Here’s an amazing fact: around 90% of most Americans’ diet is processed foods.
I knew the number was high but never suspected it was this high. Hopefully you, dear reader, are better informed and do not fall into this category.
There are many, many problems with eating this much processed food, but today I want to focus on the chemicals that are added to them. If you look at the vast majority of packaged, bottled and canned foods you’ll find a long list of ingredients nature never intended.
Why Is This Important?
I’ll get to the list in a moment, but first it’s important to remember why we want to pay attention to this issue. It’s all too easy to get into the mind set where we think the authorities who monitor these things are protecting us from dangerous chemicals in our food.
Let me say it simply, they’re not.
It’s especially troubling that most children eat huge amounts of processed foods. Many of these have chemical additives in them. There is a link between ADD/ADHD and eating some of these substances.
Because youngsters still have growing brains and bodies, these additives pose threats to their overall health and long-term well being.
Even adults often have great gains in their quality of life when dropping these ingredients from their diets.
Watch Out For These Processed Food Ingredients
Here is a list of the 12 worst food additive offenders* with a short description of why to avoid them:
- Sodium Nitrate / Nitrite
– Commonly found in prepared meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, smoked meats and corned beef, this preservative stops bacteria from growing. Unfortunately, it also transforms into a reactive, cancer-causing compound when heated.
- BHA & BHT
– These are anti-oxidants used to preserve foods. They especially keep fats from going rancid. However, they are not stable and may transform into cancer-causing reactive substances in the body.
- Propyl Gallate
– This often shows up along with BHA and BHT. Animal studies link this preservative to increased cancer risk.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
– Some people get headaches and nausea when eating this flavor-enhancing additive. It has a neuro-stimulant effect, meaning it triggers over-activity in the brain. This has been shown to damage nerve cells in animals and in infants.
- Trans Fats
– If you want to increase your chances of heart disease and stroke, eat more of these. Note that even if the ingredient list on a package says “zero” trans fats, there might be up to 1/2 gram per serving. And unlabelled foods, such as fast food, still has huge amounts of it.
– A skunk by any other name (NutraSweet, Equal), still stinks. In spite of reassurances from official sources, the fact remains that this artificial sweetener breaks down into formaldehyde and wood grain alcohol once in your system. Both of these substances are deadly nerve toxins. Add that to the fact that aspartame has been shown to increaseappetite and you can see why avoiding it makes sense.
– Oh boy! A brand new artificial sweetener! Although still not commonly used, it tastes 200 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used in soft drinks, baked goods, chewing gum and gelatin deserts. Very few studies have been done to prove its safety. Until then I say pass on it.
- Food Colorings: Blue 1,2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6
– These 5 food colorings have links to cancer in animal testing. Gives the phrase “eye candy” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?
– This is the artificial fat that doesn’t get absorbed in your gut. As a result, some people get diarrhea, cramping and gas. It also inhibits the absorption of healthy fats and fat soluble vitamins, leading to potential health issues from vitamin deficiencies.
Vitamins A, D and E, along with Omega-3 fatty acids are all fat soluble, as is the most common form of the heart protector, Co-Q10.
- Potassium Bromate
– This additive is used to increase the fluffiness of breads and rolls. If it doesn’t break down during processing it creates a risk of cancer.
- White Sugar
– Don’t be confused by this one. Practically everything baked, packaged or bottled has sugar in it. White sugar is very processed. It contributes to diabetes, inflammation and cardio-vascular problems. Very hard on the system.
- Sodium Chloride
– This refers to refined (white) table salt. Salt is particularly difficult for those who are sensitive to it. In salt-sensitive people, blood pressure can elevate, kidney function is compromised and even heart attacks are possible. The alternative is unrefined salt, also called Celtic salt or unrefined sea salt. You can spot it because it’s not pure white, but rather gray or gray-brown in color. The color comes from the natural sea minerals that haven’t been refined out of it.
How Do You Avoid These?
The easiest way to avoid these chemicals is to become an avid label reader. However,this isn’t always possible, particularly when eating out.
So when you travel or have other occasion to eat out here are some guidelines to help you:
- Avoid any obviously canned or bottled foods. For example, if the salsa in the Mexican restaurant isn’t made fresh, skip eating it.
- Avoid the fancier dishes that are smothered in sauces. Even if the sauces are made there in the restaurant, you don’t know where all the ingredients came from or what they had in them.
- In keeping with the previous suggestion, keep it simple. Order salads, fresh vegetables and whole meats in your entrees. And skip the fancy appetizers and desserts.
If it seems like you have to be a rocket scientist these days to eat healthfully, you’re not far off. This goes double for processed foods. Unfortunately, we have nobody other than ourselves to watch out for dangerous substances in our foods. Hopefully these suggestions will help make it easier for you to live a longer, healthier life.
* List courtesy of MSN Health & Fitness Network