I know. You’ve already read articles, studies, blogs, etc. regarding healthy vs. unhealthy foods we eat. I’ve come across a few hundred…thousand myself. But, have you ever wondered what some of the ingredients are in your food? Have you ever felt overwhelmed with which ones are good and which one you should avoid, completely?
At one time or another, I’ve omitted something from my diet. I’ve tried depleting fat grams. Gluten. Meat. Dairy. Bread. Sugar. You name it, and I’ve tried it. Sure, there were some improvements in my health. I even lost a few pounds on some of these bandwagon lifestyles. But, it wasn’t until a few years ago, that I realized how important it was to avoid certain INGREDIENTS, in my diet!
A Change of Heart
There was a time that I thought looking good was all that mattered. I prioritized eating in a manner that would prevent weight gain. Period. Little did I know I was eating a bunch of toxic chemicals while depriving myself of the essential vitamins my body NEEDED and found in real foods.
I’ve come a long way.
Now that I understand that fad diets can be disastrous, I’m having a hard time accepting that our culture makes it so difficult to eat and sustain eating real food. The closest Whole Foods market is over 26 miles away. There’s not a single restaurant within a 40 minute radius that provides organic or farm-to-table options. I’m afraid these establishments are few are far between. Even the cost of organic food (which means the absence of chemicals) costs a LOT more than non-organic foods.
After becoming a foster parent (a few years ago), I felt an enormous amount of responsibility to take FOOD more seriously. After all, I began making food choices for another human being. I want to do my very best to control the foods that I prepare and bring into my home. Not to mention, as an older mommy, I want to be around for a long time, so I can be a part of their life!
If you feel the same and/or want to improve your lifestyle by eating real foods (and kiss all those fad “DIETS” goodbye), I’d encourage you to start by perusing the Cornucopia Institute’s website. I guarantee you’ll learn so much and move one step closer to perfect health.
The Cornucopia Institute is a non-profit organization with the mission of “Seeking economic justice for the family-scale farming community.” They perform extensive research on food, correspond with the food industry giants, and provide user-friendly report summaries and scoreboards to help consumers, like you and me, get the facts that we need. The Cornucopia Institute website is my favorite go-to resource for legitimate information regarding food and the food industry.
This, along with other reliable sources (listed at the end of this post) have helped me to determine foods and ingredients that I have banned from my pantry.
But, one more thing. My theory is that each individual needs to determine what is best, as there really shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all kind of an eating lifestyle. (i.e. If you have diabetes, sugar is going to have an entirely different meaning for you than someone who does not have diabetes.) Obviously, your current health status is the best place to start. However, these ingredients are basically those that have harmful affect or little to NO nutritional value, whatsoever.
Ingredients to Avoid
**This is not an exhaustive list. Just some of the most popular ingredients that you see a lot of. When you really shouldn’t see them, at all!
Refined Sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup
This is a no-brainer. I know. There’s a lot of back-and-forth on which is worse. Sugar? Or, High Fructose Corn Syrup? Personally, I don’t think that should matter. We all know that too much sweetener in anything is bad.
Epidemiological studies have shown that consuming large amounts of added sweeteners—primarily in sodas and other sweetened drinks—is associated with greater risk of fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (See reference.)
I look at the amount of sugar in a single serving size in every product, before I take it home. I try to keep the sugar in the single digits, and limit these foods in general. (Yes, I each chocolate on a regular basis. But, trust me. I’m watching my overall consumption!) I also limit my baking (much to the chagrin of Scott). But, when I do bake, I use natural sweeteners with a low glycemic index. (Here’s a great article about the healthiest natural sweeteners.)
Years ago, when I joined the Atkins diet craze, I compensated carbohydrates with an overload of FAT and artificial sweeteners. Little did I know that these artificial sweeteners could do just as much harm, if not more than regular sugar.
There is mounting evidence that the chemicals that make up these sweeteners, especially aspartame, break down in the body into a deadly toxin called DKP. When your stomach processes this chemical, it in turn produces chemicals that can cause cancer, especially brain tumors. (If you’re still not convinced, check out this article.)
