Last time I wrote about straight-up bad foodsâ€”foods to avoid if you possibly can. Now I need to tackle sketchy-but-sometimes-unavoidable foods. This is more nebulous territory, which is why I’ve been avoiding writing this post for days.
Sketchy food is not as clear-cut as bad food because it affects different people in different ways. Some people can tolerate moderate amounts of refined sugar, for example, but other people can’t tolerate it at all. So my list of sketchy foods is really a list of foods to be aware of, foods to be careful with, and definitely foods to avoid if you have unresolved health problems.
Suspect #1: Heavily refined and processed foods.
White sugar and white flour are the obvious ones here. Too much of these bleached-out “carbs” can send you into Syndrome X territory. But let’s not forget that ubiquitous over-refined and processed of “health foods”: soy. (Soy milk, soy cheese, soy meat, isolated soy protein powder, etc.) I’m always suspicious of newly-invented industrial foods, and soy products are no different. Touted as miracle foods when they were introduced, there’s increasing evidence that all of these processed soy products could be hazardous. (Canola oil is another invented industrial food. Originally called LEAR oilâ€”for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseedâ€”Canola was bred from Rape, which produces high levels of toxic erucic acid. Canola oil still contains low levels of the toxin, and I don’t think there’s any reason to eat it when there are plenty of good oils out there.)
Suspect #2: Unfermented grains and beans.
In traditional diets, grains and beans are usually fermentedâ€”through overnight soaking, wild yeast leavening, partial sprouting, etc. Fermentation makes the cooking process shorter, but it also changes the chemical makeup of the beans and grains, making them much easier to digest. (Yes, I know this applies to a huge swath of American food: pasta, crackers, cereal, etc.)
Suspect #3: Pasteurized dairy.
Raw milk contains enzymes that make it significantly easier to digest than pasteurized milk. Raw milk also contains immune-supporting proteins that are denatured by the pasteurization process. For more on raw milk, check out the Campaign for Real Milk. (Higher temperature pasteurization is more damaging to the proteins, so ultra-pasteurized milk is especially sketchy.)
Suspect #4: Grain-fed meat and dairy.
So, when cows (or sheep, or goats, etc.) eat grass, they produce healthy fats. When they’re fed grain and soy and their ground-up compatriates and who knows what else, the fat they produce is not so good for humans. You can’t always tell what the animals ate when you’re looking at a label in a grocery store, so you might have to do some detective work. For meat, look for “grass fed” on the label. For dairy, check out the dairy scorecard.
All four suspects are pretty much everywhere. Like I said before, I’m not into food fascismâ€”but if you’re working with serious unresolved health problems, eliminating these sketchy foods is a good place to start.