How Healthy is Your “Health” Food Store?

grocery store

Things aren’t always as they appear.

Cucumbers and tomatoes appear to be vegetables, but they are actually fruits. You would think a peanut, is a nut, although it’s actually a legume.

And your health food store contains foods that are optimal in health…well, not always. I’ve worked in a health food store, and you’d be surprised what you’d still find on the shelves.

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The produce section is generally safe, being all certified organic; however, it’s those aisles filled with “health” foods that may be the issue. Here are four foods you’d find in a health food store that you need to be careful of.

Non-Dairy Milks

Non-dairy milks always fill the health food store shelves, from the ever-popular almond milk to soy milk. Other choices you might find include rice milk, coconut milk, almond-coconut milk, oat milk, hemp milk, flax milk, or quinoa milk. Everything seems to be milked these days, to replace the highly pasteurized cow’s milk.

I had specific brands of almond milk and rice milk within my fridge and I was surprised to learn that they contained carrageenan, a seaweed-based additive. This “natural” toxin is considered a possible human carcinogen and can cause inflammation and digestive stress. You will see it in products labeled “organic.” There are some non-dairy products that don’t contain carrageenan, including the Silk brand.

A great alternative is to make your own milks, such as almond. For this nut milk, it only takes one cup of almonds, four cups of water, your desired sweetener (such as honey), a blender, and a strainer or invest in a nut milk bag. It only takes minutes to produce.

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Tetra Pack Cartons

Known for its innovative and environmentally friendly packaging, Tetra Paks contain plastics chemicals (with synthetic estrogen) that leach into water. There are other potential unknowns with this form of packaging, including whether it contains BPA, an industrial chemical linked to cancer and health problems in the brain and prostate.

The most common foods in Tetra Paks in your health food store include non-dairy milks, juices, children’s juice boxes, and soups.

Again, making your own milks, soups, and juices would be the best solution, while storing them in reusable glass jars. Whenever possible, purchase your products in glass jars since plastic containers often contain BPA.

Supplements

Health food stores always have a supplements and vitamins section—but are they good for you? Most people unknowingly consume vitamins and supplements, containing synthetic and unnatural chemicals. Such synthetic products make up 98% of the consumer market, according to Philip Maffetone, an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician and author on exercise, nutrition, sports medicine, and biofeedback.

These synthetic supplements and vitamins are ineffective in preventing disease and can increase your risk of cancer and heart disease. Examples of suspect dietary supplements include vitamins A, E, and B. Vitamin D supplements can be toxic in high amounts.

Fish oil (containing EPA/DHA), vegetables or fruit concentrates, and flax oil (alpha-linolenic acid) are natural supplements, made from freeze-dried real food. Plant-based supplements and natural active vitamins are other examples of safe supplements. All minerals are natural, but they could be dangerous if taken in high dosages.

GMO Products

Health food stores will contain its fair share of Non-GMO Project certified voluntary labels. Look for these products when surfing the shelves, considering GMO-foods have been linked to cancer, fertility problems, and inflammation. There may still be products on the shelves containing highly processed soy, corn, canola, and sugar.

I always check the ingredients list for GMOs, additives and chemicals. When I do purchase products, the fewer ingredients usually mean the safer the item is. Check your snacks and bread products for organic ingredients when it comes to GMOs.


Sources:
Maffetone, P., “Serious Dangers of Synthetic & Unnatural Vitamins,” Philip Maffetone web site, 2008; http://content.bandzoogle.com/users/cippianhotmail/files/Dangers_of_Synthetic_Unnatural_Vitamins.pdf.
“Are Tetra-Paks a Healthier or Greener Container for Organic Foods? Green Cradle Organic & All natural Products web site, Nov. 5, 2009; http://www.greencradle.net/2009/11/are-tetra-paks-a-healthier-or-greener-container-for-organic-foods/.