By Sara Novak, Planet Green
A diet with too many processed foods can cause a world of trouble for us on a number of fronts. Processed foods lack nutrient density, meaning that many of the vitamins and minerals have been lost in processing or they weren’t there in the first place. Second, we tend to overeat foods like chips, cookies, boxed meals, dips, etc. because we don’t feel satiated. We don’t feel as full as with whole foods loaded with fibrous fruits and vegetables, so we keep on eating. But the most scary aspect of processed foods can often be what we didn’t even realize was added in the first place.
Food additives serve a world of purposes, most of which we weren’t even aware of, but they can also do us harm. You may be seriously surprised at not only what you’ve been ingesting, but what it could be doing to you and the planet.
1. Food Dyes
If you have kids, this is a big one. NPR reported that the FDA is meeting this week to decide whether some foods with added dyes should either be banned or at least carry a warning label to let parents know ahead of time. Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest is most concerned about Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, which make up 90 percent of the food dyes on the market. Food dyes are known to cause child hyperactivity and even ADHD. Though we’ve been using food dyes for years, use has gone up fivefold in the past 50 years, according to the article. Food dyes are found in processed foods especially fruit snacks, candy, cookies, icing, sausage, and cereal. Read labels and stick to whole foods to avoid them.
A new study has found that the majority of our exposure to dangerous synthetic hormones, namely Bisphenol A (BPA) is canned foods. Organic or not, 92 percent of canned foods have BPA. Rachel wrote that organic brand names Muir Glen, Amy’s, Bionaturae, and S&W Organic all do use BPA in their canned foods.
Phthalates are another synthetic hormone often found in canned foods. Phthalates are a chemical associated with endocrine disruption in animals and in some human studies. In laboratory animal tests, they have been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage. They are often found in personal care products as well as canned foods. Avoid them by eating fresh foods that aren’t packaged whenever possible.
4. Palm Oil
It’s not what palm oil does to your body that’s the problem, although it is a highly saturated fat, and can increase cholesterol, but it’s the horrible impact it has on the planet that’s worth mentioning.
[T]he main threat to the orangutans’ survival, as well as other endangered wildlife like Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceroses, and pygmy elephants, was the clearing and burning of Southeast Asia’s rainforests for palm oil, an additive in cookies, crackers, and cosmetics.
Look for the ingredient in your snack foods and cut it out.
5. Hidden Trans Fats
Many processed foods will claim to be trans fat free when really there is .49 grams per serving. While this may seem like a minimal amount, the American Heart Association says that you should have 2 percent or less per day. So even minuscule amounts have a big impact. Be extra vigilant with baked goods, refrigerated doughs, and snack foods. In these cases make sure they are made with olive, coconut, or canola oil. Trans fats are known to increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL (good cholesterol). They also make the blood vessels less flexible and have a negative impact on blood pressure.
Michelle Schoffro Cook wrote that MSG is linked to hormonal imbalances, weight gain, brain damage, obesity, and headaches, and it’s still found in a surprising amount of foods. Check out her list in order to avoid MSG.
In this one, juice drinks are the culprit. According to a story on Natural News, 85 percent of beverages marketed to children contain dangerous levels of lead. The levels were high enough to require a warning under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, popularly known as Prop. 65. By juicing at home you can use what’s available seasonally, choose organic fruits and vegetables, and eliminate lead.