Another no-brainer. When flour is highly processed, all the nutrients are taken out. Today, it is a common practice for mills to bleach flour with a chemical called chlorine gas. According to the EPA, “Chlorine gas is a dangerous irritant that is not safe to inhale and in large quantities can be lethal.”
Processed white flour has a very high glycemic rate which quickly raises the blood sugar level and insulin levels. This can be a direct cause of diabetes, not to mention it is believed that it spreads cancer cells by feeding the cells directly.
One should opt for whole grains, like brown or wild rice, whole-wheat breads and pastas, barley, and oatmeal. These foods have more nutrients and are digested slow and steady.
AKA Packaged foods. As a rule of thumb, the bulk of the foods I buy are in their most primitive state. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “shop the perimeter” of your supermarket tip. Basically, it is within the aisles that you’ll find the most processed foods. They’re typically canned, boxed, or jarred with far too many ingredients. (Think cereals, granola bars, cookies, crackers, soup mixes, dressings, etc.) Processed foods are made by manufacturers that care more about extending their products’ shelf life (thus making more money) than prohibiting poisons in our foods.
Please. Please. If you’re eating something made in a factory, and there are multiple ingredients on the product, make sure to read them carefully. You want real, identifiable food as the main ingredients. You don’t want to see any of these…
- Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate These almost sound healthy, don’t they? Not only are these ingredients linked to cancer, but can damage your thyroid and cause havoc on your hormones and endocrine health.
- Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites. These twin chemical preservatives are processed in meats like bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meat. Both are believed to cause colon cancer and/or lead to diabetes. You’re better off choosing fresh, organic meats.
- Artificial colors (Blue 1 and 2, Green 3, Red 3, and Yellow 6, etc.) These have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers. I know friends and family members who swear that these additives make their children uncontrollably hyperactive. No, thank you.
- Hydrogenated oil (AKA trans fat) Its benefit (to food industries, of course) is to help increase shelf life and save costs. Hydrogenation is a process in which a liquid unsaturated fat is turned into a solid fat by adding hydrogen. During this processing, a type of fat called trans fat is made. While small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in some foods, the majority of trans fats in the diet come from these processed hydrogenated fats. Margarine, shortening, and palm oil are all trans-fat. Opt for heart-healthy vegetable oils, such as safflower, canola, and olive oil instead.
I’ll admit. I’m overwhelmed with this one. I’m going to direct you to a few links that give a great run-down on the dangers of soy as well as the DOZENS of alternative names for soy.
In a nutshell, soy can cause heart problems. Also, soy contains phytoestrogens, which mimic the body’s natural estrogen hormones. I would almost bet my life on the fact that infertility and hormonal imbalances have too close a connection with SOY consumption.
MSG also has many undercover names such as monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, autolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract and even citric acid.
Yes, it enhances flavor. But, high levels of any form of MSG has been known to affect our brain chemistry. Now that’s scary. It’s so much safer to flavor foods, naturally.
You think you’re doing great with that organic milk? Not so fast. There’s a good chance you’re wreaking havoc on your digestive system. Carogeenan is a substance extracted from red and purple seaweeds, consisting of a mixture of polysaccharides. It is used as a thickening or emulsifying agent in food products. (Wikipedia)
It’s very common in dairy products, infant formula, chocolate milk, and chocolate bars. Even the organic ones!
According to studies performed by Cornucopia, there is much proof that food-grade carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors.
Time to Take Control
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed after reading this post, that’s ok! The good news is that you’re one step closer to becoming mindful of certain ingredients that you should avoid. From there, you can take better control of the foods you choose.
Personally, I know that I cannot do a 100% clean diet 100% of the time. I’m convinced that I love chocolate more than 90% of the human population! And, just like most, I attend family gatherings, restaurants, etc. regularly. The trick for me is that I try to only partake in liberal eating on limited occasions. I think that’s key. Very. Limited. Occasion. (Once a week. On vacation. At a wedding, etc.)
We can all do that, right?
If you have not heard, I’ll be starting a book club in a few weeks. Based on the book, Made to Crave by Lysa Terkheurst. If you’re interested in gaining full control of those nasty cravings and learning to satisfy your deepest cravings with GOD (not food), this may be for you! Join my Facebook group, here, to get in on the fun!