Food. It’s so complex. One day you’re eating a hot, trendy food that has amazing health benefits, and the next day you learn that same food can cause disease. What just happened? How can the switch flip so quickly?

Food just isn’t what it was a mere 50 or 60 years ago. Today we have packaged foods that remain mysteriously edible for many months, if not years on end, genetically modified foods that come power-packed with antibiotics, and hormone-infused meats and dairy that are throwing our own hormones for a loop. So, yeah – combine these elements along with the myriad of unpronounceable newly-invented ingredients and you’ve got a disease.

But not all food is bad. And some foods are better than others. So, when do you freak out, geek out, or just eat the foods you encounter?

Freak Out

  • Chips Ahoy! Cookies and most other commercially-prepared cookies, cakes and bars. Chips Ahoy, in particular, contains both trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.  As if sugar wasn’t bad enough, a cookie loaded with chemically-altered fats and sugar could only mean trouble.
  • Cool Whip or just about any other commercially prepared whipped topping. Chemically-altered fats and high fructose corn syrup again. It sounds light, fresh and convenient. The reality is that every two-tablespoon serving is over 50% bad fats. And the rest? Sugar, preservatives and artificial flavors.
  • Margarine of any brand. With all the awareness about trans fats, it’s amazing that the FDA still allows for this food product to be on the market. To call margarine unhealthy would be an understatement.
  • Fast Food French Fries will never be good for you. Ever. You already know this, but it had to make the list.
  • Diet Sodas and Artificial Sweeteners are approved by the FDA and regarded as safe, but so are products made with BPA – and we all know how toxic that is. If you’re hooked on diet sodas or little blue packets of sweetness, try to cut back or substitute stevia instead.
  • Unfermented Soy Products. I know this strikes a chord with a lot of people, but I still don’t get why there is still so much hype about the health of edamame, tofu and soy-based protein bars. Most of soy is genetically-modified, it’s probably one of the most common allergens around, the phytic acid within it blocks mineral absorption, and it wasn’t even in our food system until fairly recently.

Geek Out

  • Cookies from the bakery on the corner. We have lots of local bakeries here in Chicago, including my favorite B True Bakery. Many of these bakeries proudly make food with only natural and sometimes organic ingredients. I’m not saying a sugary cookie is good for you, but having a good cookie every once in a while to support a local business is well worth it to me!
  • Real heavy whipping cream you make at home for holidays and celebrations. No, it’s not necessarily something you want to eat a lot of, but on occasion, real heavy whipping cream is a lot healthier than a prepared version loaded with odd-sounding ingredients.
  • Home Fries that you cut, toss in olive oil and bake could be a lot worse. I could certainly geek out about the how high potatoes are on the glycemic index, or how the acrylamides formed when browning could be very harmful, but …if you’re eating a handful every now and then, don’t freak out.
  • Conventional Yogurt and Dairy that has undoubtedly been tainted by growth hormone and antibiotics. I would never recommend someone eat conventional over organic, but if you’re at the in laws or a guest at a party, questioning whether or not the ingredients meet your standards might cause more rift than it’s worth.
  • Canned foods are convenient and affordable. But what a lot of people don’t know is that a majority of cans are lined with BPA. More and more food producers are copping on that consumers don’t want BPA weaving its way into their food, so they’re making efforts to clean up their act. Don’t know if the canned foods you’re eating are lined with BPA? Ask your grocer, or contact the company directly.

Just Eat It

  • Homemade cookies, if eaten sparingly, should not be a source of a freak out – especially if they’re made with TLC by a family member. Go ahead, have one or two, then call it a day.
  • Butter is a nutritious and stable fat, and a far better choice than margarine, corn or soybean oil. Butter is great to cook, especially is your roasting or baking to high heats.
  • Fermented soy foods like soy sauce, tempeh, miso and natto are all much better for you than the unfermented soy I mentioned above, particularly because it’s easier to digest and the phytic acid (which has the potential to block loads of minerals) is greatly diminished.
  • Eggs are good for you, including the yolk! As long as your primary source of eggs isn’t the scrambled variety that’s been sitting under heat lamps at the nearby buffet restaurant, you should be able to eat a fair amount with no problems whatsoever.
  • Just about anything that would have been in your grandmother’s or great grandmother’s pantry back in the day.

 

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