Don’t Get Fooled By These 6 Fake Healthy Foods That Steal Your Mind

Fake Healthy Foods

Need a quick healthy meal or snack? Chances are you head to the store and grab something that says “All natural,” “Gluten-Free,” or “Fruit-Filled.” Sure, they sound healthy, but are they really? Unfortunately, many store products that claim to be good for you are actually harming your brain, sabotaging your moods, and stealing your focus. To help you make better choices, here are 6 so-called healthy foods to avoid.


Unfortunately, many store products that claim to be good for you are actually harming your brain, sabotaging your moods, and stealing your focus. Click To Tweet

6 Fake Healthy Foods That Steal Your Mind

1. Pre-made fruit smoothies

What could be better than a refreshing fruit smoothie? If you’re buying a packaged variety off the store shelf, there are many healthier options. Check the labels of these pre-blended beverages and depending on the brand, you may find upwards of 50 grams of sugar, no fiber, and only a skimpy amount of protein. These are like a straight shot of sugar into your bloodstream, which can lead to feelings of anxiousness or irritability.

Brain healthy swap: If you can’t make your own smoothie, opt for one that has whole ingredients, low sugar, and higher protein levels.

2. Veggie chips

Looking for a healthy crunch? Veggie chips made from spinach, tomatoes, and other garden-fresh fare seem like a perfect solution. Not so fast! Most of these “veggie” chips are filled with potato starch, harmful oils, sodium, and sugar. Just as bad as what’s in these snacks is what isn’t—fiber. Eating a diet of low-fiber foods that are high in sugar is a recipe for diabetes, a condition that is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression.

Brain healthy swap: Crunch on real veggies—chopped carrots or cucumbers, for example—and dip in hummus.

3. Gluten-free muffins

Didn’t we learn anything from the fat-free craze of the ’80s? In order to tempt shoppers to buy products that aren’t healthy, food manufacturers add flashy catch-phrases like “gluten-free.” This doesn’t mean these food-like substances contain anything nutritious. Gluten-free fare like muffins, cookies, or pancake mix can be bursting with refined flour, sugar, bad-for-you oils, artificial dyes, and preservatives. Artificial dyes have been associated with ADD/ADHD-like symptoms in some children and adults.

Brain healthy swap: Take charge of what goes into your body by making it yourself. For a delicious and brain-approved breakfast treat, try Tana Amen’s Grainless Blueberry Muffins.

4. Peanut butter

Yes, nut butter can be a great snack that provides healthy fats and protein. But some peanut butter is chock full of cheap and unhealthy oils, sugar, corn syrup solids, soy protein, and preservatives. Plus, peanuts are a common allergen that can trigger inflammation, and inflammation is associated with a host of psychiatric issues such as depression. Research in the Journal of Food Protection shows that America’s favorite nuts (which are actually legumes rather than nuts) may contain harmful substances, such as aflatoxins. These are a form of mycotoxins, which can contribute to mental and cognitive health symptoms.

Brain healthy swap: Try organic almond butter or cashew butter instead of peanuts. And make sure your nut butter has no more than 2 ingredients—nuts and salt.

5. Instant oatmeal

Yes, oatmeal can be a good source of fiber and it contains important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But the instant variety doesn’t have as much of these good-for-you nutrients. It has lower amounts of iron and protein. In addition, instant oats are often flavored with loads of added sugars and sodium. And the quick-cooking stuff ranks high on the glycemic index, which means it causes blood sugar levels to spike then crash. A 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that high-glycemic, low-fiber foods also increase the risk of depression.

Brain healthy swap: Once a week, make a pot of steel-cut oats or slow-cooking oats. Then just grab a small bowl that you can quickly heat up when you want them. Add fresh fruit, raw nuts, and brain healthy spices like cinnamon for a well-rounded meal.

6. Ready-made salads

If you’re looking for a quick meal with lots of fresh veggies, look elsewhere. Most of the salad-in-a-bag options may have a decent base of greens, but those little packets included can be where the trouble lies. They may contain corn (a potential allergen for many people), sweetened cranberries (hello, sugar!), toasted croutons (gluten galore), and dressing (unhealthy vegetable oils, sugar, and sodium). Potential allergens—such as corn, soy, MSG, dairy, artificial sweeteners, and gluten—may result in brain inflammation that contributes to a host of mental health issues, such as brain fog, anxiety, depression, bipolar symptoms, ADD/ADHD, autism symptoms, and more.

