5 Things That We Think Are Healthy….They’re not

  1. Mouthwash 
    • Conventional mouthwash is often alcohol-based, with an alcohol content ranging from 18-26 percent. “Products with alcohol can contribute to cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat when used regularly,” the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia’s (EHANS’s) “Guide to Less Toxic Products” reports, adding that a 2009 review in the Dental Journal of Australia confirmed the link between alcohol-based mouthwashes and an increased risk of oral cancers. See reference
    • And you might want to avoid mouthwashes with fluoride (aka sodium fluoride). While fluoride may help fight cavities, ingesting too much of it has been linked to neurological problems.
    • Common mouthwash sweeteners have also been linked to health problems: Saccharin is arguably the most toxic, while sucralose is also questionable. Synthetic colors can also be troublesome. Read more here.
    • Some brands contain formaldehyde (aka quanternium-15) – gross. Read more here.
    • Better Option: Skip it. Or, use non-alcoholic mouthwashes without artificial coloring. I like this one:
  2. Hand Sanitizer
    • We’re increasingly obsessed with killing every bacterium within a 5-mile radius of us or our children, and it’s not serving us. If you really want to use a hand sanitizer, you’ll want one with a concentration of at least 60% alcohol or it won’t do the job. But, do we really need it? As it turns out, there’s may be such a thing as too much “clean.” Check this out from the NY Times – and make sure you know what’s really in your hand sanitizer – this includes anti-bacterial soaps as well.
    • Of course, you can always make your own Essential Oil Hand Sanitizer
      • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
      • 3/4 cup rubbing alcohol
      • 10 drops essential oil of your choice
  3. Sports Drinks (Gatorade, Vitaminwater, etc)
    • These drinks may be better than soda, but barely. A bottle of regular Vitaminwater delivers a walloping 32 grams of sugar (versus 39 grams in soda). And the origins of all those “reviving” vitamins might surprise you: Vitamin B1 starts with a coal tar chemical, B3 is made from a waste product in the production of nylon, and vitamin C starts with a corn-based ingredient called sorbitol. Vitamin D, amazingly, comes from sheep grease. None come from food.
    • Read that label! A single bottle of vitamin-enriched water usually contains 2.5 servings. That means you’re consuming more than twice the calories and sugar listed on the label when you drink the whole bottle.
    • How about those “power” sports drinks? One bottle (20 oz) of Powerade contains 34 grams of sugar, which is about 8 teaspoons of sugar. Compare that to 20 oz of Gatorade at 35 grams of sugar (about 8.3 teaspoons of sugar), and take a look at the ingredients, and then decide for yourself – water might be the better choice. 
    • Better option: water, or make your own electrolyte drink
  4. Protein, or “Energy” Bars 
    • This one is my weakness. I love a protein bar. But, beware of the impostors. Very, very few protein bars are even remotely healthful. Many contain artificial sweeteners galore, chemicals for flavoring and color that are not helping your body, soy, nasty oils (see below) and loads of sugar and junk calories. Read those ingredients! Look for more protein that sugar and carbs, and, put simply, minimize your intake of ingredients you don’t recognize. 
    • Better options: Quest “all natural” flavors(I avoid their flavors sweetened with sucralose), Epic All Natural Meat Bar, and KIND bars. Look for fewer, better ingredients!
    • BONUS TIP:  Agave – not all the rage anymore. Agave is often touted as the “healthy” or “low GI” alternative to sugar, and it’s added to many “energy bars” and other “healthy treats.” But, alas, agave is actually very highly processed, and super high in fructose. Agave can be as much as 90% fructose (sugar is 50% fructose, high-fructose corn syrup is 55%!).  Better option: raw, natural honey as a sweetener
    • PS – Other foods that are often high in sugar and trying to pass themselves off as “healthy” choices: frozen yogurt, fat-free salad dressings, low-fat yogurt, low-fat ice cream – pretty much anything that advertises itself as “reduced fat” (think “increased sugar”).
  5. Fake Fats & Fake Butters: Canola, Vegetable, Corn and Soy Oils  
    • First, read this great summary on why it’s best to avoid this fake food group, which is all over the grocery store in processed foods and even in Whole Foods’ hot bar (darn it!)
    • Canola oil/Rapeseed oil: About 87% of canola oil is genetically modified. To create canola oil, one must take the crude oil that has been heat extracted from rape seeds (what canola oil is made from) and refine, bleach and deodorize it. The fact that it is processed under high heat causes it to go rancid, which then creates the need for industrial carcinogenic bleaches and deodorizers like hexane.
    • Vegetable oil/Soybean oil: Although vegetable oil sounds lovely and natural, vegetable oil is actually just soybean oil most of the time (take a look at the ingredients in a bottle of vegetable oil and very often you’ll see just one – “soybean oil”). Soybean oil is 54% omega-6; too much omega-6 in our diets is a root cause of inflammation and health issues.
      • A word about soy: “Soy is high in phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors which means that it blocks the absorption of many vitamins, minerals and proteins. It also contains phyto-estrogens that can mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt normal hormone function which could possibly lead to increased cancer risk.”  
    • Butter Substitutes (Earth Balance, Smart Balance, Margarine): Butter substitutes are mostly a mix of canola and soybean oils. Margarine is a highly processed food that was invented to replace butter. The primary ingredient is vegetable oil along with emulsifiers, colorants and various artificial ingredients. Vegetable oil is liquid at room temperature. This is why margarine is often hydrogenated, which gives it a harder consistency and extends shelf life. Hydrogenation also turns some of the vegetable oils into trans fats. Yum!
    • Better option: Real butter from grass-fed, antibiotic-free cows  (eg Kerrygold butter) 

I hope this list is helpful to you. If you think it would be helpful to share, send it to someone who is just starting their own path to wellness. The more information we have, the better. What not-so-healthy foods are on your list to avoid?


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