In a world of processed foods, we eat a lot more than just fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy. Our body needs certain nutrients to function, and gets those nutrients from eating whole foods. But there are a whole lot of ingredients and additives out there that don’t do anything for our bodies or our health. While you need apples and leafy greens, you don’t need high fructose corn syrup. Here are seven food products that don’t have much benefit for your body and you can consider cutting out immediately.
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
Americans consume about 150 pounds of sugar per year – that’s about half a pound every day – and most of it comes to us in the form of high fructose corn syrup. While there are natural sugars, like what you find in fruit, most of the sugar that Americans are consuming is coming from added sugars, the stuff you find in soft drinks, etc. According to the American Heart Association, “Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Reducing the amount of added sugars we eat cuts calories and can help you improve your heart health and control your weight.” Get rid of the high fructose corn syrup immediately.
2. Red, Yellow, Blue #anything
Let’s get one thing straight: you don’t NEED artificial coloring in your food. Certainly, you might want a certain color to correspond with a certain taste, but no part of your body is saying “I would feel a lot better if I had some Yellow #5.” In fact, there are a lot of health risks associated with artificial dyes, from chromosomal damage to tumors, and many of them are banned in certain countries.
Long touted as a healthy alternative to butter, margarine is a man-made concoction to trick ourselves into thinking that we’re eating butter. For example, here’s what’s in I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter:
Vegetable oils, Buttermilk (5%), Water, Salt (1.5%), Emulsifiers: mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, Sunflower lecithin, Preservative: potassium sorbate, Vitamin E, Citric acid, Flavouring, Colour: beta-carotene, Vitamins A & D
In other words: a processed food product. These types of spreads are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, and with more and more omega-6 heavy foods in our diet, we’ve cut out a lot of foods that give us our omega-3 essential fatty acids. In turn, we’ve ended up with an omega-3 deficiency and our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio thrown way off, which studies have shown can have serious health consequences, including obesity. Want something fatty to spread on your toast? Go for the real butter, ideally from grass fed, happy cows, or you can try avocados as an exciting alternative.
4. Perfluorooctanoic Acid
Here’s looking at you, microwave popcorn. The bags that microwave popcorn come in contain a certain amount of chemicals, one of them being perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical linked to cancer and birth defects in animals. They’re so bad the EPA is getting manufacturers to virtually eliminate them by 2015. But until then, stick to the kind made on the stovetop instead. ”They stay in your body for years and accumulate there,” says toxicologist Olga Naidenko.
5. Butylated Hydroxytoluene
Used as a preservative in beauty products as well as food, Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) lurks in friendly-looking foods like breakfast cereals and chewing gum. BHT is an antioxidant preservative that keeps food from going rancid, which when you’re talking about processed foods that sit on a shelf for a long time, you want to make sure doesn’t happen. There’s an ongoing controversy about the safety of BHT, some saying that it’s perfectly fine to use as a food additive, others highlighting the links to liver and kidney damage as well as cancer. Ultimately it comes down to this: take it out of your diet and your body isn’t going to miss it.
6. Artificial Flavors
Just like your body doesn’t need artificial colors, it certainly isn’t in need of artificial flavors. The multitude of chemical combinations that are used to flavor food have been linked to everything from allergic reactions to asthma. Ask yourself this: if a food doesn’t taste good on its own, should you really be eating it?
7. Bleached Flour
Did you know that freshly milled flour actually isn’t supposed to be completely white? The only reason it has that fresh color to it is because of bleaching agents. So yes, bleached flour goes through a chemical process to make it whiter, a reason that’s both about aesthetics and efficiency – bakers used to let their flour sit and oxidize to achieve a better baking quality, now we can replicate that process with chemicals. But your body does just fine on unrefined flour, in fact it does much better as the refining process strips the flour of many of its nutrients. Opt for unbleached flour and you’ll get flour that has naturally aged instead of with peroxides.
Photo Credit: klubbers