Are you struggling to achieve optimal health and wellness despite eating what you think is a balanced and healthy diet? 

If you’re still basing your idea of health off the 1990’s Food Pyramid, it’s possible that some of the foods you’re consuming regularly are secretly sabotaging your efforts. 

In this article, we reveal the three common foods that are causing more harm than good for your health. 

 

1. INDUSTRIAL SEED OILS

Little known fact, most restaurants are using industrial seed oils. Unfortunately, they are not contributing to your optimal health and wellness! Industrial seed oils, also known as vegetable oils like canola, corn, soybean, cottonseed, rapeseed, sunflower, and safflower, are commonly found in processed and packaged foods, as well as restaurant foods, and can contribute to chronic inflammation.

This is for a few reasons:

 

  • They’re high in Omega 6’s and while we do need Omega-6 fatty acids in our diets, most Americans consume far too much and we need a healthy balance of Omega-3, 6, and 9 to keep inflammation in check. 

Most people eat too many omega 6’s and not enough Omega 3’s, resulting in chronic inflammation.

 

  • They undergo a highly processed manufacturing process that involves chemicals and high heat.  This process can produce harmful compounds like trans fats and oxidized lipids, which can damage cells and increase inflammation, leading to chronic disease.

 

  • Many industrial seed oils are derived from genetically modified crops, such as soybeans and corn which have been shown to lead to inflammation, as they can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and contribute to gut dysbiosis. Furthermore, some research suggests that GMO crops may be linked to negative effects on the immune system and potentially increase the risk of developing certain chronic diseases. It’s suggested that the foreign genetic material introduced into GMO crops could trigger an immune response in humans, potentially leading to inflammation and other negative effects on immune function. Additionally, the use of herbicides and pesticides on GMO crops may also have indirect effects on immune function by disrupting the gut microbiome and contributing to inflammation. 

 

 Here are some tips for eliminating these oils from your diet for optimal health and wellness:

The easiest way to avoid all 3 of these offenders is by following a Paleo diet and eating real foods found in nature.  But in case you still need to purchase packaged and processed foods, it’s important to steer clear of these illusive oils by doing the following:

1. Read Labels Carefully

When shopping for food, always check the ingredient list for industrial seed oils, such as soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil. Choose foods that are made with healthier oils, such as ghee, grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.

2. Cook With Healthier Oils

When cooking at home, toss out your canola and corn oils (and the others too!) for healthier options like ghee, grass-fed butter, organic extra-virgin olive oil, coconut or avocado oil. These oils have a higher smoke point, which means they can be heated to higher temperatures without breaking down and releasing harmful chemicals.

3. Avoid Fried Foods

Most fried foods, such as french fries and fried chicken, are cooked in industrial seed oils. Instead, try baking or roasting your favorite foods in the oven, or air frying them with healthier oil.  Keep in mind that extremely high heat required for frying can damage nutrients in food and make them less healthy.

4. Make Your Own Sauces and Dressings

Many store-bought sauces and dressings contain industrial seed oils. Make your own at home using healthier oils, such as olive oil or avocado oil, along with fresh herbs and spices. In fact, the more you cook at home the more optimal health and wellness you’ll achieve!

5. Choose Whole Foods

Like we said above, choosing ingredients instead of foods WITH ingredients helps you easily avoid these oils and gives you nutrient-rich foods to nourish and fuel the body.

 

2. SUGAR

Once again, a Paleo diet can help you steer clear of the hidden sugars found in packaged and processed foods, which are present in everything from ketchup and ranch dressing to vitamins and protein powders. While many people are aware of the negative effects of sugar, they may not realize how frequently it is used in common packaged foods and how greatly it impacts nearly every system in our body.

 

  • Sugar consumption can lead to inflammation in the body, which can contribute to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Eating sugar causes a spike in blood sugar levels, which triggers the release of insulin to regulate the sugar in the blood. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Consuming excess sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity, which are also risk factors for chronic diseases.
  • Sugar can contribute to an imbalance of gut bacteria, leading to gut dysbiosis, which can affect digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function.
  • Sugar can be addictive, leading to cravings and overconsumption, which can perpetuate the negative health effects.

 

 Here are some tips for minimizing sugar in your diet to achieve optimal health and wellness:

    1. Read food labels carefully

Sugar is often hidden in many processed and packaged foods! That’s why it’s important to read food labels carefully to identify hidden sources of sugar. Here are some of the many names it goes under, with some being much worse for the body than others.

      • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
      • Corn syrup
      • Dextrose
      • Fructose
      • Glucose
      • Lactose
      • Maltose
      • Sucrose
      • Honey
      • Agave nectar
      • Molasses
      • Cane sugar
      • Brown rice syrup
      • Fruit juice concentrate
      • Coconut sugar
      • Maple syrup
      • Beet sugar
      • Barley malt syrup
      • Date sugar
      • Turbinado sugar

 

2. Limit sugary drinks

Pre-packaged beverages can be a deceiving source of added sugar in one’s diet. While sugary sodas and juices are obvious culprits, seemingly “healthy” drinks like green juices and kombucha also contain significant amounts of sugar. 

As always, read the ingredient label and retrain your taste buds to crave less sweet things by only drinking water or herbal tea. Plus teas have other health and wellness benefits.. like teas that help with blood pressure.

 

3. Use even natural sweeteners sparingly

Although natural sweeteners like honey, dates, and maple syrup are healthier than refined sugar, it’s still best to use them sparingly. Small amounts consumed regularly throughout the day can still affect your blood sugar and inflammation levels.

A quick note about agave:

Despite being marketed as a healthy and natural sweetener, I recommend avoiding agave for several reasons. Agave nectar or syrup is highly processed and refined, which can strip away many of the nutrients and health benefits of the raw plant. This is why I prefer honey, maple or actual dates as they retain many of the vitamins and minerals that help to balance out the negative effects of sugar.

Agave is also extremely high in fructose, a type of sugar that is metabolized differently in the body than glucose. Excessive consumption of fructose has been linked to a range of health problems, including insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and obesity. 

While agave has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners, it may actually be worse for blood sugar control due to its high fructose content.

4. Cook at home

Most restaurants use sugar, sweeteners and other not-so-healthy ingredients in order to make their food taste extra delicious and keep you coming back for more. Cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients and sugar content of your meals. Consider using herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals instead of sugar. You are in charge of your own optimal health and wellness and this is an easy way to get started!

 

Learn more about optimizing blood sugar balance.

 

3.  GRAINS

Grains can have a negative impact on your health, even when you think you’re eating healthy. From a functional medicine perspective, grains can contribute to inflammation, gut dysbiosis, and leaky gut syndrome. 

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is particularly problematic as it can trigger an immune response in sensitive individuals, leading to a variety of symptoms ranging from digestive issues to skin problems and joint pain.

Gluten-free options are not completely innocent however as many include alternative flours that are low in nutrients and contain other ingredients like binders or gums to make up for the missing glue-ten (get it, cuz gluten glues things together when baking). 

Another important factor to consider when it comes to eating grains is their potential for containing anti-nutrients like phytates and lectins. These compounds can interfere with the absorption of important nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium, leading to deficiencies over time. This is especially true of ‘whole’ wheat and brown rice which retain the hulls that carry most of those anti-nutrients. 

Grains are also commonly sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, which can have harmful effects on the body. Choosing organic and non-GMO grains can help minimize exposure to these toxins.

1. Swap out grains for alternatives: 

Instead of:

Rice, try cauliflower rice or quinoa. 

Pasta, try zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. 

Bread, try lettuce wraps or collard greens.

English muffin, try sweet potato

2. Read labels:

Many processed foods contain hidden grains, so be sure to read labels carefully. Look out for ingredients like wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

 

3. Don’t forget about fiber:

When eliminating and minimizing grains it’s common to start having less frequent or satisfying bowel movements due to a lack of liber. Whole grains are a good source of fiber. However, there are plenty of other foods that can provide this important nutrient. Focus on high-fiber vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes, as well as fruits like berries and apples.

 

Ultimately, it’s important to be mindful of the foods we eat and their potential impact on our health. While industrial seed oils, sugar, and grains may be ubiquitous in the modern diet, they may also be sabotaging our health in ways we don’t realize. By choosing whole, minimally processed foods and reducing our intake of these harmful substances, we can take control of our health and wellbeing. 

 

Remember, small changes can add up to big improvements over time. So, take it one step at a time, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. It’s all about progress, not perfection. Here’s to a healthier you!

 

Would you be interested in learning more about how to live a life of optimal health and wellness? Work with us at Flora Fauna Wellness, your functional medicine in OC.