(Originally written in February, 2013). The food in the United States nowadays is really scary to me with all of the additives, pesticides, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), trans fats and artificial this or that. And what seems even scarier to me is that these foods are touted as “healthy, natural, great for your body,” which is very far from the truth.
Until about a year ago, we still had food in our house that had some of these ingredients in them. I felt overwhelmed trying to figure out what was good vs. bad for us to eat. Little by little, after a lot of reading and research, I have trained my eyes to catch harmful ingredients on a package label. I read everything I buy now. In order to protect your health, and your family’s health, you need to make it your business to become an avid label reader. Please, do not trust that just because something says “healthy” or “natural” that it is. Read.The.Labels. and become knowledgable about what you are eating.
I only shop the perimeter of the grocery store but again, reading all labels. I try to buy organic as much as possible and really watch the dirty dozen and clean fifteen when buying fruits and vegetables. When I buy meat, I buy the kind without hormones and antibiotics. Yes, it is more expensive but better for our health, much better. I also only buy “snacks” (crackers, tortilla chips, fruit and nut bars, almonds, pretzels) at a health food store, the healthy food/organic section at Kroger or Meijer or on line at Save up to 50% Everyday at Vitacost.com!. Remember that “food” with these additives are markers for low-quality food.
1. Agave Nectar – I just learned that this is not a good sugar substitute (the two that are healthier are Stevia and Xylitol). It is a highly processed sweetener and just as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
- Agave nectar contains the highest amount of fructose (55-97%) among all the commercial sweeteners.
- Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and cannot be used for energy by your body’s cells.
- Excess fructose can damage the liver and lead to insulin resistance, the precursor to Type 2 diabetes.
- Fructose consumption also leads to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease
- Excess fructose can create intestinal flora imbalances
- Fructose increases uric acid in your system which can lead to gout and kidney stones
2. Artificial Colors – Artificial food coloring is derived from coal tar and petroleum and are added to provide color to colorless and “fun” foods. Artificial food coloring is linked to allergic reactions, cancer, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches. With all of these symptoms, I don’t mind my food looking bland and not “fun”. Artificial colors are often times the culprit in a child developing ADHD and ADD.
In the US, the following seven artificial colorings are permitted in food (the most common in bold) as of 2007:
- FD&C Blue No. 1 – Brilliant Blue FCF, E133 (blue shade)
- FD&C Blue No. 2 – Indigotine, E132 (indigo shade)
- FD&C Green No. 3 – Fast Green FCF, E143 (turquoise shade)
- FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129 (red shade)
- FD&C Red No. 3 – Erythrosine, E127 (pink shade, commonly used in glacé cherries)
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 – Tartrazine, E102 (yellow shade)
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 – Sunset Yellow FCF, E110 (orange shade)
The following dyes are only allowed by the FDA for specific limited applications:
- Orange B (red shade) – allowed only for use in hot dog and sausage casings.
- Citrus Red 2 (orange shade) – allowed only for use to color orange peels.
3. Artificial Flavorings – According to Healthy Child Healthy World, “The world of natural and artificial flavors is largely shrouded in secrecy. Here’s the essence: It takes a lab full of chemical mixtures to make processed food have any taste at all. During processing—including dehydrating, canning, and freezing—natural flavors are lost. So chemical combinations are used to infuse flavor back into processed food.” Doesn’t that sound very appetizing? Yum, yum, let’s eat some chemical mixtures in our food! Artificial flavorings can cause allergic reactions, dermatitis, asthma, eczema and hyperactivity and can also interact with DNA and increase mutation or cell transformation.
4. Artificial Sweeteners like Equal, Equal-Measure, NutraSweet, Sweet One, Spoonful, Splenda – I wrote about Aspartame and the awful health concerns linked to it. Aspartame is an excitotoxin, an extremely dangerous neurotoxin, that shrivels and kills brain cells. There is a very long list of the side effects of aspartame in my article but just to name a few, they are destruction of kidney function, headaches/migraines, increase of hunger and body weight, seizures and convulsions and cancer. Please look at the full list to give you the entire picture of how dangerous this chemical really is. Another name for Aspartame is Acesulfame Potassium.
