Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Tips: Five Food Ingredients To Avoid

I'm a firm believer in being able to easily read and understand what ingredients are in the food I purchase and ultimately my family consumes. There are some ingredients that I avoid, if I see them listed on a label (READ YOUR LABELS!), I pass. It's that simple. Some of them may be considered food additives, which is another post completely. Food additives are added to foods to improve flavor and taste. Typically they are chemicals.

Ingredients that I choose to avoid have been proven to be of no nutritional value to our bodies. Beyond lacking nutritional value, many ingredients and additives are harmful to our arteries and have been linked to cell damage.

So what are these ingredients you wonder?

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup-
This is a big one for me. HFCS is in everything, go look at your ketchup label. Yep, it's in there. You'll be amazed at how many food products contain HFCS. But why is it bad, it's made from corn right? Probably, GMO, genetically modified corn to start with.

Fructose has to be metabolized through the liver, which means it's not easily processed by our bodies. Fructose is converted to a fat which in turn contributes to raised triglyceride levels in our bloodstream. And to top it off, HFCS blocks the release of the hormone that tells our bodies we are full, which means you overeat when you drink soda or eat food products containing HFCS. Adding those extra pounds. Speaking of sweeteners, skip the artificial ones, they are chemicals and the word is still out on their safety.

For the record, Whole Foods 365 brand products never contain HFCS as a sweetener. They do the work for you!

2. MSG- Monosodium Glutamate & It's Other Names-
Many highly processed foods contain MSG, not just your Chinese take out. MSG can cause many side effects in people that they may not be linking to this chemical additive in their foods. For example, headaches, numbness, tingling, nausea, drowsiness, weakness, rapid heartbeat have all been linked to MSG exposure. MSG may also be hiding in other ingredients, as it's always found in, autolyzed yeast, sodium caseinate, textured protein, yeast extract, gelatin, to name a few. Believe me if you are eating foods with MSG, they aren't the best choice you can be making, period. Find a healthier alternative.

3. Hydrogenated Oils & Trans Fats-
To extend the shelf life of products, oils are turned to solids with high heat and the addition of hydrogen atoms, creating hydrogenated oils. Since hydrogenated oils are not naturally occurring in nature, our body takes the toll in trying to process them. Unlike natural oils for example, olive, canola, or grapeseed oil which are healthy alternatives. Trans Fatty acids are one of the leading contributers to the increase of heart disease and in particular cholesterol levels in our blood. Avoid trans fats, your heart will thank you.

4. Enriched Flour & Bleached White Flour-
Let's face it, enriched and white flours, have no nutritional value. They have no dietary fiber, causing our digestion to slow down. Remember fiber keeps our digestive tract moving, which is a good thing. Choose whole grains, especially as a first ingredient in bread and cracker products. Make sure the label specifically states WHOLE next to the grain. Unbleached white flour is an ok alternative when baking, it's a refined wheat flour, fairly high in gluten, sometimes with up to 80% of the wheat germ restored. I always sneak some whole wheat flour into a recipe when baking, usually for one cup of flour, it's safe to use 1/3 cup whole wheat without compromising the finished product.

5. Sodium Nitrate (or Sodium Nitrite)-
Nitrates are used as a preservative, coloring, and flavoring in processed meats. Think deli meat, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, corned beef, smoked fish, and other processed meats. These additives have been found to lead to the formation of cancer causing chemicals in our bodies, called nitrosamines. We purchase our lunch meat at Whole Foods, typically the brands are Diestel or Applegate Farms, which are organic and antibiotic free. Applegate Farms has a wonderful webpage. You can type in your upc off a product and it will track for you which farm your meat came from. Incredible! I love companies that encourage open door policies and are transparent to their consumers because they are passionate about what they do! I recently purchased Hormel Natural Choice Turkey, which is their new natural line, that does not contain nitrates. I didn't like it, but it's a step in the right direction.

I grabbed two boxes from my cabinet, to prove to you how easy it should be to read labels on food you are consuming.

Back To Nature- Harvest Whole Wheats (very similar to triscuits)-
Ingredients-Whole wheat, expeller-pressed oleic safflower oil, sea salt, natural tocopherols added to preserve freshnes

Kashi-Cinnamon Harvest Cereal-
Ingredients-Organic whole grain wheat, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cinnamon, natural cinnamon flavor.

That's it, seriously. Hope you find the same thing when you glance at a label the time you reach for a snack. Trust me those small additives add up and impact your health tremendously.

More Resources:
Whole Foods Quality Standards: Unacceptable Food Ingredients link.

Center For Science In The Public Interest & Food Safety link.


  1. Very helpful list! Making the break from these baddies can be quite a challenge.

  2. I'm with ya on all this! We do our best in this area by making informed choices at the store. If you can't pronounce it...you shouldn't eat it.

  3. Good Morning!

    Nothing to comment about on this post in particular (good list... we try... yada yada) BUT I wanted to let you know that we (I) used one of your previous tips and used organic paint while painting the new apt - LOVE the colors, was just as easy to apply, AND there was little/no smell (did NOT have to open the windows at all! A friend walking in in the middle of the job commented about how little it smelled like paint) - I LOVED IT!!! :)
    The only difference I could see was how easily it wiped off when recently applied, which made me worry a bit, but once dry, all is fine.

  4. Isn't it crazy how much crap is in food these days? Scary.
    Thanks for all the info!

  5. Thanks for the tips. We too try to stay away from these baddies.

  6. I start to divorce myself (and the family) from the bad stuff about 10 years ago but it can still be a challenge even today. Once again, thanks!

  7. YES, I TOTALLY AGREE!!! I also feel when you eliminate the HFCS, you definitely start to lost the weight as well! These additives are a big no, no in our house. I love the whole foods ketchup, it has a lot more flavor as far as a more vinegar taste and is not as sweet as Heinz.

  8. Wow, MSG still shows up in foods? I can't believe that they've outlawed marijuana before MSG...

    I'll be checking, now!

  9. I absolutely love your Tuesday Tips, I always learn so much. I'm going to be even more careful about what I buy to put into my body. Seriously.

  10. Totally agree--you have no idea how many times I haver referred to that unacceptable foods link--it's like my home page ;)

    (My weakness--white flour :( )

  11. hey found your blog on Mile High Mamas, and I just wanted to say that that photo is so AMAZING! I love it! Did you take it yourself? Yay for the snow capped peaks of the Rockies!

  12. number one is something I debate constantly with my sister.

    I should obsess about it more Im certain.


  13. Thanks for the great info! I'm passing this along to my oldest 2 daughters.

  14. This is great - I bought whole wheat flour a while ago, but I keep forgetting to find out if I can substitute it for white, proportionally I mean. I'll try the 1/3 cup you recommend.


I always appreciate the gesture to stop and take a moment to comment. Thank you!