“If man made it, don’t eat it.” - Jack LaLanne
Top Ten Ingredients To Avoid For A Healthier You
Could your own kitchen be holding you back from living a healthy lifestyle? This article will share with you the top ten ingredients to avoid for a healthier you. If you are like me, you have probably never paid much attention to product labels, serving sizes, or nutritional facts. The truth of the matter is my old shopping method had me searching for the best bang for my buck. Yes, this included coupon cutting and arduously searching for buy one get one free deals! This is the way my family and I use to shop until one day I became incredibly curious as to what was in the foods I was eating. Incredible resources such as Food Inc. and Food Matters planted the seed, but I ultimately had to follow through and truly discover what was hiding in my food. As it turns out the vast majority of foods I had in my refrigerator and pantry contained ingredients I had no idea how to pronounce. Although there are times when the following adage by Jack LaLanne is difficult to live by, it goes a long way towards a healthier and more vibrant you, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”
Now we all like hypothetical scenarios, such as, “If I won the lotto”… or “If I could go back in time”…. but what if we placed a hypothetical scenario on the food we select on a daily basis. What if we were all owners of our own businesses and we had several vacancies to fill. We would likely follow standard human resource procedures and begin resume screening, interviewing, and checking backgrounds and references. All of these steps are taken in an effort to ensure these employees are coming to work for us and not against us. Now what if we applied this same lengthy protocol to the foods we select at our local food stores, verifying their source and ingredient labels in the process. In doing so we could effectively vouch whether or not these foods stand to work for us or against us. What would surely result is a drastic shift in consumer selection. We would bypass the majority of items that make it into shopping carts today by simply applying this playful hypothetical.
It is important to note that by adopting a whole foods lifestyle you will by default cut out numerous harmful ingredients, many of which are not allowed in organic products. Below I have included the top ten ingredients you should avoid and subsequently add to your list of red flags when conducting your own “food interviews” at the store:
What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Before I share with you why HFCS is harmful, I encourage you to sweep through your entire kitchen and read all of the ingredient labels. I guarantee you will be shocked at how widespread this ingredient is! Now on to the truth, HFCS is the highest source of calories for the majority of Americans. You will find it in processed foods, fruit drinks, condiments, sodas, syrup…think Starbucks beverages, candy, and pastries just to name a few. It is extremely toxic to your liver, causes obesity, increases the body’s inflammation as well as creates a powerful insulin response, which contributes to Type II diabetes. A great resource for more information on this is King Corn.
What Is Aspartame?
Artificial Sweeteners: What is Aspartame? Aspartame is an artificial chemical sweetener that can be found in many of your favorite foods, including protein powders, diet drinks / sodas, and diet foods. (Think Splenda, NutraSweet, Equal, and Sweet N Low). It has the potential to cause cancer or neurological problems, rashes or hives, migraines, weight gain, bloating, edema, and also predisposes you to Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Opt instead for natural sugar sources such as Stevia, Truvia, or Palm Sugar. A great resource for more information on this toxic ingredient is Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World.
What Is MSG?
MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate): What is MSG? (AKA Sodium/Calcium Caseinate, autolyzed yeast, textured protein, yeast extract, yeast food, glutamate, glutamic acid, autolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein HVP, hydrolyzed plant protein HPP, soy protein extract, natural flavors) I know this is a lot to digest, but you must be aware of this taste enhancer chemical (excitotoxin) that has been associated with reproductive disorders, migraine headaches, endocrine system damage, and reduced fertility. I also urge you to check your protein powders, as you might be surprised to find this under one of these alternative names.
Shortening, Hydrogenated, and Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Trans Fat): The fat family consists of (saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), trans fats or trans-fatty acids, are largely artificial fats. Minimal amounts of trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products. Trans fats are made by a chemical process called partial hydrogenation, whereby liquid vegetable oil is packed with hydrogen atoms and converted into a solid fat. As a result this became a go to fat for the food industry because of its high melting point, creamy smooth texture, reusability in deep fat frying, and the benefit of extending the shelf life of food products. These can be found in numerous processed foods, sweeteners, and yes your favorite coffee creamer. Trans fats have been proven to cause heart disease, obesity, and a lethargic immune system. Notable side effects include inflammation, arthritis, cancer, neurological and visual development of fetus, liver damage, and Type II diabetes just to name a few.
Sodium Nitrates / Nitrites: Are preservatives, colorings, and flavorings commonly found in processed meats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef. Studies have linked these additives to numerous types of cancer.
Artificial Colors, Flavorings, Dyes, & Preservatives (Blue 1, 2, Red 3, 40, Green 3, Yellow 5,6, Benzoate, BHT, BHA, TBHQ) There are numerous studies linking the following additives to behavioral problems in children, ADHD, depression, migraines, hormone dysfunction, cancer, and a lower IQ. I was shocked when I found out my favorite sports drink contained some of these additives. I now reach for clean and healthy beverages such as Kombucha or Coconut Water.
Processed / Refined Wheat Gluten: The process of refining a natural product creates one which is void of natural nutrients. Take white rice for example; does it really make sense to consume refined white rice that has been “enriched” with the vitamins and minerals you just took out? Mother Nature created whole products with all of the benefits; there is no need to alter them. Eat whole fresh foods, such as brown rice!
Sodium Chloride: Salt is an essential nutrient, but somehow commercial table salt has become so incredibly processed it actually does more harm than good. It is full of additives, fluoride, anti-caking agents, and has even been stripped of iodine a necessary element for proper thyroid function. Every cell in our body requires salt and we are constantly losing salt through urine and perspiration, therefore we must be mindful of the source of salt nourishing our bodies. High-quality unrefined salt contains a rich content of important trace minerals. Opt for healthy alternatives such as Bragg’s amino acids, Himalayan Salt, or Celtic Sea Salt (my personal favorite!)
Refined Soy: When it comes to soy there is unfermented/fermented and organic/GMO. Genetically modified and unfermented soy should be avoided at all costs. The unrefined soy category includes tofu, bean curd, soy milks, soy infant formula, soy protein powders, and soy meat alternatives (sausages and veggie burgers made from hydrolyzed soy powder) all which pose potential danger given their high levels of phytic acid, which has the propensity of binding to vitamins and minerals in the body as well as its ability to mimic the estrogen hormone in women, causing a whole host of problems. Stick to organic fermented soy products such as miso, natto, shoyu, and tempeh as this process allows the nutrients in the beans to become available to the body. I will be discussing soy further in a later blog post.
White Sugar: Does incredible harm to the body as it influences brain function and psychological function. The consumption of excess amounts of sugar causes an increase in insulin production, which as a result causes a drop in your blood sugar known as hypoglycemia. Additional side effects include, inflammation, joint degeneration, ADHD, and weight gain. Opt instead for natural sugar sources such as Stevia, Truvia, or Palm Sugar.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t give in, I know exactly what you are thinking and feeling right now because I was there not too long ago. I always encourage a slow and steady approach in implementing these changes, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods or condiments, as I originally thought! What I have found is that by correctly identifying the sources of foods you enjoy, there is no “sacrificing” to be made. In doing so, you can feel confident your body will know exactly what to do with the foods you introduce. After all, you want your body to be at peace and not constantly at war with the above ingredients!