Brain healthy swap: Take a couple of extra minutes in the morning and make your own salad to go. Toss in fresh chopped veggies and mix up a simple dressing with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues related to a poor diet can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. While this is off topic I’m wondering what is your opinion on the medicine Omeprazole has on the brain?

    Comment by Kathie Maloney — October 15, 2021 @ 3:26 AM

  2. Wow! Thank you for this information. Very helpful.

    Comment by Tanya — October 15, 2021 @ 4:01 AM

  3. Makes perfect sense. I notice all of the above. Off antidepressants, took food sensitivity test which showed high sensitivity to dairy, corn, peanuts, food dye, etc. Great and true article. I worked in a psych hospitals and wish they’d would catch on.

    Comment by P — October 15, 2021 @ 4:29 AM

  4. Very good information; some I knew, a couple I did not. Thank you!

    Comment by Maryann — October 15, 2021 @ 5:08 AM

  5. Great information! I just recently (within the past year) learned how harmful soy lecithin is for one. Even though I’ve avoided soy proper, due to thyroid issues, I was aghast to discover how prevalent soy lecithin is! Your mention of this food underscores what I’ve been learning.
    Other things mentioned were a huge help, also.
    Thank you!

    Comment by Diane Rautio — October 15, 2021 @ 5:52 AM

  6. I am a huge advocate for my help and I adhere to all that list that you mentioned. I cook everything from scratch with no preservatives.

    Comment by Vickie Merritt — October 15, 2021 @ 5:58 AM

  7. Very interesting regarding peanuts and peanut butter. What nuts are brain healthy?

    Comment by L.Good — October 15, 2021 @ 5:59 AM

  8. Important to read the labels. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Timothy Lee — October 15, 2021 @ 6:12 AM

  9. Great information! Thank you.

    Comment by Karee — October 15, 2021 @ 8:03 AM

  10. I always wondered why i felt bad after eating oatmeal

    Comment by Renee — October 15, 2021 @ 8:39 AM

  11. Some are too depressed and already have lives too damaged to be able to rally and meet all these nutritional and physical requirements . There is more to it than buying the green tea packets at the 99cent store. Affording a life with high quality food and the luxury of time to acquire and prepare it is not something a person scrambling for their rent or in a spiral of self doubt is usually able to accomplish. Our modern world is still going to end us even if we swap dressing for hummus.

    Comment by E. Dickinson — October 15, 2021 @ 9:13 AM

  12. Thank you

    Comment by Jason schwarz — October 15, 2021 @ 9:14 AM

  13. About 90% of the food sold in traditional grocery stores is unfit for human consumption.

    Comment by Joe — October 15, 2021 @ 11:40 AM

  14. The information here is helpful, but sometimes incomplete, and seems to suffer a headline-grabbing consciousness with its use of catch-phrases. For example, if you need really quick oatmeal, instant oatmeal can be a decent choice — but you’ll have to look hard to find unflavored, unsweetened instant oatmeal. But it does exist, and many groceries carry it. Similarly, plain (not just organic!) peanut butter, containing nothing but ground roasted peanuts, avoids many (not all) of the issues mentioned. And while not mentioned here, plain (unflavored, unsweetened) yogurt avoids many of the problems that earn yogurt a bad rep in some “health” corners. Bottom line: Ya gotta read the labels carefully. (And always take your reading glasses to the store with you!)

    Comment by Mark — October 15, 2021 @ 3:03 PM

  15. We need to read the labels on every manufactured product we buy – and learn how to interpret what we read as even reading labels, we still need to be able to spot all the sneaky ways manufacturers use to put harmful substances into our food. We need to become educated consumers!

    Comment by Carole Bryant — October 15, 2021 @ 3:34 PM

  16. I was wondering about Adams “natural” peanut butter? Otherwise, I’ve been careful with these other products mentioned. Great advice!!

