With all the new diets and continuing research in today’s market, it’s hard to figure out which food are healthy and which are not. Marketing has it’s way of convincing you that even though certain foods could be doing more harm than good, they at least contain some good and that is what is important, right? Wrong.

These are 10 of the most misleading ‘healthy foods’ that may be causing you inflammation. As with all new research and advice, we do not vow that this is the case for everyone, as everyone’s body reacts differently to individual foods.

  • Peanuts

Did you know peanuts are not considered to be a part of the nut family? They are actually part of the legume family. This may come as a shock to some people, peanut butter may not be as healthy as we thought.

Peanuts are not recommended in the diet for a few different reasons. Peanuts contain naturally occurring molds that can trigger an immune response, which results in inflammation. The common fungi found on peanuts are called aflatoxins. The National Cancer Institute has stated that exposure to aflatoxins can cause an increased risk of liver cancer. A diet high in aflatoxins may contribute to higher levels of inflammation. So, it may be wise to avoid this ‘healthy food’ if you wish to avoid potential inflammation.

  • Seasoning Mixes

Everyone loves to spice things up when cooking, but do you know what’s actually in those spices? Although it would be nice to think they are all made from fresh herbs and spices, this is rarely the case. Seasoning may be what’s causing you inflammation.

The issues arise when we use seasonings that contain artificial colors or ingredients, and added sweeteners. Artificial colors are a major problem and unfortunately, are included in the majority of processed and packaged foods. We have seen that with an increased use of these artificial colors in foods, the presence of allergy and other immune reactive conditions have also become more prevalent in today’s world. The artificial colors contain very small molecules, which makes it difficult for the body’s immune system to defend the body from them. Artificial colors can bind with body proteins and can cause significant inflammation due to an immunological response and can even lead to things like leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.

In summary, check your labels before choosing your seasoning. Be aware of what you are putting into your body, after all, you only get one!

  • Seitan

Seitan is a wheat based product often used by vegetarians or vegans for an extra source of protein. When cooked, it takes the look and texture of meat and it’s often referred to as “fake meat”. This product is man-made and therefore processed. Our ability to properly break down processed foods is difficult.

Since Seitan is a wheat based product, it is not recommended for anyone with a gluten sensitivity. If you are on a plant based-diet, opting for healthier whole food choices such as nuts and seeds will help boost your protein intake.

  • Barley

Grains, especially those containing high amounts of gluten, like barley, are a food we recommend staying away from. Grains and gluten have been linked to intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut) and autoimmune conditions by triggering the inflammatory immune response.

Many people may have a thyroid problem, whether they are aware of it or not, and gluten is one of the first items we try and cut out of their diet. Gluten has an inflammatory effect on the body and contains something called gliadin. Gliadin is the protein found in gluten and resembles the thyroid. When gluten is consumed, the immune system will attempt to attack this protein, causing the same antibodies to also attack your thyroid.

  • Yogurt

Yogurt has always been considered a healthy snack, full of calcium and lean protein. However there are a few things to consider, dairy being the first. Many people are intolerant to dairy and probably don’t realize it until they remove it from their diet and feel so much better and a lot less bloated. If there is a dairy allergy or sensitivity, yogurt may be causing inflammation.

If you have been eating non-organic yogurt, it’s probably filled with hormones found in the milk that it’s made from. Many farmers use rBGH, a genetically engineered growth hormone that forces the cow to produce more milk. This is unhealthy for the cows and can lead to several complications and infections within the cow. They may then need to be treated with antibiotics (if they’re not sent to slaughter) in order to keep up their job of producing milk, and ultimately those antibiotics may end up in your milk and yogurt. No thanks!

The best alternative? Dairy-free products! But be mindful of sugar content.

  • Agave

This common alternative to artificial sweetener or sugars may not be as healthy as we thought. Agave is made up of 90% fructose, which we are consuming a lot more than we did years ago. The problem is the fructose we are consuming in today’s diets often come from refined foods, which can be detrimental to our liver.

The liver uses fructose to create fat. Overconsumption causes the liver to accumulate fat in the liver. This buildup can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which is becoming an increasingly common problem.

  • Granola bars

Granola bars tend to be high in sugar, whether it is cane sugar or natural sweeteners like agave or honey. Despite how “natural” the sugar is, too much of it is not going to lead to a healthy diet.

Granola bars usually contain some sort of grain, which we discussed can be a problem for certain people. Instead of grabbing a granola bar, try making a homemade trail mix in individual easy to grab bags for a healthier snack during your busy week. An easy trail mix could include almonds, walnuts, raw cocoa nibs, or pumpkin seeds. This way, you skip all the added sugars and pack this mix with healthy fats and plant based proteins.

  • Cereal

Cereal is another one of those foods that usually contains high amounts of added sugars and grains, both of which can be causing inflammation. Even if you’re opting for the “healthy cereal”, it’s almost guaranteed your consuming a snack high in sugar, which in excess has been linked to inflammation.

Studies have shown that there is a very clear relationship between high sugar consumption and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Granola

Granola products marketed to children appear to be the worst for yours and their health. Research has found more than 2 ½ added teaspoons of sugar per serving! Remember that when snacking on granola, we usually consume more than just one tiny serving… which means you are probably consuming a few tablespoons of sugar in this ‘healthy snack’. Yikes!

Small amounts of added sugar may not seem like a lot when we talk in terms of a teaspoon here and there. The problem is, sugar is added to almost every food we consume throughout our day. These teaspoons quickly add up before we recognize it. You must be mindful of your sugar consumption, which means READING THE LABELS.

  • Juices

Bottled fruit smoothies? Maybe those have too much sugar. What about a green smoothie? That must be packed with vegetables, right? As convenient, natural, and healthy as these bottled smoothies may appear, they often have that one thing we’ve been talking adamantly about staying away from…. added SUGAR.

In order for these products to have a long shelf life, they must be pasteurized. This process is done at a very high heat to kill off microorganisms, which destroys all of the enzymes. In other words, it kills the bad AND the good. This reduces the antioxidants and a lot of the fruits and vegetables fiber… leaving you with a big bottle of sugar.

Try making your smoothies at home. This allows you to control exactly what ingredients you put in there and they will all be whole foods! Keep in mind you want to add more veggies than fruit in order to keep the amount of sugar low.

No time to dice fruit and vegetables for your morning smoothie? Try this tip for smoothie prepping:

  • Choose a day (Sunday, maybe) to prep your fruit and veggies for the week. Dice enough fruits and veggies and put them in small baggies. The fruit can go into the freezer but keep the vegetables in the fridge (some lose their nutrients after being frozen).

So, when it comes to foods that market a “healthy alternative”, you can’t always believe the market. In order to control inflammation, I encourage people to try and maintain a whole-foods diet with very little packaged or processed food. Take a few extra seconds to read the labels on the food you pick up while grocery shopping, you’ll begin to recognize harmful ingredients. You’ll soon realize that a lot of what you pick up doesn’t belong in your shopping cart… or your body.

Next Steps

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