If you think most of the products labeled "healthy," "skinny," or "natural" are actually good for you, you couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, you might as well be eating a cookie slathered in whipped cream and drizzled with fudge because most of the labeling on packaged foods isn't regulated very strictly, which gives manufacturers free range to use whatever buzz words they think will drive sales. Remember: a brownie is still a brownie even if you bought it at your corner Health Nuts store.
Although the healthiest foods don't have potential pitfalls because they don't require labeling—think produce like avocados and berries—even the healthiest among us need more than apples and carrots to survive. When it comes to optimizing your health, however, there are a few things you shouldn't be loading your plate with (or at least not consider them healthy). Let's take a look at the so-called healthy foods nutritionists really wish you'd stop eating. And then to get a better idea of what you should stock up on instead, find out the 50 Healthiest Foods for Women and 50 Best Ever Foods for Men!
Whole Wheat Bread
"Whole wheat bread is one of the most potentially inflammatory foods in existence since the gluten used in today's wheat bread is virtually indigestible by most people," says Miami clinical nutritionist Dr. Michael Forman. "It's amazing how much better people feel when they just stop eating it." Aside from causing inflammation, whole wheat bread also raises blood sugar and when blood sugar is raised you're more likely to store fat. Speaking of inflammation, discover the 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods to eat more of!
"Brown sugar is just like the white stuff; it's a refined sugar that immediately hits your bloodstream and demands insulin as a response. This promotes inflammation by irritating insulin resistance, one of the factors in almost every health problem," explains Dr. Forman.
According to Dr. Forman agave is very close to high fructose corn syrup, which is why he recommends avoiding it if you want to lose weight and cut out health problems. There's a mistaken concept, he says, that because agave sugars go through a different pathway that it's better than your more common white sugar—but that's not the case. In our exclusive report on Every Popular Added Sweetener—Ranked! is the third worst sweetener you could choose.
Just go on Youtube and see how these are processed; it will be enough to put you off commercial chicken for a lifetime. "They are kept in small cages, shot up with antibiotics and growth hormones and fed unnatural foods for chickens," says Dr. Forman. Opt instead for cage-free, organic chicken.
Commercial Pasteurized Eggs
"Ever wonder why commercial pasteurized eggs last so long in the refrigerator? They do because they have been treated with antibiotics, pasteurization, and other processes that make them last," explains Dr. Forman. "This is bad news for your body because the food is not recognized in the way nature intended and you know what happens when you 'fool' with mother nature."
Whole Wheat Pasta
Contrary to what food manufacturers would like you to think whole wheat pasta is just as bad for you as traditional white flour pasta. Not only is the whole wheat inflammatory it creates a sugar response, according to Dr. Forman, that makes it a less than desirable food source. Not to mention that it's high in empty calories.
Most flavored yogurts have way too much sugar to be truly beneficial. "The flavoring is actually a sweet, sugar loaded jelly that makes flavored yogurt very fattening," says Dr. Forman. The majority of flavored yogurts are also very high in calories and don't have the fiber or protein to make up for said elevated levels. Reach for a plain Greek yogurt instead—and make sure it's an Eat This!-approved choice on our list of The 20 Best & Worst Greek Yogurts.
Canned Organic Beans
"Canning is an unnatural process that takes the goodness away," says Dr. Forman. "Canning contains metals that can leak into food and cause trace amounts of metals and the real problem here is that we don't yet fully understand the effects of this. We also don't know under what conditions the products have been shipped and handled, which can make for potentially very hazardous results."
The problem with pasteurized milk is that the essential enzymes required for digestion have been boiled out. "Good for the grocer, bad for you," says Dr. Forman. "If you are experiencing congestion, arthritic pain or any inflammatory response, consider cutting milk." Milk is one of the 15 Foods That Can Make You Congested!
"Skim dairy isn't healthy and it's not good for your weight," says Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, and founder of Foodtrainers. When you cut out all the fats in milk you're not satiated and end up consuming more than you otherwise would. Slayton also adds that when you cut out all the fat you're left with a large amount of androgens (hormones). Instead opt for low-fat, full-fat, coconut milk, almond milk or rice milk.
While mangoes, cherries, and grapes aren't bad per se, they can halt weight loss because they're very high in sugar. "I call them the sugary threesome," says Slayton. "Other berries and grapefruit are better options if you're prone to eating a lot of fruit." Fruit is, in fact, a fantastic way to curb a sweet tooth and unlike processed treats, cookies and cakes there is fiber in fruit—even the sugary threesome—to mitigate blood sugar spikes. Speaking of, find out the 30 Foods With More Fiber Than an Apple!
According to Dr. Forman, most granolas are no better than cookies. "In fact, if you put some water or oil in with it and baked it, they would be cookies. Don't fool yourself into thinking one ingredient makes something healthy." Instead of granola opt for some Greek yogurt and top it with seeds, nuts, and berries. If you want more sweetness opt for dried fruit but make sure you're choosing dried fruit with no added sugar, sulfites, preservatives or other additives. Cooked unsweetened oatmeal or sugar-free flakes are also options and topping them with crunchy fruits like apples will give you a granola-like crunch.
Tofu acts as an estrogen-like substance causing all kinds of havoc; it's one of the 10 Foods That Can Cause Man Boobs! In fact, soy products, in general, are loaded with problems. "Ninety percent or more are genetically modified to be 'Round Up Ready', which means that they can withstand intense chemical sprays meant to destroy plants with no effect," explains Dr. Forman. So, if the powerful chemical cannot do anything with the plant, can your body? Talk about serious food for thought…
Soy milk is worse that organic cow's milk, which is also not recommended as it can cause inflammation. "Soy milk is a highly chemicalized, processed food and should be avoided for anyone experiencing inflammation," says Dr. Forman. Remember there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium including leafy greens such as turnip greens, kale and bok choy, almond, oranges, seaweed and canned salmon. It' also important to note that almost all soy is GMO and estrogenic.
Yes, and that means even fresh pressed fruit juices. "I believe this should be a treat and enjoyed more occasionally. Fruit juices have high sugar content and zero fiber, resulting in a spike in blood sugar," says Mountain Trek's nutritionist Jennifer Keirstead. Instead of fruit juice, opt for fruit smoothies, which do have fiber. When possible, cut sugar levels by working in some vegetables. Get the recipes for The 25 Best Weight Loss Smoothies to blend up a better drink!
Don't believe the labeling; buzz words like "healthy" and "natural" aren't regulated and most energy bars are loaded with hidden sugar, fat, calories and artificial ingredients. If you're going to opt for an energy or food bar make sure to read labels closely and opt for ones low in sugar, high in fiber and protein and made only with recognizable ingredients.
"Just like with energy bars boxed cereals can be very deceiving," says Keirstead. "Even those labeled "healthy" are often loaded with hidden sugars and processed ingredients." When shopping for cereal opt for ones high in fiber and protein and low in sugar, fat, and calories. And always avoid these 20 Worst "Good for You" Cereals!