More Food Additives to Avoid

lunchmeatIn my last post I warned you of the dangers of consuming large amounts of Acesulfame K, artificial colorings, Aspertame, Equal and NutraSweet. In this post I will give you three additional ingredients to look for and avoid when reading food labels.

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil/Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil: Although this oil decreases production cost by increasing shelf life and flavor stability, it also creates trans fats. Trans fats have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Manufacturers are allowed to advertise as trans fat free as long as there is less than a half a gram of trans fat per serving, but by reading the label and seeing this oil in the ingredient list, you can catch any trace of trans fat.

Monosodium Glutamate/MSG: Most people think that MSG is only found in Chinese food, but this flavor enhancer is found in packaged food, canned goods, packaged meats, salad dressing and chips. Although considered “generally safe” by the FDA, recent studies have linked MSG consumption with increased rates of obesity. Unfortunately MSG is often disguised on food labels under different names. MSG can also be listed as the following: Glutamate, Monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, glutamic acid, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, gelatin, textured protein, yeast nutrient or autolyzed yeast. Once armed with the knowledge that MSG is often disguised as other ingredients on food labels, it is truly astonishing to find out how many products contain MSG.

Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite: Found in bacon, lunchmeat, hot dogs and other packaged meats, this additive has been linked to cancer. Sodium nitrate reacts with stomach acid and other chemicals in the stomach to produce nitrosamines. When consumed in large quantities, nitrosamines have been shown to cause cancer in animals.

Deciphering Food Labels: No Degree Required

Reading a food ingredients label - personal training at Transformation in Raleigh

As we walk down the aisles of the grocery store today we are bombarded with brightly colored packages that advertise thirty percent less fat, no high fructose corn syrup and zero grams of trans fat. Nowadays even Girl Scout cookies advertise zero grams of trans fat. That makes them healthy, right? WRONG! There are certain buzz words that the media has conditioned the average consumer to try to avoid, such as high fructose syrup, trans fat, saturated fat and MSG. But not having these additives in your foods doesn’t necessarily make them healthy. Sometimes it feels like you need a degree in nutrition to truly eat healthy.

Here are a few quick and simple tips to help you decide what to buy:

  1. Don’t get caught up with the bright advertisements on the front of the package. Manufacturers have a way of highlighting the positive aspects of their product and hiding the negative things when designing their packaging. Instead of focusing on the front of the package, turn it over and look at the list of ingredients and nutrition information.
  2. When looking at the list of ingredients you don’t need to be an expert. If you see a list of ingredients that is longer than your weekly grocery list, it’s probably best to put it back on the shelf. Next, actually read the list of ingredients. If there are more than a couple of ingredients that you do not recognize and can’t pronounce, put it back and step away!
  3. It is also important to look at the nutrition information. The top half of the chart lists calories, fat, sodium and other things you generally want to see low percentages of. The bottom half of the chart lists fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals; things you want to see a lot of.

These are just a few guidelines to help with your next trip to the grocery store. In my next post I will go over specific additives to avoid and why.

What Is Organic?

When most of us think about buying organic food, the first things that may come to mind are nutritious, tastier than conventional, better for the environment and maybe even expensive. But what does it mean to support the organic food industry? Is the buzz about eating organic really true?

organic seal

Per the USDA Consumer Brochure: “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.” What this means in a nutshell, is organic farmers have moved on from wanting to make as much money as possible in as little time as possible, to growing nutritious, wholesome food the same as God intended. Organic food is tastier and is better for you because it contains less pesticide residues (organic produce samples had 13 percent versus 71 percent of conventional produce samples), AND is much, much more nutrient dense than its other conventional counterparts.

organic produce

Conventional Could Mean Genetically Modified

Conventional foods may be grown with the “anything goes” mentality, meaning they may use any means necessary to grow the food as fast as possible. In most cases conventionally grown food has been genetically modified to resist bugs, bacteria and pesticides used to control weeds. Read that sentence again. Some conventionally grown food has been modified at the genetic level to resist pesticide spray so that those farmers, no longer have to worry about killing their crop while spraying the entire field to control weed growth and insects. Some food such as strawberries, have been genetically modified to resist frost so they may be grown at all times of the year. Whatever happened to the days when you ate certain foods only while they were in season? Wikipedia gives the definition of pesticide as “a substance or mixture of substances used to kill a pest. A pesticide may be a chemical substance, biological agent (such as a virus or bacteria), antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest.” In this world, where we are adding pollutants and chemicals into our environment at an alarming rate, the last thing we should do is knowingly and willingly put chemicals or genetically modified foods into our bodies. God never intended for our bodies to process chemicals, so the more chemicals we eat, the more we store (in fat and other tissues) as they have no use on the inside.

“In most cases conventionally grown food has been genetically modified to resist bugs, bacteria and pesticides used to control weeds.”

Purchasing organic food (for you and your family) is one of the best decisions you can make in your life, but an even better decision would be to purchase organic products from your local farmers. A popular but now forgotten phrase used to be “Know your farmer, know your food”. Visit the Farmer’s Markets in your local area, talk to your farmer and ask them questions about their growing techniques. If they are unwilling to answer your questions then maybe you don’t need to be buying food from them. You wouldn’t buy a car from a salesman who wouldn’t talk to you, right? Your farmer should be more interested in cultivating and maintaining a relationship with you, rather than trying to make the most money they can. Most farmers I have met and spoke with here in the Triangle area are some of the nicest people I’ve met. They were more than willing to answer any questions I had and then some.
It may be more expensive to purchase organic but ask yourself this; would you rather spend the money now and live a longer, healthier and happier life, or spend the money later to pay for expensive medicines to treat avoidable aches, pains and illness?

Please stay tuned for my next blog about the truth behind free-range chicken and grass fed beef.