When I determine whether a food is healthful, I basically follow this flowsheet. Here are ten foods that fail the test but most people think these foods are healthy or healthful.
10. Bananas and Other Tropical Fruit.
Yes, I know that bananas have almost 10% of your daily requirement of potassium but so do a lot of things. Avocados, spinach, Swiss chard, coconuts, and a Flintstone’s chewable vitamin all have way more potassium than bananas. You know what else bananas have? Sugar, a poop-ton of sugar, usually more than 20 grams per nanner, which is a lot. Bananas fail the above flowsheet and are not healthy. Bananas are making us fat. The only thing you should use bananas for is feeding monkeys and when you are showing 5th graders how to put on a condom in health class. It’s not just bananas, it’s almost all tropical fruit. Mangos, pineapple, papaya are all super high in sugar (pineapples are the worst of all BTW). Don’t eat them either.
9. Oatmeal. Yes, I know that all your favorite athletes eat this before their morning workout and it really helps you poop, but it’s not super good for you. If you run ten miles per day (you shouldn’t) and like to fuel up with oatmeal before your run, and you look super good in the shower, then fine, eat it. But most of us eat this before sitting in our cars on our commute and then sitting at our desks in meetings where the only thing we run is our mouths. There are some good things about oatmeal like the fiber and some nutrients, but it contains 70 grams of carbs, before you add raisins, milk, and brown sugar! If you are going to eat oatmeal, steel cut oats are the best, as they are more slowly digested, which is a good thing when you are talking about carbs because slow digestion reduces your glucose spikes and reduces insulin release.
Because of glucose elevations from cortisol (the stress hormone that gets us out of bed) we are especially sensitive to morning carbs and therefore should avoid oatmeal, breakfast cereals, bagels, pancakes, waffles and toast. Basically, you should eat some eggs, bacon, or coffee with butter, cream, or coconut oil (I’ll explain more in my breakfast post coming soon).
8. Bars. I don’t care what the bar’s prefix is. Energy, granola, Power, mountain, candy, …they’re all bad. Usually filled with processed crap, sugar, carbs etc. Don’t eat them. Eat some macadamia nuts, pistachios, or beef jerky.
7. Quinoa. Yes, this is a gluten-free complete protein that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Great. If you are a vegetarian endurance athlete and have a hard time keeping weight on, then maybe quinoa is a good choice for you. I don’t fit this category, and neither do most of my patients. Quinoa has 110 grams of carbs per cup. I’m not trying to get anyone into carb counting or nutritional data memorizing. I just want you to know that quinoa is way too high in carbs and will make us gain weight if we eat a lot of it. Furthermore, quinoa doesn’t taste good enough to make me go sploosh. Examples of things that make me go sploosh are pizza, beer, and a young shirtless Burt Reynolds. I’ve never gone sploosh for quinoa. If you sploosh for quinoa, I’m gonna make three assumptions about you, at least one will be correct…You have a room somewhere in your house that is soundproof with at least three locks on the door. You have a safe word, or at least you should. You own a holiday themed bong.
In a previous post, I mentioned how I think carrots and red peppers are good foods despite the fact that they have a little sugar, nobody ever became obese from these foods. I admit that it’s unlikely that anyone ever became obese from quinoa, but it’s not helping us lose those love handles and it doesn’t taste like a Meat Lover’s Supreme Pizza so who needs it?
6. Whole wheat anything. People think that whole grains are healthy. They’re not. Are they healthier than their more refined white flour cousins? Maybe, but it’s a close call. The NYT Best-selling book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, points out that whole wheat products are often more dense and higher in net carbs than white flour products. Whole wheat products usually have a couple more grams of fiber but that’s not a huge deal. Trying to figure out which is healthier is like trying to pick the best Police Academy sequel, they’re all bad, but Police Academy 3 Back In Training was probably the least bad of the six film franchise, excluding the original of course.
So, when I have to choose between unhealthy foods, I always go with the tastiest food. I choose crusty fresh French bread over the dense cardboard whole wheat stuff. In conclusion, I rarely eat wheat products but when I do; I want them to taste really good, so I don’t eat whole wheat, ever. If you prefer the taste of whole wheat, then by all means eat that, but only eat it occasionally, and don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s healthy. On an unrelated note, I’m pretty sure Jeffrey Dahmer preferred whole wheat bread over white too.
5. Yogurt. To be clear, unsweetened organic full fat Greek yogurt is fine, that’s not what I am referring to. I’m referring to the low fat, heavily sweetened, supermarket staple with the foil tops and all of their kissing yogurt cousins. I don’t care if the fruit is on the bottom, or the top, or if it’s spelled “Frogurt”, if there’s granola topping, if it’s your favorite fruity pebbles flavor, or if you have to suck it hard through a tube to get the yogurt to squirt into your mouth. This stuff is processed sugary junk. Stop eating it and stop feeding it to your kids.
