An interesting recent article we found from a great nutrition site that uses evidence and research as its primary backing – how absurd, research?! – talks about the most commonly found foods that suggest, through advertising or word of mouth, that they’re at least somewhat healthy to eat/drink. Some of these myths have already been dispelled, either by the media or reports of some other kind, but some have yet to gain traction.
Keep in mind this article comes from a site that suggests eating meat is okay, as long as it’s not processed meat, and that carbs – a typical cornerstone of the vegetarian diet – are best eaten in extreme moderation, and only in purest form (straight fruit and vegetables, nothing processed). You can read the article here, along with links to studies, or follow along with our short synopses.
1. Fruit Juices. The suggestion here is that whole fruits should be eaten, because the juices themselves are mostly sugar and a few vitamins – if what you are drinking is real fruit juice, that is. Orange juice, the author notes, contains the same amount of sugar as Coca Cola – not exactly a paragon of exceptional health.
2. Whole Wheat. It is important to take into account that whole wheat is still healthier than refined wheat, but that doesn’t make it healthy. Aside from the fact that a substantial amount of the population may have a gluten sensitivity, wheat fibers can make people Vitamin D deficient, and raise dense LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) by as much as 60 percent.
3. Agave Nectar. Agave is a sweetener suggested by many to be a healthy alternative to sugar because it has a natural low glycemic index. Not the case, states the author; agave is harmful because it has unnaturally high amounts of fructose, and this could cause as many or more problems than sugar.
4. Sports Drinks. Designed for athletes performing intense workouts – those with large amounts of sweating and glycogen depletion – these drinks often contain large amounts of sugar, which most people consume enough of already. Stick to water except for intense, long-duration workouts.
5. “Heart-Healthy” Vegetable Oil. There are two reasons why he suggests abstaining from vegetable and other seed-based oils. The first is that they are extracted using harsh processing methods that contain toxic chemicals. The second is that they contain large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, of which we already eat enough of.
6. Low-Fat or Fat-Free Foods. The author rails against propaganda regarding saturated fats, which he says have been proven to be harmless. The fats are fine; what’s not fine is that the fats in these foods have been replaced with chemical sweeteners and/or massive amounts of sugar. Yogurt is the primary culprit.
7. Gluten-Free Junk Foods. With one-third of the country wanting to cut back on gluten or go gluten-free, food manufacturers have taken notice and created foods that aren’t healthy at all. Instead of gluten, they use starches and other refined ingredients that spike blood sugar quickly. They’re typically also filled with sugar.
8. Margarine and Fake Butter. Because fake butter contains highly processed vegetable oils, which are less healthy than the fats in butter, the argument is that margarine is a processed food with harmful ingredients that can make you sick. He quotes a study where replacing butter with margarine led to an increased risk of death from heart attacks.
9. Energy Bars. Like sports drinks, most people don’t need to eat energy bars because they aren’t elite athletes. The bars themselves don’t contain anything that you can’t get from real foods – thus they are highly processed and contain many of the same unhealthy ingredients that many processed foods have.
10. Low-Carb Junk Foods. These foods are another example of the market catching up on the low-carb craze and creating foods that are pure junk and very unhealthy. More processed garbage, so sayeth the author, who promotes sticking to unprocessed foods to stay low-carb.
11. “Healthy” Breakfast Cereals. Breakfast cereals are among the worst foods anyone can eat, the author says, because they’re loaded with sugar and refined carbs. At this point, we get the idea that he doesn’t like sugar and refined carbs, and for good reason of course, because those things aren’t all that great for us. The vitamins, which may be the reason they’re considered healthy, are outdone by the ingredients that just aren’t good for you and set you up for a blood sugar crash later in the day.
So what do you guys think? Do you buy the list or do you think much of it is overblown, or that other research compromises the research he’s quoted. Is it possible for a vegetarian to maintain a diet of no meat and keep all of these things off the list? Somewhere, something has to give.