Here’s a secret in the food industry: many healthy foods are no better than their alternatives. Some have little nutritional value, some actually contain harmful chemicals, and some even pose as “healthy” when they’re downright bad for you.
Go beyond the labels and scrutinize the ingredients. Breads labeled as “whole wheat” or “whole grain,” for example, can pack as much as 70% refined flour. But because it includes some whole grains, it can advertise itself as the real deal.
For people who eat breakfast, 31% start their morning the same way: a bowl, cereal, and milk. Yet many cereals aren’t nutritious—even the self-proclaimed “healthy” ones. Cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios and Raisin Brain, for example, contain as much sugar as Fruity Pebbles.
To produce those cute flakes of corn, manufacturers inadvertently destroy many of the original vitamins and minerals; to compensate, companies add synthetic ingredients to fortify the cereal.
But even with fortification, cereals aren’t as healthy as whole foods.
Avoid the low-fat options and choose whole milk instead.
While skim and low-fat milks have fewer calories, whole milk has more saturated and monounsaturated fats to keep you feeling full, support metabolism, and improve your body composition. Without the fat, skim and low-fat milks also have less fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K than whole milk.
Even worse, producers add powdered milk into skim milk to improve its consistency because skim milk doesn’t resemble real milk when it’s harvested; that process introduces oxidized cholesterol, which damages your arteriesworse than regular cholesterol.
Nor does research support the health claims of low/non-fat milk versus whole. In 2012, researchers correlated low-fat and non-fat milk with higher obesity levels among children than whole milk.
Ditch synthetic oils like Crisco, margarine, etc.
The popularity of synthetic oils grew because of the myth that fat makes you fat: if fat is bad, then fat-free oils and spreads are good. Thus, companies pushed those options (and Fabio graced millions of TV sets with his iconic, “I can’t believe it’s not butter”).
Unfortunately, food companies hydrogenate many of the fake oils you buy, which maintain their shelf life and shape at room temperature and make them trans fats. This process, however, makes the oil harder to digest and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Then, the oil is bleached and artificially flavored until you can’t believe it’s not butter.
How do they make corn oil? (They don’t pick the ripe ones and squeeze them.)
Vegetable oils like canola, corn, grape seed, etc. come from chemicals: producers blast the seeds at high heat and dump solvents to extract the oil. In later stages, they inject other chemicals to improve color and odor. This elaborate process transforms the vegetable oil into an unstable fat called polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA).
Your body doesn’t digest PUFAs well because your cells consist mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Also, vegetable oils also have a high ratio of Omega-6 PUFA to Omega-3, which create inflammation within the body and can increase risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.