4. Diet Sodas- Sugary sodas are terrible for us. You know this. Years ago, many of us (myself included) made the logical switch to diet soda from sugary soda because diet soda has no sugar and is therefore low in calories. If you drink two 20 ounce bottles of sugary sodas per day, and you switch to diet soda, then you save 210,000 calories per year. If you ask a dietician, they will tell you that 3500 calories is equal to a pound of fat and by that math, eliminating those 210,000 calories will cause an obese person to lose 60 pounds of fat per year. That’s great news. I think the soda companies have just solved the obesity crisis in America. What’s that? Diet soda isn’t new? People are still overweight? Damn.
Unfortunately, people don’t lose much weight (if any) when they switch to diet soda, because our weight is way more complicated than a calories in vs calories out equation. Researchers think that fake sugar (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin etc) trick our taste buds into thinking we are eating sugar, but also trick our pancreas. This triggers insulin and weight gain. Others think it negatively affects the gut microbiome, or the fact that soda seems to leech essential vitamins and minerals from the body, but in any case, switching to diet sodas doesn’t seem to have the effect on our weight that we would expect or hope for. So stop drinking any soda because it isn’t good for us. Also, stop counting calories, it’s pointless. Have some sparkling water, unsweetened coffee, tea, or bourbon.
3. Fruit Juice. I want you to compare these two nutrition labels and tell me which beverage is healthier.
The first label is unsweetened apple juice and the second is classic Pepsi. I would argue that apple juice is worse than soda in some ways, and I truly hate soda. First, apple juice pretends to be good for you, where Pepsi makes no such false claims. Second, the Classic Pepsi uses real sugar which is a healthier than fructose. I know that most sodas use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and not real sugar but even when compared to HFCS containing soda, apple juice seems like an equally bad choice. These juices get kids hooked on sugar, inhibits learning, and leads to early obesity. We should stop feeding our kids juice and stop drinking it ourselves. My high fructose corn syrup rant is coming soon…
2. Breakfast Cereals
The phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” was invented by ad men, not scientists to sell breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereal yields the greatest percentage profits to manufacturers in the whole grocery store. A five dollar box of Wheaties costs 24 cents to produce, the packaging costs 17 cents and the “Wheaties” in the box costs 7 cents. Kellogs spends more money lobbying the USDA to put “Heart Healthy” on the box, then they pay to buy the food that goes in the box. I have many problems with breakfast cereals, and not just the frosted, fruited, cocoa, and marsh-mellowed ones but also the cereals that are trying to sell themselves as a good nutritional choice. It’s not just that they are unhealthy, but they are also a huge rip-off. I feel like people are being manipulated and cheated both in terms of their waistline and their pocketbook. There’s a lot of money in getting you to eat cheap carbs, just remember that when you hear media reports about the dangers of eating “whole 30” or paleo or keto or whatever foods that don’t make huge profits for food manufacturers. Ask yourself who profits and follow the money. That’s often the best way to find the truth.
As a follow on question, if your breakfast consists of gas station donuts and cigarettes, is it really the most important meal of the day?
1. Margarine and Vegetable Oils. This stuff is poison and yet some people, not you, mostly idiots, still think they are making a good choice with margarine. This is partially because of dishonest marketing but also because people like the American Heart Association still want to throw shade on saturated fats like butter or coconut oil. Margarine is unsaturated and so it seems like the better choice to many Americans. It’s actually terrible. It’s made using refined vegetable oils that has been processed via “hydrogenation” to become solid at room temperature and resistant to spoilage. In that process, manufacturers have taken a moderately unhealthy food (refined vegetable oil) and created an incredibly unhealthy food (margarine). They then mix in some artificial flavors so that we humans can tolerate the taste. You know who can’t tolerate it? Animals. You can leave this stuff out in the forest and animals will starve to death before they eat this stuff.
But Dr. Jimmy, what’s wrong with vegetable oils, aren’t veggies good for us? Yes, veggies are good but these vegetable oils are not. P.S. nobody is making vegetable oil from kale it’s always heavily industrialized crops like canola and corn. All of these vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids (remember that omega-3’s are the good ones). These omega-6’s are pro-inflammatory and can lead to a multitude of health problems from eczema, obesity, depression, and anxiety.
What’s ironic is that margarine is sold to Americans as a healthy alternative to butter. Some of these butter substitutes are mono and di glycerides which makes them basically as bad as the trans fats. In reality, these products are a thousand times worse than butter and everyone knows it. So why is it still sold? I’m rubbing my thumb and first two fingers together right now. That’s right, money. Margarine is almost free to make and food manufacturers sell it at an enormous markup creating massive profits. Sam Elliot’s character in Fast Food Nation has a line that sums up the processed food manufacturers motives perfectly, “They (processed food manufacturers) would slit your throat for a nickel, but it’s nothing personal, they just really want that nickel”.
Other foods receiving votes as bad “Healthful” foods: Fruit smoothies, brown rice, and “gluten free” replacement foods..