This week’s post is about unexpected foods to avoid for the sake of your general health and the health of your skin. Some of these foods are unfortunately marketed as being healthy, misleading consumers into thinking they are making positive health choices when buying them. Here is our list of fake ‘health’ foods to avoid.
The fat taken out of ‘low-fat’ foods is usually replaced with sugar, sweeteners, salt, flavourings or a combination, to ensure the products still taste good. This is because of course, when you take the fat out, foods usually taste pretty bad! However, sugar is way more damaging to your skin than fat. Ironically, it is also more likely to cause weight gain because fat has what is referred to as a ‘high satiety value’ meaning it sends signals to your brain telling you to stop eating! Low fat yoghurts and probiotic yoghurt drinks are a prime example. They are marketed as healthy, but most brands are packed with sugar, artificial flavourings and sweeteners. Instead stick to real foods like natural, live full-fat yoghurt with berries, which provides vitamins, protein and ‘friendly’ bacteria without the unwanted extras.
There has been so much misinformation about carbohydrates, mainly due to various popular low-carb diet plans. Carbohydrates are however, in no way ‘bad’ for us or ‘fattening’ and whole-grains form an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Refined carbohydrates on the other hand, do cause problems as they produce blood sugar and insulin spikes, which are linked to various health issues. These spikes increase processes in the body such as inflammation and oxidative stress, which contribute to various disease processes and skin ageing. In addition, they can play havoc with your energy levels, mood and appetite. The ones to watch out for are rice cakes, white rice sushi, bagels, white pasta and white rice (in addition to the more obvious white breads, pastries, cakes and biscuits). Instead choose oats, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, oatcakes, millet, barley, quinoa and wholemeal, rye or spelt breads.
For years saturated fat was believed to be the cause of heart disease and this prompted the nation to switch from butter to ‘marge’. However, it is now known that saturated fat from natural foods like butter and meat, in sensible amounts, does not cause any problems. Margarine is a man-made, highly processed food, made from refined vegetable oils and sometimes even toxic trans fats, which are much more of a health threat than saturated fats (although these have mostly been phased out now). Margarines can also be high in added salt and chemical food additives. There are a few reasonable brands out there for vegans, available from health food shops and better supermarkets, but the majority of brands are not great. Instead use small amounts of grass-fed, organic butter or ghee, plus coconut and olive oils.
Dairy consumption, especially cow’s milk has been linked with an increased risk of acne. This is believed to be due to changes in hormones, which may lead to increased sebum production in the skin. Some people also have problems digesting lactose, the naturally occurring sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance is linked with various health problems, including skin conditions such as acne and eczema. In addition, the saturated fat in dairy increases inflammation in the body, which can exacerbate these skin conditions. If you are suffering with acne or eczema, you could first try switching to organic milk from grass-fed cows, which has a better nutrient profile and can be easier to digest. If this doesn’t help, try a plant-based milk, such as almond, coconut or oat milk.
87% of households in the UK eat packaged cereals every single weekday, making them by far our most popular breakfast choice in the UK. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these are based on refined carbohydrates with plenty of added sugar. Regularly eating sugary foods like this can contribute to premature ageing of the skin. This type of breakfast does not keep you full or satisfied for very long as it contains hardly any fibre or protein. Be aware that this applies to many products marketed as ‘low fat’, ‘wholegrain’ or for slimmers. There are however, some super healthy mueslis, granolas and porridges out there, but you have to choose carefully. Always read the ingredients list and look for products based on oats, or other healthy whole-grains, with no added sugar.
Beware of coffees from high-street chains, which can be loaded with sugar, caffeine, fat and calories. Some large lattes contain around the same amount of calories as an entire meal and up to 20 teaspoons of sugar! This amount of sugar, in combination with the dehydrating effects of too much caffeine is certainly not going to improve the appearance of your skin. It can also drain your energy in the long run; as the caffeine may give an initial energy boost, but this is followed by fatigue later. (This is the point when we usually reach for another coffee or something sugary!) Try green tea instead which contains a little caffeine for a gentle pick-me-up and is packed with skin-loving antioxidants.
Many of us equate the words gluten or dairy free with healthy, however this is not necessarily the case. There is a now a large supermarket aisle filled with free-from products and the vast majority of these products are unfortunately not particularly healthy. Many gluten-free products, for example are made from refined gluten-free grains, such as cornstarch or white rice flour. Because removing ingredients like gluten or dairy means the product may not taste as good, manufacturers often add more sugar, salt, fat and flavourings to compensate. Unless you need to avoid these foods for health reasons, a free-from biscuit or cake is therefore just as unhealthy as a regular one, possibly even worse! The take home message is the same; choose, real, whole foods and avoid the processed ones whether they are gluten, dairy or anything else free!
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