    Comment by Kay Harris — October 15, 2021 @ 5:39 PM

  17. I appreciate this site because with other sites, they lead you on and when you click in and read them, you cannot get the true answer unless you buy something. This does not do that, and I appreciate that. Thank you for some good information. Joy

    Comment by Carolyn Joy I. Headrick — October 15, 2021 @ 8:11 PM

  18. Just submitted this through the “Have a Question” link… didn’t see this prior. I was reading about 6 fake foods and saw the comments on “Instant Oatmeal”. I buy the “Old Fashioned Oats that cook in 3 minutes. I have a bowl every morning. Are those not so good, too?

    Comment by John Ley — October 16, 2021 @ 1:05 PM

  19. I knew some of this, but great information! I buy pistachio butter from Sicily and love it as I do love peanut butter.

    Comment by Eileen — October 16, 2021 @ 3:10 PM

  20. Thank you for this information.

    Comment by Elana Dewey — October 16, 2021 @ 4:07 PM

  21. Someone mentioned a food sensitivity test. Where can we get a food sensitivity test done? In particular for me and my son. He had ADHD and I sure would like to have him avoid food that could make the situation more stressful for him.
    Thanks much.

    Comment by Linda — October 17, 2021 @ 7:44 PM

  22. I used Omeprazole for GURD for two-three years. The Dr. seemed not to know better. Mfr. suggests two weeks. My digestive tract became unable to absorb nutrients properly. My vitamin D level was lower than the Dr. had ever seen, my Hemoglobin was at a deathly low level of 4. I became so depressed I was almost catatonic, wanted to die. Agoraphobia set in for a couple of years plus. I had a transfusion, which had me feeling great for two days. I stopped Omeprazole; started taking apple cider vinegar in water first thing in the am. Started drinking an occasional Kombucha, and eating raw sauerkraut and Kim Chee. I don’t have gastrointestinal problems any more. Fighting depression is an ongoing issue, but it’s better. I just wanted to help anyone I could by telling this. Fermented foods are sooooo much cheaper, and make your body work better. Boo to chemicals.

    Comment by Danona White — October 18, 2021 @ 9:19 AM

  23. I also want to know how to get a food sensitivity test. I love peanuts – so I’m wondering about getting whole ones in the shell (this would also slow down how many I eat). What about peanut butter you can make yourself in the local co-op. I’m never done it, but I think there’s a machine you just add their plain peanuts and whatever else truly natural goes in it. Thanks!

    Comment by Brenda — October 19, 2021 @ 5:55 AM

  24. Alternative day fasting in mice increases longevity 80%. What are the effects on the brain?

    Comment by Sharon Wynne — December 27, 2021 @ 3:42 AM

  25. As an extremely depressed and anxious person that hasn’t been able to work outside the home in 9 years, I want to help myself. There’s just SO much out there that seems to contribute to it that it’s hard. Trying to eat better foods but know that’s just part of it. As some of the others have said, yes, I love peanut butter, but go for natural. Try to find the simple version of the foods you enjoy .

    Comment by Alison — December 27, 2021 @ 10:09 AM

  26. Thank you for all the great information you share. Many years ago, my health was at a point that I didn’t know what to do. Doctors didn’t see any problems but only ever did standard testing. Allergy testing didn’t show any significant allergies, but the doctor was quick to put me on prednisone. (It did nothing but ruin my weight control, not to mention my thought process while I was on it.) As I started researching health and nutrition, did I develop the attitude that the body can heal itself IF it is given the right fuel and exercise. All of the information on the Amen Clinic websites has been sooooo helpful in recovering my health and in helping me recognize the thought processes and negative life events, no matter how small, that play into all of it. As I learned, I would implement what I could do or afford. I have made leaps and bounds in reclaiming my health. It may never be what I consider perfect, but I am getting to a place where I am enjoying life. And I continue to work towards better health…physically, mentally…in all aspects of life. Thanks for your work AND sharing it with us.

    Comment by Carol — March 5, 2022 @ 8:34 AM

  27. Thank you soooo much Dr Amen

    Comment by Francisca — March 11, 2022 @ 2:36 AM

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