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By Brett Blumenthal. If you know me at all, you know that I’m an advocate for whole, unprocessed foods.  However, many of us inevitably turn to packaged or processed foods when we are short on time.  Maybe we grab a frozen dinner or pizza for a quick dinner for our family.  Maybe we grab a quick nutrition bar to satiate our hunger until we can sit down for a real meal.  Or maybe, we just don’t like to cook.  Whether we like it or not, packaged and processed food has become a huge part of our food industry and, as a result, a part of many of our diets.

Although there are some brands that I hugely advocate for, there are many more that border on outright unhealthy and “scary.”  Many packaged foods that seem healthy often contain fillers, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want in your diet. It is always preferable to choose products that have only a handful of ingredients, all of which should be recognizable.  One test to know whether an ingredient is healthy is to ask yourself whether your grandmother would recognize it.  If not, there is a good chance the ingredient is less natural food and more man-made chemical.  Another good test is whether or not you can easily pronounce the ingredient.  If you feel like you need a science degree to pronounce it properly, chances are the ingredient is worth avoiding.

If you do have to resort to a processed food for a snack or dinner (anything canned, packaged, etc.), try to avoid those that contain the ingredients listed in the following chart.  Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, these ingredients are some of the most highly processed and least healthy of all:

Ingredient Why it is Used Why it is Bad
Artificial Colors
  • Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color.
  • Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches.
Artificial Flavorings
  • Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors.
  • Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma
  • Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid.
Artificial Sweeteners(Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Equal®, NutraSweet®,  Saccharin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)
  • Highly-processed, chemically-derived, zero-calorie sweetenersfound in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving.
  • Can negatively impact metabolism
  • Some have been linked to cancer, dizziness hallucinations and headaches.
Benzoate Preservatives

(BHT, BHA, TBHQ)

  • Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid.
  • May result in hyperactivity, angiodema,  asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and  urticaria
  • Can affect estrogen balance and levels.
Brominated Vegetable Oil

(BVO)

  • Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks.
  • Increases triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys.
High Fructose Corn Syrup(HFCS)
  • Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar
  • Sustains freshness in baked goods
  • Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness.
  • May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat
  • Increases risk for Type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Isn’t easily metabolized by the liver.
MSG

(Monosodium Glutamate)

  • Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and other foods.
  • May stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing.
Olestra
  • An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked.
  • Inhibits absorption of some nutrients
  • Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence.
Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils(Palm, Soybean and others)
  • Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S.
  • Cheaper than most other oils.
  • Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to risk of heart disease.

Have you checked your ingredient lists recently? Do they contain any of the above? Have you tried cutting some of these ingredients out?Originally posted on sheerbalance.com 

April 15, 2010

PR debacle for HFCS: Care for some mercury with your oatmeal?

By Janet @ 4:05 pm on 26 January 2009.

That much-debated sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, is going to need more than a pricey PR campaign to fix this one.

After one set of scientists found mercury — yes, everyone’s favorite brain-impairing element — in almost half of commercial HFCS, another bunch of scientists decided to get specific and tested 55 common consumer products that use HFCS. And guess what? Almost a third of them contain mercury.

How did the heavy metal get in there? In making HFCS — that “natural” sweetener, as the Corn Refiners Associaton likes to call it — caustic soda is one ingredient used to separate corn starch from the corn kernel. Apparently most caustic soda for years has been produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants, where it can be contaminated with mercury that it passes on to the HFCS, and then to consumers.

David Wallinga, M.D., and his co-authors of “Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,” are naming brand names in their report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. At the top of the list: Quaker Oatmeal to Go, Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce from Heinz, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce, and Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars. Oy!

Abstract

Mercury cell chlor-alkali products are used to produce thousands of other products including food ingredients such as citric acid, sodium benzoate, and high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is used in food products to enhance shelf life. A pilot study was conducted to determine if high fructose corn syrup contains mercury, a toxic metal historically used as an anti-microbial. High fructose corn syrup samples were collected from three different manufacturers and analyzed for total mercury. The samples were found to contain levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 to 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. Average daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup is about 50 grams per person in the United States. With respect to total mercury exposure, it may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations.

As a person with diabetes, you know how important it is to control your blood glucose and insulin levels to avoid complications. So, it would seem that a lack of glucose and insulin secretion from fructose consumption would be a good thing.However, insulin also controls another hormone, leptin, so its release is necessary. Leptin tells your body to stop eating when it’s full by signaling the brain to stop sending hunger signals. Since fructose doesn’t stimulate glucose levels and insulin release, there’s no increase in leptin levels or feeling of satiety. This can leave you ripe for unhealthy weight gain.

The Fate of Fructose in the Body

Fructose requires a different metabolic pathway than other carbohydrates because it basically skips glycolysis (normal carbohydrate metabolism). Because of this, fructose is an unregulated source of “acetyl CoA,” or the starting material for fatty acid synthesis. This, coupled with unstimulated leptin levels, is like opening the flood gates of fat deposition.

Here is the full article: http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2008/08/20/4274/the-dangers-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

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