Much of today’s “food” comes in a box, bag, or package meant to be heated in the microwave. Busy lives and much to do has lead food manufacturers to cater to convenience rather than nutrition. If the food is not packaged, many people turn to one of the limitless fast food joints waiting to saturate your tissues with sugar, unhealthy fats, and other harmful nutrients.
Let’s face it, it is increasingly difficult to eat a well-balanced and nutrient-dense meal these days. And portions…don’t get me started on portions. There is a lot of opportunity to be exposed to harmful ingredients in today’s on-the-go meals, so let’s talk about some of the worst ingredients lurking in our food. With some knowledge and a little extra effort, you can keep these five dangerous food additives out of your shopping cart, and more importantly out of your body.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – While all added sugars should be limited as much as possible, HFCS is a sugar to be particularly concerned about. HFCS is a sweetener created by processing corn sugar to increase the level of fructose to about 55 percent, leaving the rest as 45 percent glucose. And if you think you have a healthy alternative in agave, think again. Depending on how agave is processed it could contain up to 90 percent fructose, making it far worse than HFCS. HFCS is sweeter than regular sugar making it less costly to add to products but also increasing the sweetness of products so they are more addictive.
HFCS is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream because there is no chemical bond between glucose and fructose, causing an equally rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Research suggests that your body doesn’t process HFCS like regular sugar (sucrose), which means it doesn’t shut off your appetite center. Without signals being sent from your appetite center that you have consumed calories you are more likely to overeat. Your liver is responsible for converting HFCS to glucose, but when too much HFCS is consumed it gets stored as fat, contributing to obesity and fatty liver deposits. In addition, HFCS increases your triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol levels, contributes to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, depresses your immune system and even accelerates the aging process.
Watch out for this dangerous ingredient commonly found in: soda/soft drinks, baked goods, candy, sauces, salad dressings, yogurt, cereals. In addition, it may be hiding under another name such as glucose-fructose syrup, maize syrup, glucose syrup, crystalline fructose, tapioca syrup, dahlia syrup, or isoglucose.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – MSG is a flavor enhancer added to thousands of foods commonly consumed every day. It is strongly associated with short-term reactions such as headache, flushing, numbness or burning in the face and neck area, heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, difficulty breathing and weakness — termed MSG symptom complex. MSG overstimulates the glutamine receptors in the brain, which enhances salty and sweet flavors. Some reports suggest that this overexcitement of glutamate receptors can cause cell death or damage and eventually leads to declined cognitive function. MSG also increases triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol levels, contributes to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, depresses your immune system and even accelerates the aging process.
It is commonly found in: Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups, processed meats, crackers, frozen dinners, chicken and beef broths, potato chips. It can also be found on labels under the following names: autolyzed yeast, calcium caseinate, gelatin, glutamate, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, monopotassium glutamate, sodium caseinate, textured protein, yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient.
Trans fats – Trans fats are a man-made fat used to enhance the flavor of and extend the shelf life of many foods. Research suggests it is more harmful than saturated fat (because it increases bad cholesterol, while simultaneously decreasing good cholesterol) and it has been linked to learning and memory challenges. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which significantly increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. It is also associated with an increased risk of developing type II diabetes. Trans fats are commonly found in: fried foods, baked goods, potato chips, crackers, margarine, fast food, packaged foods, cookies, frozen foods, dips. It may be hiding on labels under these additional names: partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Unfortunately, manufacturers are allowed to call their product fat free as long as the trans-fat content is 0.5 g or lower, so you need to read labels carefully.
Sodium nitrite – A salty preservative and color corrector used in some meats, sodium nitrite has been linked to certain cancers and heart disease. Some experts credit this nasty additive as the reason processed meats are so strongly associated with cancer. Research suggests that those who eat the most processed meat (known to contain sodium nitrite) have a greater risk of cancer and heart disease than people who eat red meat. During digestion, sodium nitrite combines with amino acids to form nitrosamines, which are very harmful to the liver and pancreas and highly carcinogenic. They are commonly found in: processed meats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, beef jerky, deli meats, and canned soups. It may also be listed on a food label as nitrate, nitrate, or sodium nitrate.
Artificial sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners are used in a variety of products to decrease caloric intake and to provide a sweetener that diabetics can use without significantly affecting blood sugar levels. However, evidence suggests that diet soda drinkers (sweetened with artificial sweeteners) are more likely to become overweight, obese and have a larger waistline than those who drink full sugar soft drinks. This is because some artificial sweeteners pass through the digestive tract largely unmetabolized. Beyond obesity, artificial sweeteners are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and kidney disorders. Some reports indicate that artificial sweeteners may cause gastrointestinal problems, allergic reactions, migraines, cancer, and kidney, liver and thyroid damage. Artificial sweeteners are in many low-fat and sugar free foods including: Soft drinks/soda, sugar-free gum, candy, yogurt, diet foods, snack bars, and cereal. Artificial sweeteners are called many names, such as: acesulfame potassium, acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose. A much better low-calorie sweetener option is stevia.
To learn more about the research behind these harmful ingredients, see pages 53-54 of The Doctor’s Guide to Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails. Do your family and personal health a favor and keep these nasty ingredients out of your grocery cart. Your body will thank you.