There are a lot of foods we can generally agree are just downright bad for us. We know that Doritos and soda hold next to no nutritional value and that even a lot of foods touted as “health” foods, contain artificial, lab-made ingredients that don’t do much good for the body.
But what about the foods that not only appear healthy on the outside, but also feel, taste and just seem healthy? These are the foods, when inspected more closely, that reveal a host of unhealthy ingredients and yet are very likely to exist in our day-to-day diet simply because we’re unaware of how detrimental they can be over time.
Anna Marie Cruz, a Los Angeles-based holistic health coach, says that despite advancements in the food industry and legislation to make food manufacturers more transparent, ingredients like sugar are being disguised under more unfamiliar names. Sugar is known today as polydextrose, maltose, dextrose and least 61 other names, according to research from SugarScience. With this in mind, Cruz says the age old rule still applies in 2015 – whenever you can grow and/or cook your own food, do it.
But for the times you just can’t, make sure to avoid these top five foods often loaded with those cleverly disguised ingredients:
1. Processed deli meats. When you opt for a sandwich over a burger, you probably feel pretty good about yourself. But what you may not realize is that slice of deli meat holds a significant amount of sodium. According to MyFitnessPal’s blog, Hello Healthy, as much as 20 percent of your daily intake of sodium can be found in just two thin slices of smoked deli meat. That’s actually over five times the amount found in a single 85-percent lean beef patty! Additionally, deli meat is usually preserved with sodium nitrite, linked with some cancers. On top of that, this salty meat is typically stacked between a sliced bread roll, which means you’re compounding the negative effects of too much sodium with excessive sugar.
This doesn’t mean all deli meats are bad meats. Check the label for a healthy option with 350 milligrams or less of sodium. Look for meats cured using lower amounts and naturally occurring nitrites.
2. Whole wheat breads and grains. We’ve been told that whole wheat is good for us, and to some degree, it is. It’s certainly better than overly processed white bread. But, just like everything else, it’s about eating it in moderation. While wheat and whole grain breads do provide some vital nutrients like manganese and fiber, you may be picking out brands that contain a lot of sugar. A study by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition found that wheat appears to harm blood lipids and may raise your risk of heart disease. In the study, two groups of middle-aged men were given either oat cereal or wheat cereal over a span of 12 weeks. The group that ate the wheat cereal had increased LDL cholesterol levels by 8 percent and a whopping 60 percent for small, dense LDL.
If you want less sugar in your grains and more goodness, opt for Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread. This bread is made by simply soaking grains until they sprout into a plant. This is then ground up to make bread – so no refined sugars added!
3. Trail mix. Unsalted and unsweetened mixed nuts are a great option for a healthy and energizing snack. But often, the pre-packaged mixes found at the grocery store are anything but that. They’re packed with sweetened berries, candies and chocolate pieces to give that sweet and salty combo we crave. A small handful of a typical trail mix can hold up to around 300 calories, so choose wisely! Check the labels for lower sodium options first and foremost – according to the Linus Pauling Institute, about 75 percent of the salt intake in the average American diet comes from salt that is added during food processing. Want a trail mix that matches your hiking adventure? Make your own version combining unsalted, raw nuts with your favorite dried fruit.
4. Concentrated fruit juices. Ever wonder why many fruit juices are a lot sweeter than fresh fruit juices? Many companies remove fiber and other nutrients during the concentration process. Without the fiber, you’re basically drinking sugar water! This leads your body to store fat because when you drink these, they actually spike your sugar levels. In fact, they have even more sugar than a full glass of soda! Make sure to look for sugar in disguise on these food labels: dextran, dextrose and fruit concentrate are things to avoid in your juice beverages.
5. Vegetable oils. The name alone implies healthy. In reality, most vegetable oils are better left on the store shelf. While fats are essential to our health, most cooking oils today are refined using high heat. This process oxidizes oils, which leads to formation of free radicals. In excess, free radicals have been linked to cancer and many different diseases, according to the International Journal of Biomedical Science. This oil processing technology was developed to make oils that can be stored longer; a win for the food industry. Too bad it makes the oil less suitable for our systems. On top of that, many vegetable oils are also made from GMO corn and soy. Instead of vegetable, soybean or canola oil, choose olive, coconut, macadamia, walnut or sesame oils that are unrefined. Look for labels that say virgin or cold-pressed.