When we think about foods to avoid most of us will quickly come up with a list that includes things like: candy, doughnuts, soda, and other “junk food.” These are the easy foods to try and keep out of your diet. Unfortunately, our marketing saavy world has promoted certain foods as health foods, despite their ugly reality. So with that in mind, I’d like to talk about some specific health foods to avoid.
Health foods to avoid: Here are three
Soy has been promoted as a health food for a long time. For vegetarians it is marketed as a source of protein. Many sources have asserted that Asians have been eating lots of soy for millennia. However, the real story behind soy paints a much different picture.
Why you should avoid soy:
- Soy is higher in phytoestrogens than just about any other food source. Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogens that mimic estrogen in our bodies. Independent research has clearly shown that consuming phytoestrogens is downright dangerous for the human body.
- Soy contains high levels of goitrogens. Goitrogens are compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine correctly which could lead to hypothyroid problems.
- Soy contains hemagglutinin: a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together making them unable to properly absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.
- High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.
- Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.
- MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is added to many soy foods.
- Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12.
- Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D (something that most Americans are already lacking).
- Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
To top this horrific list off, 91% of all soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. It is also one of the prevalent ingredients in processed foods. If your food has a barcode, there’s a good chance there is soy in it.
How does this information stand against Asian populations who have been eating soy for so long? Well, according to the extensively researched book, The whole soy story: the dark side of America’s favorite health food by Dr. Kaayla Daniel, the Chinese first started eating soybeans about 2,500 years ago, but only after they figured out how to ferment it. The fermentation process neutralizes the toxins in the soybean. Tempeh, miso, natto, and soy sauce have traditionally been fermented (although most soy sauce in the grocery store has not). Most soy Americans consume, however, is not fermented. We are also consuming more of it than ever before. (Learn more about the dangers of soy at drkaayladaniel.com and wholesoystory.com.)
In other words, soy is definitely one of the health foods to avoid.
2. Agave Nectar
Why you should avoid agave nectar:
- Most agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is made through a highly chemical process using genetically modified enzymes, caustic acids, and filtration chemicals.
- Agave nectar is devoid of virtually all nutrient value.
- Most agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any commercial sweetener — ranging from 55 to 97 percent (depending on the brand), which is much higher than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.
- Agave’s high fructose levels go directly to the liver, where the organ repackages it as blood fats called triglycerides, increasing heart disease risk. These high fructose levels can also contribute to insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes, as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
That’s not to say that having a teaspoon now and then will kill you. But if you are pouring the agave on your waffles thinking it’s a health food… sorry, it’s not. It’s just like all the other unnatural sweeteners, and should be used very sparingly. Better yet, when you need a little sweetness, go for some fresh fruit, raw honey, or organic maple syrup (grade B for more minerals!).
Conclusion: Agave nectar and syrup are also health foods to avoid.
3. Canola Oil
Promoted as a “heart healthy” oil, Canola oil is in everything from salad dressing to mayonnaise. No wonder people think it’s healthy. I finally convinced my mom to switch out her margarine for butter (yay!) only to find out she was buying the butter with canola oil. She was so proud of her healthy choice. After a few head bangs into the wall (me) and some discussion (me and her), she’s finally eating good ole’ plain real butter (YAY!).
Why you should avoid canola oil:
- Like other modern vegetable oils, most canola oil is refined under heat and pressure, which damages its omega-3 fats.
- The presence of long-chain fatty acids, including erucic acid, which are thought by some to cause CNS degeneration, heart disease, and cancer
- Canola oil is more easily hydrogenated which produces trans fat
- Much of the crops grown to produce canola oil are genetically modified
- The United States and Canada do not permit canola oil to be used in infant formula because it retards growth in animals
- Animal studies have linked canola oil with reduced platelet count, shorter life span, and greater need for vitamin E
- Vegetable oils, including Canola, have polyunsaturated fats which degrade and go rancid very easily leaving them susceptible to oxidation and high levels of free radicals.
You are better off trusting traditional fats like butter, lard, coconut oil, and high quality extra virgin olive oil (although EVOO is still unstable under high heat so it shouldn’t be used for cooking). But when it comes to canola, and all vegetable oils for that matter, they are health foods to avoid. For sure.
There you have it. Three health foods to avoid because… well, turns out they aren’t healthy. At all.
What health foods do you avoid? My general rule of thumb: If it has to claim it’s healthy on its package, it often isn’t.
Canola oil sources
Real Food: What to eat and why by Nina Planck (“I am not convinced by canola”)