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Label Madness: Top 4 Food Ingredients to Avoid

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!

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Image Credit: i.telegraph.co.uk

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37 comments

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2:01PM PDT on Sep 25, 2009

If you want to know why there are so many additives in our food, read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollen. Hint - it all starts with heavily substidized number 2 field corn, chemical fertilizers and a process known as fractioning food into its chemical components. The purpose is profit and health be dammed.

9:45PM PDT on Sep 20, 2009

THANK you for the head's up on MERCURY in high fructose corn syrup; we were already TRYING to avoid it (not easy, is it?!) but now MERCURY?! MERCURY? which permanently damages us & is not eliminated from the body, & is ESPECIALLY problematic for those suffering the challenges of AUTISM!)

thank you for posting this article.

9:38PM PDT on Sep 20, 2009

1) I am glad that some people are aware & increasing the awareness of these DANGEROUS abominations, so many of which have benign sounding, even natural sounding names. What they do to our bodies ISN'T natural.

2) Monosodium glutamate, MSG - also misleading sounding names suchas AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT (which sounds like something you should bake with, but it's NOT), hydrolyzed (ANYTHING) - these effect your health. I mean beyond causing headaches in many people...

3) Those sweetners - before nutra sweet came out, their own studies indicated memory loss as a consequence, among other alarming things... then after beying approved ANYway, YEARS later LONG term research has shown tumors and lesions...

This was a great post, I wish there were MORE INFORMATION being circulated, rather than the DIS information shoved down our throats & minds of our children...

I'm confused by this audrae erickson post - it seems at least in this post she is NOT purporting the virtues of high fructose corn syrup... but then she may just be phishing?


7:22PM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

this is great! thanks!

5:17PM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

Avoid anything with Propylene Glycol in it. I was eating lots of salads over the summer with prepared salad dressing and I started to suffer extreme gastro-intestinal problems - gas, bloating, heartburn, acidic diarrhea and acute candida. I looked up Propylene Glycol and discovered that it causes all of these problems because it increases acid in the body. I wrote to the company with my concerns (President's Choice) and they told me that they use it as a "food moisturizer" because it's approved by Health Canada! They did say that they would pass along my message to their product developers. I will never knowingly eat anything with Propylene Glycol in it again. I had the same symptoms with MSG years ago and I stopped eating that, too. I would suggest writing to the stores and manufacturers when you discover these unhealthy additives in your food and, if enough of us voice our opinions, maybe they will stop poisoning us with their chemicals. Bon appetit!

11:50AM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

I can tell you right now HFCS caused me to bleed from my rectum big time so bad I thought I would have to call 911. The big thing with HFCS there is Mercury in it as well and that could also cause a big problem because we are not supposed to eat Mercury are we not?

7:30AM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

thanks for the advice!

5:30AM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

URL referenced in the previous comment:
http://ban-hfcs.blogspot.com/2009/09/audrae-erickson-patron-saint-of-high.html

5:27AM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

In a way, i wish Audrae Erickson would realize how ineffective such comments (for example, like the boilerplate above that she has copy/pasted into comment fields on over 700 posts) are; everyone knows she represents a DC lobbying group; indeed, it is her job to post such comments on news stories and blogs. One would think she would be aware how defensively she comes across?

For full details on what a bang up job she's doing as a PR person for HFCS, see:

Audrae Erickson Patron Saint of HFCS

5:17PM PDT on Sep 18, 2009

Audrae Erickson

well, i for one am so relieved to learn that the American Dietetic Association, American Medical Association and the Corn Refiners Association all assure us that HFCS is ok.
let's see.. you have a vested interest in promoting the stuff because it pays your salary. i'm sure the list of things the AMA has endorsed (smoking for one) only to change it's mind once it could no longer deny the truth is as long as both my arms combined!
if the stuff wasn't garbage, you wouldn't need commercials telling us how good it is. aren't we all so tired of corporate shills telling us that things are safe, good, proven, etc? what about margarine, what about VIOXX?
food is grown. it is NOT made in a lab.
why don't you have a little self respect and get a real job?

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