- Soy Protein Bars – Luna Protein Bars, Odwalla Super Protein Bar, PowerBars, ClifBar, Special K Protein Meal Bars – These (and other) bars are made from conventional soy protein that is extracted with hexane and concentrated and processed into soy protein isolate, a substance that acts like a drug in the body. Hexane is a solvent derived from petroleum that is neurotoxic. Since companies are not required to test for hexane residue in our food products, there is no way to know how much hexane we are consuming. Soy protein is a plant estrogen, and when concentrated, it can have estrogen like effects that can be harmful – especially to children, and to women with a personal or family history of breast cancer. It also can affect thyroid function. To avoid this hexane derived plant estrogen, eat only whole, fermented soy products (no soy protein powders or isolates) and foods that are USDA certified organic.
- Sports Drinks – Gatorade and Powerade both contain sugars, salt, artificial food dyes, additives, and have only recently removed a flame retardant from the ingredient list. You aren’t able to drink something that is electric blue without the help of some serious artificial colors. Don’t run your first 10K or rally your friends for a breast cancer walk only to “refuel” with these toxic liquids. If you really need to replace electrolytes, eat a banana, drink coconut water, or have a cleaner version such as Heed by Hammer or Recharge by RW Knudsen. And please don’t give these drinks to children. Most little kids don’t need electrolyte replacement when playing sports. To decrease childhood obesity and to improve the health and nutrition of children, refuel with water, oranges, and bananas and avoid the glow in the dark sports drinks. They are rarely necessary and they may be harmful.
- Breakfast Cereals and Cereal Bars – Special K and Kashi cereals and Quaker and Special K Cereal Bars – First, refined grains are not a health food. Even with the fiber boost they offer, it’s better to eat whole grains such as cooked millet or quinoa than to eat a processed breakfast cereal or a cereal bar. Many are loaded with sugars, artificial sweeteners and colors, trans fats, and preservatives. Varieties such as Kashi and Special K make big promises that don’t deliver. Read the ingredient labels to see that the protein in Special K and Kashi’s “high protein” cereals and bars is an overly processed and concentrated soy protein that may affect thyroid and hormone function. The rest of the ingredients are refined grains, synthetic vitamins, and teeny, tiny amounts of fruit that can’t possibly count as a fruit – often they are nutritionally empty dried fruit bits dyed to look like a healthier fruit. For better nutrition, skip the overpriced, over marketed, over processed cereals and cereal bars, and choose a cooked, whole grain alternative such as steel cut oats, quinoa, or millet. When on the go, choose homemade trailmix or a raw foods or homemade granola bar.
- Flavored Yogurt – plain, unflavored yogurt is wholesome and full of gut healthy probiotics, but some processed varieties such as Danon Light and Fit and Yoplait Light Non-Fat offer little nutrition and lots of additives. The artificial sweeteners and food dyes provide a dose of chemicals that just aren’t necessary. Choose organic, plain yogurt and add your own sweeteners to taste. Maple syrup and honey are excellent choices or you can add fresh fruit and skip the sweeteners entirely.
- Rice Drinks and Brown Rice Syrup – The sad, sad news is that rice products consistently test high for inorganic arsenic, a mineral that is absorbed into the rice plant during its growth. Inorganic arsenic is in soil and water as a byproduct of fertilizer and pesticide use, and it’s present in all types of rice, even organic rice. A consumer reports study measures inorganic arsenic levels in rice products, and makes recommendations for how much is safe to consume and how to cook rice to lower arsenic levels. You can find the most recent report here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm
Regular exposure to even low amounts of inorganic arsenic may increase risk for lung, bladder, and skin cancer, plus heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Avoid rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas, and choose rice grown in California, India, or Pakistan. To be safest, avoid drinking rice drinks and avoid concentrated brown rice syrup (often a sweetener in protein bars – read labels!). Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking and eat a variety of wholesome grains including quinoa, buckwheat, farro, and millet.
- Canned Tomatoes – Bisphenol-A, BPA, is a resin used to line most cans. Unfortunately it acts like a synthetic estrogen in the body, and can disrupt hormones and increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The acidity of tomatoes causes more BPA to leach into the tomatoes than other, less acidic, foods. To be safe, choose fresh tomatoes or use only those tomatoes stored in BPA free cans, in glass such as Bionature, or in aseptic boxes such as Pomi.
- Veggie Burgers and Soy Meats – Boca Burgers, Garden Burger, Morningstar Farms, Lightlife – These animal product-free alternatives to meat (and others) are overly processed and contain a slew of artificial additives, potential carcinogenic caramel color, and preservatives to improve taste and maintain shelf life. Many contain excitoxic MSG (which may lead to neurological and behavioral dysfunction) in the form of hydrolyzed wheat protein, hexane derived soy concentrates, and yeast extract. They also contain MSG flavor enhancers such as disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. Always choose USDA Organic products, not products labeled “made with organic ingredients”. To avoid the negative effects of processed soy and the completely fake food experience of eating veggie burgers whose ingredient list reads like a chem. lab, skip those made with soy protein and choose a variety that uses beans, grains, veggies, and nuts such as Sunshine Burgers.
- Crystal Light and Mio – These products are marketed as “water enhancers”, but contain nothing more than artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives. Water doesn’t need to be “enhanced”, especially not with a slew of toxic chemicals! For flavor, squeeze some lemon or lime juice into your water or add some whole slices of orange, cucumber, or other favorite fruit or veggie. Water is the perfect calorie free choice, and as a bonus, when unenhanced, it won’t cause cancer!
- Processed Bread Products, even 100% Whole Wheat varieties. Read ingredient labels to avoid additives such as azodicarbonamide (it’s breakdown products are recognized carcinogens), caramel color (a potential carcinogen common in whole wheat varieties), and the artificial sweetener sucralose. Choose less processed bread products with fewer ingredients and less (or no) controversial additives and preservatives.
- Quorn – This is the brand name of a meat substitute derived from a fungus. It causes serious allergic reactions in some people that may occur upon first exposure or after building up a sensitivity over time. It is safest to avoid this substance, and not be fooled by marketing claims that it is “natural” and a “healthy protein”. Be cautious!
Remember, if you’re nourished by real food, you won’t crave the fake stuff and you’ll be more satisfied. Count chemicals, not calories, and start feeling your best right now.