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.
JUST FOR FUN-
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 freshness.
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.
Whole Foods Quality Standards: Unacceptable Food Ingredients link.
Center For Science In The Public Interest & Food Safety link.