Splenda is another artificial sweetener that is unhealthy for you. It is Sucralose and can cause gastrointestinal problems, seizure, dizziness, migraines, blurred vision, allergic reactions, blood sugar increases and weight gain.
5. Benzoate Preservatives (BHT, BHA, TBHQ) – Sodium Benzoate is a preservative that comes from sodium salt in benzoic acid. It helps to prevent the growth of yeast and bacteria and also used as a preservative or flavoring in soft drinks, fruit juice, margarine, pickles, jellies and preserves. It is also used in supplements, medicine, cosmetics and mouthwash. Benzoic acid in it’s natural form is found in low levels in many fruits. But, once synthesized in a lab, it becomes sodium benzoate and becomes very harmful to the human body. When products with benzoate preservatives are exposed to light or warm temperatures, they react with Vitamin C and create Benzene, a toxic carcinogen. Benzene can cause leukemia, DNA damage, damage to mitochondria in cells, cell death, liver damage, Parkinson’s Disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
6. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – I wrote about high fructose corn syrup before and am putting it on this list because it is where it belongs. It is a sweetener made by processing corn syrup to increase the level of fructose. It is in 80% of processed food in the United States. In Europe, HFCS is restricted to 2 – 3% of sugar production. It can cause weight gain and obesity, attribute to developing Type 2 diabetes, cause long-term liver damage, make the body more acidic, and is linked to Metabolic Syndrome.
7. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) – MSG is one of the most common food additives and used to enhance flavor in processed foods. It is an excitotoxin, an extremely dangerous neurotoxin, that shrivels and kills brain cells. It has also been linked to migraines, seizures, ADD/ADHD, heart palpitations and other symptoms along with stimulating the appetite and causing weight gain and obesity.
I have a friend who gets severe migraine headaches when eating anything with MSG in it. Her husband just made stir fry for she and her family yesterday and the sauce he chose at the grocery store contained hydrolyzed soy protein. Not realizing it had MSG, he bought it. My friend got a bad migraine after eating the stir fry and later realized it was the MSG which was disguised as hydrolyzed soy protein.
I found a very helpful chart to refer when trying to figure out if something has MSG in it: https://www.saynotomsg.com/basics_list.php Print it out, put it on your refrigerator and stay away from these ingredients! MSG is disguised as many different ingredients and they all have the same harmful effect on your body.
11. Refined Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogentated Oils – Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils create trans fat which is detrimental to your health as it raises your bad cholesterol and lowers your good cholesterol. These oils increase the shelf-life of cakes, cookies and crackers but decrease our “shelf-life” by causing obesity and heart disease.
12. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) – Produced by Monsanto, rBGH is a genetically engineered version of the natural growth hormone produced by cows. It is marketed to dairy farmers to increase milk production in cows and is sold under the brand name “Posilac.” There are side effects to both the animals being injected with this hormone and to anyone who drinks milk that comes from a cow that was injected with these hormones. For humans, this hormone increases the risk of developing cancer and according to Organic Valley, “Posilac packaging lists many possible side effects of the drug, including reduced pregnancy rates, visibly abnormal milk, hoof disorders and a need for more drug treatments for health problems. Cows treated with rBST face a nearly 25% increase in the risk of clinical mastitis, a 40% reduction in fertility, and 55% increase risk of lameness. The product is already prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union.”
These are some of the major players in the decline of our food system in this country. Did you know that many countries do not even allow many, if not all, of these ingredients in their food? For the United States being such a progressive country, it seems like we would have better ingredients in our food than the above.
It’s all about the journey…
You may also like:
Do you drink or eat anything with Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful or Equal-Measure a.k.a. ASPARTAME? If so, read this!
Top 10 reasons you should never consume high fructose corn syrup
What is really in our everyday products?
So, now what? A follow up to “what is really in our everyday products?”