Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bountiful Bite - 10 Food Additives to Avoid

Hey, guess what? March was "National Nutrition Month". No, I never knew this before, either. And with all the free nutrition "advice" floating around 365 days a year, who needs a special month? Most of us feel pretty good about at least 2/3 of what we eat, anyway. 

There's an easy way to self-asses if you're eating well or not. How do you feel? How much energy do you have? Do you get winded going up stairs due to extra body weight? Do you suffer from indigestion? Does the doctor say your liver's overworked? Do your kids fall asleep in class? Are your teeth healthy? Do you have high blood pressure? These are all not so subtle hints that maybe you could use a healthier diet and celebrate your own personal nutrition month.

According to FoodMatters, "A typical American household spends about 90 percent of their food budget on processed foods." Ninety percent! Are we crazy? For "National Nutrition Month" I'd like to discuss two main nutritional bad habits that need much more focus in this country.

1. Serving size. No wait, I want to discuss the other one...

Food additives, or, things in your food that weren't in your grandfather's food when it came from the local small farm. National agencies and NGO's such as the US Department of Agriculture, the CDC, the National Center Health Statistics, and the Dairy Council, as well as diet book authors, periodically point the finger at something organically based in our food and say THAT is the evil ingredient. Saturated fat, margarine, sugars, salt, carbs, and red meat have all been on the healthy eating chopping block at some point. But how often do you hear officials or TV diet pundits talking about the things that don't occur naturally in your food? Maybe these sources of information are ignoring the obvious... what occurs naturally in our food has a healthy purpose, when eaten wisely, but what we add to our food may pose an actual threat to our health.

If you shop in a "regular" big box grocery store, up to 90% of what you buy there could have things added to it that are made in a lab, not grown in the ground or naturally occurring in say, a fish. (Hint: shop the periphery of the supermarket first, and bring cook from scratch recipes for ideas.) So what's the big deal?

Well, let's look at the time frame. In the last 20 years diabetes has been on the rise, heart disease in on the rise, some cancers are on the rise including pancreatic cancer, food allergies are on the rise, and people are getting fatter. Maybe, just maybe, when we ate fresh whole ingredients our bodies were better able to regulate our metabolism, our appetites, our digestive systems, and our ability to fight off illness and disease.

Indeed, there's quite a lot of evidence supporting this idea*. For example, the outcome of some scientific studies of certain food additives have borne ominous results.
This month I'm passing along FoodMattters' list of the Top 10 food additives to avoid. Even if you know what they are, check out the source for a handy listing of what food products may contain them, and why you should avoid them even though they aren't illegal yet.
Hint - what's lurking in your rice mix, crackers, lunch meat, mac and cheese, candy and gum?

10. Potassium Bromate
9. Sulphur Dioxide

8. BHA and BHT
7. Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite

6. Sodium Sulphate
5. Food coloring: Blue #1, Blue#2, Red dye #3, Red #40, Yellow #6
4. Trans Fat (at least this one has gotten some attention)
3. MSG

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

and number one:

1. Artificial Sweeteners.

* <----British Study, creepy findings

Note to self: bring reading glasses to grocery store to read ingredients.

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