After discovering a potentially harmful ingredient in a detox tea, we spoke to wellbeing consultant Lucie Lemay about these so-called 'healthy' foods - and what we discovered was pretty surprising...
Who isn’t on a juice cleanse or a teatox right now, or talking about how the new Nutribullet can make smoothies and soup? (We know, mind-boggling right?) Everyone’s gone mad for the green, lean life and we’re actually rather enjoying it. On the occasions we find ourselves smug in our leggings on a Saturday morning, perusing the aisles in Wholefoods rather than horizontal with hangover, we question why we hadn't embraced this way of life before.
But, it turns out, those foods aren't all as ‘healthy’ as they seem. When we discovered our detox tea contained ‘senna leaves’, which have been linked to liver failure, we wanted to know what other potential harmful ingredients were lurking in our cupboards.
We spoke to wellbeing consultant Lucie Lemay about so-called ‘health foods’ and what we discovered was pretty surprising…
1) Vegetable Crisps
The supermarket shelves are now awash with vegetable crisps, a seemingly healthier alternative to potato chips, but unfortunately these aren't as 'nutritious' as they would like you to believe. Sadly it's not the potato element of crisps which are the 'unhealthy' culprit - they are vegetable too after all - it's the additives and oils which they are cooked in. These strip the vegetables from all of their original nutrients and add flavourings and preservatives. So regardless of whether you are having veggie or potato chips, you are gaining very few nutrients and instead just adding unnecessary amounts of salt and unnatural additives to your diet.
Tip: If you are craving that salty crunchy crisp taste, making your own is far the best option as that way you have full control of what goes on them. Try cooking a batch of kale crisps or roasting some nuts in Tamari or soy sauce. Both will let you retain the nutrients from the nut or vegetable whilst also satisfying you crisp cravings!
2) Skimmed Milk
Milk often gets a bad rep, with many people frightened by the fat content, and as a result often go down the skimmed milk option for their morning latte. The truth is, unless you suffer from a dairy intolerance, milk is not bad for you and it actually contains a wealth of vitamins and nutrients. It's also been proved that healthy fats are actually beneficial for the body, helping to fuel normal body functionality as well as aiding weight loss. So when you strip milk of the fat, not only can your body not absorb all of the dairy vitamins (as these are fat soluble vitamins so the body needs fat present to be able to absorb them), but it won't help to fill you up, leaving you more susceptible to those mid morning muffins!
Tip: Ideally you would look to swap to whole milk to ensure you are getting the full range of nutrients available, but if you find this too rich then try watering if down yourself. This will reduce the richness without compromising the vitamins. If dairy isn't your bag, then there are now a huge range of dairy-free options such as coconut, almond and oat milk. Again always be sure to check the back of the packaging to ensure there is not added sugars or ingredients.
3) Diet Sodas
Diet sodas are just as bad for you if not worse than the full fat versions. My first bit of advice to all clients is to wean yourself of fizzy sodas. They offer your body absolutely nothing but a dangerous mixture of chemicals and artificial sweeteners which have been associated with a huge spectrum of illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Many believe they will help you lose weight as they don’t contain any calories, however the artificial sweeteners cause your body to release insulin which actually tells your body to start storing fat, which defeats the object of drinking a calorieless drink!
Tip: The best no calorie drink you can have is plain water. It sounds boring but in the contrary to fizzy sodas this will only do good things for your body. If you are craving something fizzy try sparkling water instead and if it’s the sweetness you crave try adding a few bits of fruit, such as berries, to your water to mix it up a bit.
Often touted as the go to ‘healthy breakfast’, most shop-brought granolas are just as bad for you as the sugary breakfast cereals you thought you were being good by avoiding. To achieve that sweet taste many producers will add a large amount of refined sugars. This, coupled with the fact that they often contain very little fibre means all the sugar goes straight into your blood stream resulting in a big spike in your blood sugar levels, followed by a energy slump shortly afterwards.
