Less Is Best

Buy natural candy canes at Zerbos.

Are you a label fanatic?  You should be.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in school cafeterias and it’s pretty pathetic what some people consider lunch.  For instance, guess which “lunch” product contains these ingredients:  ground yellow corn, vegetable oil, corn bran, and salt. Whey, milk, canola oil, dried corn syrup, water, sodium phosphate, whey protein concentrate, lactic acid, milkfat, sodium alginate, vinegar, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, sorbic acid as a preservative, cheese culture, enzymes, natural flavor, apocarotenal (color), tomato paste, green chili peppers, dehydrated onions, high fructose corn syrup, food starch-modified, jalapeno peppers, sodium benzoate potassium sorbate, and spice? (31 ingredients) Oscar Mayer Nachos Lunchables.  Disgraceful.  And yet this is only one example.  Pay close attention to all processed food and when in doubt, skip it.

The more I read about the food industry, the more alarmed I become regarding the FDA and what they permit in grocery stores.  For instance, the dyes Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 which make up 90 percent of the food dyes on the market, are banned in Europe because they are known to cause child hyperactivity and even ADHD.  Food dyes are found in processed foods especially fruit snacks, candy, cookies, icing, sausage, and cereal.  Trader Joes refuses to carry products with harmful dyes, making my grocery shopping easier.  That said, you still have to be careful no matter where you shop.  Read more about the recent article on organics.  Also be careful of “green washing”; companies that use “eco-looking” packaging and label products with false claims.

Keep it simple.  Whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables (or frozen) and fewest ingredients are the best choices when it comes to grocery shopping.  Processed foods contain harmful ingredients to make it “pretty”, give food longer shelf life and tastier.  And because they are not “real” foods, when you eat them , your body has difficulty becoming satiated so you end up eating excessively which naturally has negative consequences.  Of course, no one is perfect and I encourage kids to make smart choices.  It’s OK to splurge once in awhile as long as there is a healthy balance between the good and the bad.

That’s why I love my local bakery, Sunflour Bakehaus, in downtown Farmington.   Their breads are delicious and contain as few as 4 ingredients; wheat, water, yeast and salt.  Put it in your freezer to “preserve” and skip the Wonder Bread which has over 24 ingredients!

Here’s a quick list of foods you want to avoid and why.  Of course, they won’t be listed in the “ingredients” but are names you definitely want to be familiar with.
  1. Bisphenol A(BPA) = Studies have found that the majority of our exposure to dangerous synthetic hormones, namely (BPA) is canned foods.  Organic or not, 92 percent of canned foods have BPA.  I just called Muir brands and they confirmed as of 10/2010, they removed all BPA from can linings. Phew!  I don’t use a lot of canned products, but tomato sauce is a staple in my pantry.
  2. Lead = Often found in juice drinks according to a story on Natural News, 85 percent of beverages marketed to children contain dangerous levels of lead.
  3. Dyes = According to research conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a possible link exists between food dyes and childhood health disorders such as hyperactivity, behavior problems and even pediatric cancers.
  4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)= Has been connected with causing hormonal imbalances, weight gain, brain damage, obesity, and migrane headaches.  I am shocked how many substances contain MSG.  See list here.
  5. Phthalates = Another synthetic hormone often found in canned foods, phthalates are a chemical associated with endocrine disruption in animals and in some human studies.
  6. Palm Oil = Causes environmental degradation by means of deforestation.
  7. Trans Fats = 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.  Read complete story here.
Of course there is more, but I hope this is enough info to peak your interest and encourage you to carefully read the labels.  Happy shopping!