. This accounts for it being 99% pure fat, out of which on average 65% of this fat is saturated. Butter is also high in cholesterol. And I am not even talking about salted butter, which is probably your cardiovascular system’s worst nightmare.
Now I know, that although there are many claims out there that we should reduce, if not completely eliminate our consumption of saturated fats, there are still those who believe they are healthy. So I respect the fact that some people will claim that butter has been around for about 2000 years and has been a healthy addition to most diets. However, we must also realize that since then we have learned a lot about our bodies and health. One also has to consider that today’s butter comes from cows in pretty bad shape, given various drugs and eating various pesticides. The butter is also pasteurized and not home churned, but done by factory machines. To add to this, it seems that today we have lost a lot of our sense of “control” when it comes to these items and don’t realize that these are foods that were eaten very, very sparingly in the past.
Thus, in my opinion there are just too many factors here that do not add up to optimal health where butter is concerned. This can hopefully help you understand where I am coming from, when I state that butter is not a food one wants to consume, if one is interested in optimal health.
As I began with above, in the ongoing debate of butter versus margarine, sometimes butter wins, and at other times it is the margarine.
Proponents of margarine claim that IT is the “healthy” choice as it comes from plants and is not based on saturated fat. And while all this sounds nice and for the most part is true, there is so much more to this story. First we have to understand what margarine is made of.
Margarine is made of plant fats. In fact it comes from plant oils. Now did you notice that – plant oils. Oils are liquid at room temperature, hence something must be done to them to make them solid enough to be used like a spread as they are in margarine.
The most common process that does this is known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is a process where more hydrogen atoms are added to spaces available on unsaturated fats. Hydrogenation of unsaturated fats produces saturated fats and, in some cases, trans fats.
Both of these resulting fats as we know, are the ones that have the worst reputation when it comes to fats. So based on this how can anyone claim that margarine is a healthy choice? To add to this, various chemical additives were added to margarine over the years. These greatly improved the spreadability, appearance, and especially the flavor of margarine, always trying to make the margarine bear a greater resemblance to butter, but at the same time making it more “chemical.”
Of course, as time went on and people caught on to this, companies started to get better and more health conscious and began to produce “non-hydrogenated” margarine with less additives. While these are a step up, making a liquid be solid, still requires some chemical conversions and additions that are far from healthy for our systems.
So in conclusion, you do not have to feel like you need one or the other when it comes to margarine and butter. Here is what Dr. Andrew Weil has to say on this subject:
Many people ask me whether I think it is better to eat butter or margarine. They should be asking whether it is worse to eat butter or margarine, because both are concentrated fats that contribute to the unhealthy excess of fat calories that most of us consume. I don’t keep either of them in my house.
Dr. Andrew Weil, Margarine vs. Butter
There is also no need to feel despair as to how one will live without these two. There are many healthy options that can act as spreads on sandwiches if that is what one seeks, like hummus, tahini, pesto, nut butters and more! As for cooking, you can use coconut or grapeseed oil for high heat cooking and olive oil for light stir frying. If you are going to add fats to your diet, they may as well be ones that add value to your health, not take it away.
Some of you who are regular readers know where I stand when it comes to milk. It is something I drank most of my life, that is until I researched this food inside out and simply used common sense when it came to this substance. Well I am not here to tell you that milk is not a great option for optimal health. That deserves a whole article on its own. What I would like to talk about here is specifically chocolate milk.
Some people who drink milk, think that milk and chocolate milk are both equal, healthy options. Simply put, chocolate milk is the “brown, sweeter version” of milk. That unfortunately isn’t true.
While both milk and chocolate milk have their share of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and problems with casein, animal drugs, pesticides and more, chocolate milk also has added sugar, as well as colors, flavors and other artificial additives.
Some nutritionists have criticized chocolate milk for its high sugar content, while others have praised it for being an excellent drink after energy expending activities. Just the other day I read a report from a registered dietitian who boldly claimed how “healthy” chocolate milk is. Out of respect for them, I will not cite the source.
I don’t know, call it too suspicious, but it makes one wonder who is influencing some of these nutritional authorities. How can you call something healthy, when the second most abundant ingredient is refined sugar? In fact most chocolate milks contain multiple sugar sources.
Add to that the questionable additive carrageenan, and you have a product that is far from good for average health, never mind optimal health. In case you are unfamiliar, carrageenan is a thickening agent that has been linked in several studies to causing ulcerations and lesions in the gastro-intestinal tract, inflammation of the intestine, Crohn’s disease, being carcinogenic in the gastro-intestinal tract and as well, interfering with proper immune function. For more information you can read the following scientific review on carrageenan.
Thus, if you really must drink milk, buy plain, organic milk. But I strongly urge you to research more about milk and find out that it is far from the healthy food that we have all been brainwashed for decades to believe. And if you really must have it be chocolate, buy some organic, raw cocoa powder from a company like Navitas, and mix with milk in a blender.
So in conclusion, bread, pancakes or crepes with butter and jam are not a healthy meal option. Add to that a glass of chocolate milk and you have a meal, low in nutrient density, high in processing and other properties not beneficial to our health. Sure they will fill you up with calories and less than healthy forms of fats and carbs, but this is not what one seeks for optimal health.
As I said in part 1, consuming these items will not kill you, but it is items like these that over the years add up to the various health problems that we have that we see in our society and in each other.
Thus, if you love your life, love being alive, vital and full of energy, ready to make the best of this life right until the end, then it is important to consider and take seriously the foods that are going to lead to that. Yes, we all die in the end, but what matters, is what quality of life are you going to live with until then?
Are you going to increase your risk of chronic diseases or decrease it? Are you going to enjoy good digestion, slower aging and a stronger immune system or not? Ultimately only you can answer these questions, and decide what answers you are willing to live with.