Tip: The best way around this is to simply make your own granola. This means that you can also add in all your favourite nuts and seeds. Be sure to use a natural sweetener, such as dates, honey or maple syrup, to ensure a much more consistent energy release. If you don’t have time to make your own, you can either improvise with a handful of nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon over some fruit and yogurt to give the same crunchy sweet taste as granola. Or, you can swot up on your brands as there are quite a few granolas that use natural sweeteners. Just make sure you have a proper look at the label and if it contains any refined sugars or long ingredients you have never heard of, place it back on the shelf!
5) Soy Milk
Most people think that soy milk is a healthy alternative to dairy, but soy is actually one of the most genetically modified crops out there. It is packed full of phytoestrogens, which can be damaging to both men and women, and can be linked to an increased risk of cancer, thyroid issues and infertility.
Tip: If you are looking for a dairy-free alternative, try nut milks. Almond and coconut milk are a great replacement and taste delicious in porridge, granola and coffee.
Read more: InStyle's Arabella Greenhill shares her favourite NutriBullet recipes...
6) Fat-Free Foods
When you strip the fat from foods you lose all of their natural flavour, so companies add hidden sugars to improve the taste. These sugars can contribute to a huge range of illnesses from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and obesity to hormone imbalances.
Tip: When you’re shopping look to buy foods in their full fat form. You will be surprised how much nicer they taste and as they contain all their original nutrients, you will need far less to feel satisfied.
7) High Fructose Corn Syrup
Though this sounds natural - when you see the word ‘fructose’ you think of fruit, which must be healthy right? – this is actually one of the most dangerous sugars out there, contributing to a range of ailments including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and IBS.
Tip: Instead look for foods that contain natural sugars like honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar. The best way to avoid refined sugars is to make your own sweet treats.
8) Dried Fruit
Though it sounds obvious; fruit and dried fruit are not the same. Not only does dried fruit often have added sugars to preserve and sweeten them, but they often contain sulphur to increase the shelf life. In high levels sulphur can be toxic and even in small quantities can affect people with asthma and allergies.
Tip: Where possible always choose fresh fruit, but if dried is your only option then be sure to read the label for any unwanted additives.
9) Gluten-Free Products
Eating ‘gluten-free’ has become a bit of a buzzword at the moment. While there is no denying avoiding gluten can help improve digestion, if something is labelled ‘gluten-free’ it doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. Many gluten-free products are packed full of hidden sugars and genetically modified flour replacements, such as cornstarch, which can be linked to high blood pressure, digestive issues and cancer.
Tip: The best gluten-free products are fresh fruit, vegetables and meats, but if you want to try out ‘gluten-free’ versions of your favourite foods be sure to carefully read the ingredients labels to really see what’s in it.
Often touted as the go to healthy lunch, not all sushi is that healthy. Eating too much fish-based sushi can potentially expose you to high levels of mercury that can lead to sleeplessness, anxiety as well as increasing the risk of heart disease and nervous system development.
Tip: When having sushi, focus on quality over quantity. Look to buy it from retailers and restaurants you know source high quality, low mercury fish. Also look to mix and match with some of the vegetable sushi options to reduce the risk of exposure.
11) 100% Fruit Juice
Fruit contains fructose, a form of natural sugar that is packed with vitamins. When you eat fresh fruit, you also consuming enough fibre to slow down the rate of sugar absorption into your system, meaning it is released slowly and you do not experience a insulin spike. However there’s no fibre in pure fruit juices, so all of that sugar goes straight to the liver to be absorbed. This can be quite a lot for your system to handle and if it proves too much the body then converts the natural sugars into fat, which can contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance.
Tip: It’s best to eat fresh fruit or to have it within a smoothie where you are still getting some of the fibre. If you want to have a fruit smoothie or juice, it’s always good to aim to have 2/3 vegetables to 1/3 fruit. This will ensure you aren’t having too much fructose at one time and is also a great way to add some more veg to your diet.
Read More: InStyle's Fashion Director Shares Her Favourite NutriBullet Recipes...
Once considered the healthy alternative due to lower levels of saturated fats, it has since been found that it’s actually the high levels of processed vegetable oils that are damaging to your body and are now linked to heart disease.
Tip: Switch margarine for full fat butter or if you want a dairy free option, try coconut oil. Both are filled with healthy fats that are fundamental in ensuring optimal body functionality.