Health-Food-Buyer Beware!

Considering the obesity and diabetes epidemic raging today, it’s no wonder so many people are paying more attention to diet choices and turning to their local health food store for better food options.

But health-food-buyer beware, though. Don’t be duped into thinking that just because you find it in a “health food store” it’s good for you. In reality, no matter where you’re shopping, you still need to be a diligent label reader.

But if the health food store (aka natural food store, whole food store, etc.) is your choice of shopping venue, then take a look at the shopping guidelines I found on a website I visit often. The folks at Food Matters TV ( give all their topics careful vetting, and their careful research turned up some things we want to know about so-called health foods. First, some general guidelines:

  • Avoid foods containing ingredients you can’t pronounce.

  • Avoid ingredients with E numbers associated.

  • Avoid long ingredient lists (staying under 10 - 15 is safest).

Next, let’s look at what Food Matters TV researchers say are the foods found in health food stores that should be avoided at all costs. (They also suggest alternatives to choose instead):

CARRAGEENAN. This food additive is extracted from red seaweed and has NO nutritional value. It’s used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk, and other processed foods. It causes serious internal inflammation and has also been linked to stomach issues.

SOY. Touted as a healthy vegetarian source of protein, it’s anything but healthy. Why? Most soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified to withstand weed-killers such as Roundup (meaning soy is full of glyphosate). This chemical is clearly linked to several cancers. Fermented soy (tempeh and miso soup) is a MUCH better option.

XANTHAN GUM. This is a natural polymer used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in loads of food products. Food chemists claim it’s generally safe for consumption (up to 15 grams per day), but it’s been proven to aggravate digestive issues (diarrhea and flatulence to be specific).

YOGURT. Why? The trouble is most grocery store yogurts are closer to a sugary dessert than a health food. There is no doubt that yogurt can be good for you, if it’s the right kind. The best is plain flavored made from organic grass-fed cow or goat’s milk. The ideal option, however, is to make your own using a starter culture and raw, grass-fed milk.

FISH. Another why? Because of the rise in pollution of our oceans and the unhealthy fish farming methods going on, we need to be careful about seafood. While fish is generally a fantastic source of essential fats, just like with yogurt, there is a tipping point where the harmful effects can start to outweigh the benefits if we don’t shop smart.

We should aim to eat wild-caught fish whenever possible. And smaller, sustainable fish like sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring are also great options.

MALTODEXTRIN. This is a standard thickener, filler, and preservative in processed foods. It’s a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. Like sugar, this garbage is digested quickly, and has a glycemic index higher than table sugar (from 106 to 136). Besides raising your blood sugar level very quickly, it reduces the growth of probiotics in the digestive system and increases bad bacteria, such as E. coli. Food chemists claim it’s safe to eat in small amounts, but why would you? Let’s dodge this bullet!

So the bottom line? We are what we eat, so let’s keep reading our labels and be savvy shoppers. Just because it’s in the health food store doesn’t mean it’s healthy!


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author!

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