Label Madness: Top 4 Food Ingredients to Avoid
Many people have said that if we truly want to reform health care, we should first try to fix the food and agriculture industries. If you probe deep enough, you might just find that the overly processed and intensely industrialized business of producing food stuffs for the American people has become a job for chemical engineers and genetic scientists…not farmers.
These pesticides and “growth enhancements” are foreign to our bodies, and often cause the illnesses and genetic mutations that cause you to seek out the aid of the doctors and hospitals that are told not to help you if you don’t have insurance.
Our only line of defense is to be more consious consumers; to pay attention to what we put into our bodies and to eat with the purpose of being well.
But not everyone can grow a backyard garden or commit to completely local, organic or vegetarian diets. If you must still depend on the national grocery chains to provide your food, learning to read and understand what the labels are telling you is the first step toward realizing that you truly are what you eat.
Here are the top 4 terms and ingredients that you should do your best to avoid when shopping for food:
High Fructose Corn Syrup – Made popular as an inexpensive sweetener for soft drinks and candy, the worldwide consumption of high fructose corn syrup has spiked dramatically since the 1980′s. HFCS is mostly fructose, and fructose has been shown to play a role in obesity and the development of diabetes.
Earlier this year, two studies published in Environmental Health tested high fructose corn syrup and found that “almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.”
Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite – If you’re ever salivated at the sight of a BLT, what you’re really reacting to is a preservative, coloring, and flavoring agent known as sodium nitrate. This chemical is added to bacon, ham, frankfurters, luncheon meats, smoked fish, corned beef in order to stablize its comforting red color. Without nitrite, hot dogs and bacon would look gray (yummy, right?)
Several studies have linked consumption of cured meat and nitrite by children, pregnant women, and adults with various types of cancer.
Hydrogentated Oils – We’ve all been told that butter is the enemy of a trim waistline, but it turns out that its vegetable-based cousins, shortening and margerine, might be even worse. Stick margarine, crackers, fried restaurant foods, baked goods, icing, microwave popcorn all typically contain partially hydrogenated oils. Partial hydrogenation reduces the levels of polyunsaturated oils – and also creates trans fats, which promote heart disease. Note: even if a product says that it contains “0g trans fat” it is still permitted to contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fat. Even products that read “no trans fat” may contain large amounts of saturated fat.
Enriched Flours -Did you know that when grain is processed into the pretty “bleached white flour” that you find in the baking aisle, all of its natural nutrients are destroyed. Companies try to add a tiny amount of the lost nutrients back after the fact and then label it “enriched” so it will seem nutritious. Fewer nutrients make processed enriched flours an empty carbohydrate and mean you’re sure to be feeling hungry soon after eating them, so choose foods made with whole grains instead.
Do you know of another common yet dangerous ingredient that consumers should know about? Share it in a comment!
Image Credit: i.telegraph.co.uk