13 Scary Foods You Thought Were Healthy
It’s Halloween season, so are you ready for a real scare? Here are some scary facts about the “healthy” foods we eat.
- Soy and soybeans
With their bright green hue and light flavor, a steaming bowl of edamame (soybeans) looks healthy and appetizing. But don’t be fooled. The vast majority of soy crops are genetically modified to withstand repeated spraying with Roundup (the glyphosate-based, cancer-causing herbicide). Plants absorb the chemical into every cell ― including the beans you eat. Even if you don’t eat edamame, soy is an additive in thousands of food products and goes by many names. Read your labels closely.
Despite being a favorite side dish, most corn is genetically modified (GMO) to survive the onslaught of chemical herbicides used to control weeds and speed ripening before harvest. Corn plants sprayed with chemicals absorb them into every cell, bringing weed killer straight to your plate. Non-GMO corn may not be much better, as Roundup is also used on non-GMO crops as a pre-harvest desiccating agent.
- Canned Pineapple
Canned pineapple is definitely easier to access than cutting into the prickly, spiny fruit—but think twice. FDA standards are surprisingly lax with pineapple: Cans are allowed to include up to 20% moldy fruit. And, the bright yellow color is only partially due to the fruit itself ― pineapple rings are intentionally packaged in uncoated tin cans because a chemical in tin reacts with the fruit, making it a brighter yellow color. Should we really be eating a science experiment?
How can you go wrong with raisins? Well, it states in FDA regulations that up to ten insects and up to 35 fruit fly eggs are acceptable in every eight ounces of raisins. Enough said.
- Dry Spices
Speaking of lax FDA rules, dry spices may also contain unexpected “additives” in the form of … insects. That’s right: The FDA allows oregano to legally include up to 1,250 insect fragments per 10 grams, and cinnamon can contain up to a milligram of animal excrement per pound. Does that fact bug you?
Chicken, a mainstay of the American diet, isn’t as healthy an option as it once was. Commercial farmers feed the birds unnatural diets (usually genetically modified corn and soy ― the same crops that topped this list due to the toxic herbicides they contain). In addition, chickens are forced into cramped environments that prevent healthy development, and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics to speed growth. As a result, chicken today has 33% less protein and considerably more fat than it did 50 years ago.
Dairy cows have it rough, too. Forty years ago, an average dairy cow produced 10,000 pounds of milk a year. Today, she produces 20,000 pounds. The cow hasn’t changed; the difference lies in her food. To increase milk production, cows are routinely fed a hormone called Bovine somatotropin (BST), which has been linked to prostate, breast and colon cancer. The good news is that grocery chains including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Whole Foods have recognized the problem and no longer carry dairy that contains BST.
Most cheese is made from cow’s milk, which, as mentioned above, brings its own issues. But cheese also requires rennet, enzymes found in the stomachs of baby animals that help them digest their mother’s milk. Rennet is obtained by slicing up a calf’s stomach; soaking it in whey, wine or vinegar; then filtering it.
- Bagged Salad
Surely we’re safe eating leafy greens, right? Think again. While grocery stores are required to disclose the country of origin for whole fruits and veggies, the same standard does not apply to mixed produce, such as bagged salad. Given that leafy greens are listed by the CDC as the most common food associated with foodborne illnesses like E. Coli, this is bad news for consumers. If there’s an outbreak or recall, there’s no way to know if the contaminated produce made it into your bagged salad. Skip the plastic, and stick with whole heads of lettuce!
- Salad Dressing
Speaking of salad, let’s look at what you put on top of your greens. Measures are taken to ensure the product that comes out of the box or bottle looks as appetizing as possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Some food manufacturers add titanium dioxide to pre-packaged foods like salad dressings to make them brighter and more visually appealing. While titanium dioxide works great as a sunscreen, studies suggest there is a potential link between ingesting it and cancer. Pass the oil and vinegar, please.
- Vegetable Oils
Before you grab just any oil to swap for your bottled salad dressing, you’ll want to make sure you’re reaching for the good stuff. Most cheap oils, including vegetable oil and canola oil, are highly processed: denatured, oxidized and structurally damaged. Rather than making this list for the noxious stuff they do contain, these low-grade oils are scary because everything good (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) has been stripped away.
- Bottled water
As we’ve already seen, FDA requirements are less stringent than most Americans believe. Bottled water is no exception. While the FDA regulates bottled water sold across state lines, the same requirements do not apply for bottles packaged and sold within the same state. As a result, roughly 25% of water bottles sold in the U.S. contain nothing more than good old-fashioned tap water. If that’s what you end up purchasing, count yourself lucky: the EPA regulates tap water and has much higher standards than the FDA.
- Fresh Produce (specifically peaches, apples, celery, strawberries and spinach)
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Dirty Dozen, the 12 types of produce considered to be the most contaminated by commercial pesticides. Peaches top this list because of their soft skin (which insects love) and tendency to bruise easily. As a result, they’re regularly soaked in chemicals for weeks before being shipped to grocery stores. A number of other soft-skinned fruits and vegetables ― including apples, celery, strawberries and spinach ― are treated the same way. Essentially, if you’re not buying organic, no amount of washing can fully rid these fruits and veggies of their toxic load.
SCARY HALLOWEEN BONUS: Jelly Beans
Of course, candy isn’t healthy at all, but this Halloween season, we couldn’t resist this scary fact: The hard, exterior coating of jelly beans is made from shellac. While it’s quite helpful in keeping the beans from sticking together in a gooey mess, it’s made out of beetle excretions. Yep, that’s right: When you eat jelly beans, you’re eating bug poop. Trick or treat!