YOGURT

Yogurt makes my brain hurt. It’s been marketed to death as a “health food,” because it has probiotics that are important to your gut health and health in general, and people on low-carb diets seem to think that yogurt is a great low-carb food. There’s a few problems with yogurt though, first off most people on low-carb diets are trying to lose weight, but a lot of yogurt has additives that actually end up making it high in carbs. Second, it’s important to realize that a lot of the yogurt you see in the grocery store has been pasteurized which actually kills many the probiotics that might be the reason you’re eating the yogurt to begin with. Additionally, most yogurt is packed with sugar that is going to cause you to gain weight and wreak havoc on your health. Yogurt is made from dairy which causes inflammation and increased mucus production, and even organic dairy products contain growth hormones; growth hormones are naturally occurring in milk because milk is meant to help baby cows grow from being fairly small to gigantic (just think about that for a minute).

Greek yogurt seems to be the latest craze in yogurt because it is higher in protein than regular yogurt, but some of the “greek” yogurts on the market actually are imitation greek yogurt, and by that I mean they’ve taken regular yogurt and added thickeners to it to make it seem like greek yogurt. Some of these thickeners like xanthan gum, carrageenan, or gellan gum can have a negative effect on your digestion and overall health. The FDA doesn’t have any rules or regulations on what can be labeled “greek” so it is especially important to check labels when it comes to greek yogurt and if there’s something in it that doesn’t seem like it should be there steer clear.

If you must have yogurt I recommend getting plain yogurt and adding your own fruit, honey, or vanilla to it, but they are making some really great dairy-free yogurts these days made out of cashew, coconut, and almond, all of these alternatives have probiotics in them just like regular yogurt. If you are going to opt for one of these dairy-free yogurts I still recommend checking the ingredient label and maybe getting plain and sprucing it up yourself to avoid consuming a large amount of sugar.

There are tons of ways to get probiotics other than yogurt. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha, raw honey, and water kefir are all great dairy-free sources of probiotics.

LOW-FAT, SUGAR-FREE, AND HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP

People seem to be becoming more hip to the fact that low-fat, “diet,” and sugar-free foods don’t actually help with weight loss, and that high fructose corn syrup isn’t good for them. But I’m not sure if people know why. With low-fat or sugar-free foods they take out the fat and sugar and replace them with chemicals, your body doesn’t recognize these chemicals as food or something it can digest, it confuses your body and the signals your brain ends up sending to your body are that it should go into starvation mode where you actually end up storing fat. And putting things into your body that your body cannot digest can have a negative impact on digestion all together, digestion is one of the most important functions in maintaining good health. High fructose corn syrup is the same deal, it’s so over processed and so far from anything our body can recognize as food that when we ingest it our bodies don’t know what to do with it and we end up storing more fat. The word “fructose” should immediately raise a red flag when you see it in food as it is a sweetener that has many terrible effects on your health when consumed in large quantities. Several years ago I went nuts when I started seeing commercials claiming that high fructose corn syrup was the same as sugar, IT’S NOT THE SAME!  Since all of these “foods” confuse our bodies so much they actually increase our appetite causing us to eat more. There’s just nothing good about any of it.

AGAVE NECTAR

Natural alternatives to sugar have become really popular in the last few years. At this point probably everyone has heard of agave nectar; it has been marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar. While agave is naturally much lower on the glycemic index than sugar and the nectar of the agave plant does have many health benefits, we need to take a closer look at what is being sold in grocery stores. Most agave nectar you find on the shelf at the grocery store should not really even be called “nectar” at all, “nectar” implies that it’s simply been extracted from the plant and bottled which would be true of the sweetener traditionally made and used by mexicans for many years, but that’s most likely not the case for what you’re buying. The problem with the agave nectar on the market is that it’s highly refined and processed.

The process used to make most agave nectars found in grocery stores is actually very similar to how high fructose corn syrup is made. Treated with heat and enzymes all of the properties in agave that have been found to be beneficial to your health get broken down and turned into fructose. Because of it’s high fructose content the agave nectar sold in stores actually does the opposite of what it claims to do, it can cause weight gain and insulin resistance. Fructose (unlike glucose) can only be broken down in the liver; when metabolized free radicals form and uric acid is released which can contribute to inflammation in the body and cell damage. And again, just as with high fructose corn syrup we have something that is so over processed that our bodies don’t recognize it as food.

Instead of agave nectar I recommend using raw honey or unrefined coconut sugar. Honey has less fructose than other sweeteners and has a ton of really amazing health benefits. Coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic index than sugar is and has many great health benefits as well.

To sum everything up: Don’t be fooled by marketing schemes, read labels, and if you really want to eat for your health, EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS!

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