Before discussing foods that are marketed as healthy that are not healthy, I want to define what healthy food is. There is a fundamental mistake being made when people ‘rank’ the healthiest foods in the world. The nutrient density of a food hinges on two critical factors: the bioavailability and digestibility of the food. You are not what you eat, you are what you digest. Many love to use the paper value of the nutrient profiles of many plant foods to validate their reasons why they are so healthy. Healthy foods are foods that are nutrient-dense, bioavailable, and digestible.
- Salad Dressings – Believe it or not, conventional store-bought salads are one of the least healthy foods that you can eat. Why? Salad Dressings pack a ton of calories and processed oils with little to no nutrients. Most all salad dressings are oil-based, and it’s most often not nutrient-rich oils like olive oil or avocado oil. One of the highest sources of calories in the American diet today is from vegetable oils (soybean, canola, sunflower, cottonseed, safflower) found in processed foods (dressings, chips, baked goods, condiments) Salads are lacking in bioavailable nutrients as most of the vitamins and minerals are difficult to absorb. If you are looking to up your salad game, make your dressings, add animal protein, and throw in heartier vegetables to increase the fiber.
- Gluten-Free / Fad Diet Snacks – Too often, people are drawn into popular diets that come along with a bunch of different packaged snacks and treats marketed as healthy. People often fall into believing that the gluten-free, dairy-free, or grain-free packaged snack is so much better for you than the average bag of chips from a popular brand. In reality, these “healthy” snacks have just as many calories, oil, and ingredients. People major in the minors of health and fall into the trap that these little factors are worth spending double if not triple the amount of money for the sake of appearing healthy. If you do have an allergy to one of these ingredients, it’s 100% understandable, otherwise, it’s a waste of money.
- Nut Milk – The plant-based movement brought an agenda of fear that dairy is inherently inflammatory and evil. Fortunately, an overwhelming amount of evidence has shown that dairy is not inherently inflammatory. It is very beneficial, check out this article for more. Nut milk is more often than not expensive water with a tiny amount of almond, oat, or macadamia base (less than 10%) Many nut milk also have small amounts of oils blended into them so that they can mimic the texture of natural cream for real dairy. Lastly, most nut milk includes synthetic vitamins that are arguably more detrimental than beneficial as most are poorly absorbed. Many people like to point to the fact that nut milk has fewer calories and fat to validate their belief that it is “healthier” than dairy. Remember, health is about nourishing yourself with bioavailable, nutrient-dense, digestible foods, (dairy wins all three of those factors) not merely trying to create a diet with the most low-calorie foods possible.
- Plant-Based Alternatives – Similar to the nut milk discussion, plant-based alternatives fail miserably against their whole-food beef counterpart. Plant-based meat products are made up of processed plant isolates, wheat, processed oils, and synthetic vitamins. Bioavailability of nutrients, nutrients themselves, and digestibility all reign superior I whole food animal sources of protein. Grab a can of dog food and plant-based meat alternative, the ingredients are nearly the same.
- Juice Cleanses – Detoxing has been a trendy health fad that has gained popularity over the past 10 years. Juice cleanses are a great example of wasting money on something that has a minor effect if not a negative effect on your health. Why? Juices lack fiber, are loaded with sugar and have just about zero grams of protein. This leaves you ravenously hungry on a blood sugar roller coaster all the while losing muscle due to inadequate amino acid consumption. The liver and kidneys exist solely to rid the body of toxins and flush out unneeded byproducts that the body creates. How? Simply by drinking water. Next time you or a friend are tempted into a popular juice cleanse I beg you for the sake of your wallet and health, just get back to the basics of eating whole unprocessed foods and plenty of water.