The popularity of health food stores has skyrocketed in recent years, along with bigger markets like Whole Foods and others selling organic and non-GMO foods at premium prices.
But while these stores generally offer much healthier foods and supplements than their mainstream counterparts, there are plenty of pitfalls you’ll want to avoid the next time you end up shopping at one.
As one popular Internet meme reads, “beware of health buzzwords: arsenic and radiation are gluten-free too.”
In other words, just because it comes from the health food store, doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Here are six so-called “healthy” foods to avoid on your next trip.
1. Non-Organic Chips- Because eating organic and truly healthy oftentimes comes with a hefty price tag for people who don’t know how to properly prepare food or eat healthy on a budget, it can be tempting to stock up on processed snack foods to fill in the gaps.
Health food stores certainly aren’t helping to ease the temptation with aisle after aisle filled with different types of chips, crackers, cookies, pastries and other borderline junk foods.
This temptation can sneak up on and get the best of us.
I once heard the story of a highly successful health blogger who got addicted to Kettle chips, the popular non-GMO chip brand sold at health food stores.
Instead of eating healthier, more nutrient dense and chemical-free foods, he made these chips a staple of his diet, and ended up paying the price in the form of low energy, malnutrition and a candida infection that robbed him of his vitality.
These chips may be convenient, but non-organic potatoes are sprayed heavily with pesticides, and contain a potentially carcinogenic chemical known as acrylamide if they are cooked at high temperatures.
In the case it’s best to stick with whole foods, or even to consider baking your own chips or fries in the oven to make sure they’re organic (if you must satisfy your craving, that is).
2. Pasteurized Juices- Just because something is convenient, doesn’t necessarily make it healthier, and perhaps no place is that more evident than in the pasteurized juice section of the health food store.
Inside, you’ll find all manner of juices from the well known to the exotic, all at reasonable prices. These juices are still relatively healthy, especially if they’re organic.
But for someone in need of true healing who values their dollar, pasteurized juices are a poor buy because the heating process destroys valuable enzymes that help the body to better assimilate nutrients.
Many fruit based juices will also spike your blood sugar quickly, which could be a bad thing for diabetics and others who are sensitive in that department. Stick to juicing real fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
3. Synthetic Vitamins- According to Dr. Edward Group of the Global Healing Center, more than 95% of all vitamins on store shelves are of the synthetic variety.
There has been much debate over the effectiveness of these types of supplements, but one thing’s for sure: most synthetic vitamins lack the necessary co-factors, enzymes, and other trace substances that are oftentimes necessary for the body to absorb them properly.
These vitamins may help in a pinch, but in the long run, they may be doing your body more harm than good and could even lead to mineral deficiencies according to Dr. Group.
4. Just Because It’s Vegan…- You’ll find a robust vegan products section in just about any health food store, ranging from meat substitutes to non-dairy milks and other similar foods.
But just because it’s vegan (or gluten-free for that matter) doesn’t necessarily make it healthy.
Consider the case of the meat substitute Quorn, which is made from a processed mold mycoprotein that has been linked to many reports of gastrointestinal distress, and was even sued for allegedly causing an allergy-related death. The FDA has catalogued nearly 1,800 reports of adverse reactions from the product and over 300 allergic episodes.
It’s just one example of how vegan substitute products are not always what they’re cracked up to be. Whenever possible, choose products that are organic and made from whole foods.
5. Soy Products Galore- After years of being recognized as a true health food, more people are rejecting soy by the day. But you can still find plenty of soy-heavy products at the health food store, hiding in some of your favorite items if you’re not careful.
Soy, especially when non-organic and not fermented, is capable of disrupting both endocrine and thyroid function and is over 90% GMO. Even the FDA recently rescinded its heart-healthy benefits statement of this widely over-consumed food.
Some of the top soy-containing products to avoid include edamame, meat substitutes like Tofurkey, soy protein bars and more. If you do eat soy, make sure it is organic and fermented like miso, and do so in moderation.
Your best chance of avoiding them is to stay on the perimeter of the store, where most of the truly healthy foods like organic produce reside. There’s a reason why nobody buys actual soybeans from the health food store in the first place.