Navigating the World of Fake Healthy Food

Salam everyone! Lately I have been thinking a lot about the food industry and its impact on our diets and health. When we talk about the food industry, many of us working in the field of health and wellness are aware of the damage certain companies have done to our perspective on food and, by extension, to our bodies. The 1980’s and 90’s were full of messages telling us that fat is bad, that fat in food is what is making us fat and therefore sick, and the low-fat and fat-free craze launched full-speed ahead. Products like skim milk, margarine, and fat-free snacks like chips and crackers were promoted (and continue to be) as healthy alternatives to traditional foods like whole milk and butter. Yet here we are, 25 years later, with an obesity and diabetes epidemic on our hands. In the United States, we are fatter, sicker and more depressed than ever before. How could this be?

The answer is simple, brothers and sisters: marketing. The massive campaigns led us to believe that not only are all fats the same, but that they are all also evil and must be removed from our diets. Now we have realized some very curious details about this fat-free obsession and the health recommendations that came along with it:

  1. It was based on questionable research that was essentially funded by the same corporations who made millions, if not billions, off this dominant trend in the past two decades. Can you say conflict of interest? If you read somewhere that margarine is healthier than plain old butter, and then later find out that information came from Parkay, would you question it? I sure would.

  2. It didn’t WORK. As we all know, the state of health in our country certainly isn’t something about which we can brag these days. So what went wrong?

It is important to realize the difference between information and advertising. This is something I have always emphasized with my patients and clients. The information you see on the FRONT of a package is likely just part of the product promotion, not actual facts. The only real information you will find will be on the nutrition label, and the ingredients’ list. Watch out for carbohydrates and sugar, the compounds which have proven to be MUCH more detrimental to our health than actual fats. Ignore the ‘% Daily Value’ column, as it is based on the same government recommendations have led to our population being around 30% Diabetic and Prediabetic. And if the ingredients list indicates the product contains high fructose corn syrup, corn or vegetable oil, or maltodextrin (a fancy word for corn,) return the item back to the shelf and walk away. Your body will thank you sooner rather than later! Jazak Allah Khair.

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