‘You are what you eat,’ says my grandma. That was one of her favorite mantras.
Sometimes I walk into grocery stores browsing through all the items and a thought comes to mind, ‘why do most reports say that upwards of 580,000 deaths every year in the United States are caused by eating unhealthy foods’? Could it be that most of the foods on the shelves we think are healthy are in the real sense, very unhealthy?
Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that there are lots of unhealthy food items on the shelves of most grocery stores. These foods take years off your life and increase your risk of certain diseases such as cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and increase in LDL cholesterol. Also, they are detrimental to the well being of children.
One of the top foods on my ‘Never-to-buy-list’ is margarine or margarine-like products. I remember growing up and watching my aunt who lived with us make pancakes with margarine. Looking back, I wish I had known better. Margarine contains partially hydrogenated fat or trans fats which are unhealthy. This fact resonates the popular saying which goes, ‘ As for butter Vs margarine, I trust cows more than the chemists’, funny but true. I know for sure that an attractive and healthier alternative is natural butter (real grass-fed butter) with equal parts of virgin olive oil.
The next nightmare is our popular smoked and cured meats. ‘Nothing goes better with a little Iced tea than some fine barbecue’, most of our thoughts during summer. But what we do not know is the fact that smoked and cured meats are unhealthy. Apart from being packed with artery clogging grease, the amount of preservatives (sodium) and chemicals used in making them are detrimental to one’s health. Thankfully, there goes our summer and here comes a December to remember! In order to nip this in the bud, a healthier alternative to smoked and cured meat should be sought. Unprocessed meats are healthier and are not detrimental to one’s health. Nevertheless, moderation is key to meat consumption.
As we all know that eating fish helps cut the risk of most diseases; yet, not everyone knows there are types of fish that are not healthy for consumption. Swordfish is one of the culprits because it has high concentrations of mercury, a neurotoxin that can damage developing brains in fetuses. Young children and women of child-bearing age are the most affected when this type of fish is consumed. And you would wonder which fish are the healthiest; they are wild salmons, tilapia, herrings and sardines. Due to the high omega-3 fatty acids, incorporating fatty fish into one’s diet twice a week would lower the rates of certain diseases and also prevent them.
Another item to ignore is energy drinks. How many of us have had to stay up late to study for that awful test or write a 10-page review of a business case? And often times, we rely on energy drinks to keep us going? This is a no-no. The unique blend of sugar, caffeine and taurine in an energy drink may combine to have an effect on the heart in adults and kids. Water or ginseng tea are healthier and energizing substitutes and a must-try.
Oats are a good source of fiber and minerals, stashed with lots of health benefits. Also, studies have shown that a steaming bowl of oatmeal is the perfect way to kick-start one’s day. However, artificially flavored oats / instant oatmeal are unhealthy, highly processed and contain additives such as sugar and artificial coloring. Alternatively, buy plain oats; add fruits, nuts and honey for a healthful benefit. For the kids, microwave plain oats with milk and add fruits.
Lastly, are yogurts. They are healthy, oh yes! But whenever you see the words ‘fat-free,’ ‘low-fat,’ or ‘diet’ on any beverage, yogurt, dairy etc, think of the words “chemically infused” as a universal code for,”we took out the fat and stuffed in more sugar.” I bet you would not be shocked to see aspartame or some other form of artificial sweetener in it. Aspartame causes birth defects, cancer, diabetes, emotional disorders etc and must be avoided in general. For a healthier option, one should go for plain Greek Yogurt.
Do not forget to stock up on the right foods and be on your path to healthy living.
By Healthy Homes intern, Nnenna Jones