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Buyer Beware in Health Food Stores

Updated on July 16, 2010

As someone who has searched for the healthiest eating plan and consistently revised my food choices over many years, I am wise to what "Healthy eating" actually means. Healthy doesn't mean shopping at the health food store, giving up wheat, or listening to the newest healthy diet book. True healthy eating requires one important factor; knowledge. This means consistent research, listening to your body's cues, eating food with as close to nature as possible, and being wise about ingredients and food labels. My journey with eating healthy has brought to my attention the biggest mistakes people make without realizing it.

The Pitfalls of Eating Healthy

Going wheat free (or avoiding any food group, such as salt and dairy too): This is a great decision for many people who are wheat/ gluten intolerant or have other health issues and reasons why certain food groups should be cut out. But here's the problem with the avoidance of one food group; it usually leads to overconsumption or reliance on another food group that may not be better for you.

People who cut out meat and/or dairy often go to soy options, yet soy can produce as many bodily intolerances as dairy. I discovered this when my daughter was born with a milk allergy. I did research and came across one thing in common among several resources; soy is intolerated just as much as dairy. I recently had my first food sensitivity test and soy turned up to be a food my body did not tolerate.

Soy is not a perfect food even for vegetarians and can come in a wide range of processed foods as well. If substituting for milk, use rice or almond milk instead. If substituting for meat, use beans or ground sunflowers, and just leave out a meat substitute for many dishes.

People who avoid salt and wheat can naturally end up eating too much sugar. Most people I talked to who avoided wheat, including myself, at more sugar and without knowing it. I ate more fruit when my sweet tooth had a craving for sugary wheat carbohydrates. Fruit is good, but in moderation. For me, it was outdoing vegetables in my diet and I even resorted to fruit juices, which are not healthy for the most part- and full of sugar. Also, wheat free recipes for dessert favorites tend to have just as much sugar or more.

The body will trick us sometimes to get what it craves. A good example of this is those who give up alcohol or salt. Alcohol is a sugar and the body will crave that sugar in other forms. Salt is an addictive taste and if avoided, people naturally go to it's polar opposite, another addictive taste; sugar.

Secret Ingredients: I often shop at a well-known chain healthy grocery store and found myself disappointed in them for disguising one claim they make; they will not sell foods containing MSG there. So I was relieved to shop there and not have to worry about checking the label for MSG. I bought soups from them, and many other products that usually have MSG. There are soups available that don't have MSG so why wouldn't I think they would be selling ONLY these soups, but I was wrong. They sell many items containing hidden names of MSG- how tricky of them and they are supposed to help people shop healthy.

It wasn't before long that I came across (google "other names for MSG") a list of ingredients that are MSG, but go by another name:

  • Yeast extract
  • vegetable protein
  • autolyzed protein or autolyzed yeast extract
  • glutamate
  • glutamic acid
  • textured protein
  • sodium caseinate

and the list goes on: try

Also, if you have a food allergy or intolerance it's extremely wise to get a comprehensive list of other name that ingredient can be listed as. I am so surprised at how one single ingredient can have so many other names it can be listed as. No wonder we're a confused and unhealthy nation.

Health food stores- friend or foe?: Health food stores are not what they used to be when I was a kid. Some people think this is great, but I'm not on that bandwagon. The local one-room health food store my parents shopped at was owned and worked by an 80 year old lady who could pass for 30 years younger, and she knew her stuff about health food as she skipped around the store cleaning and stocking shelves- now that's someone I would wholeheartedly take heatlhy eating advice from.

Today, a health food store is a chain grocery store that doesn't really care about your health. In fact, they want to make it as easy as possible for you to be an unhealthy health food shopper. Just like a traditional grocery store, there are more packaged items than not. The employees were hired based on having tatoos, not washing their hair for months, and wearing hemp underwear- they look like hobos. There are secret ingredients in items requiring careful label reading- just like regular stores. So to say health food stores have come a long way, I strongly disagree. It makes people think they're eating healthy when they are not, they're just eating organic sugar instead of regualr sugar or yeast extract instead of MSG- same difference.


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    • MindField profile image

      MindField 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      What an extremely useful essay. I steer far from those so-called health food stores of today, too!