By: Dr. Keith Kantor
The food label is one of the most misleading pieces of information related to nutrition. As a nutrition professional I rarely look at the actual nutrition facts, the most important part of the label is actually the ingredient list. This list is in small and light font jumbled together in most cases since the manufacturer does not want the health conscious consumer looking at the food labels because there are ingredients put into conventional foods that can increase our risk for several chronic diseases.
Next time you head to the grocery store and start reading labels keep these things in mind:
- Avoid foods that have some form of sugar listed among the top three ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, etc.
- Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients, protein and produce should only have one ingredient ( LIKE OUR FOODS HAVE). Think real unprocessed whole foods, avoid convenient packaged foods.
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that a your child cannot pronounce.
According to the FDA, the ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance. 20 grams of sugar is about 5 teaspoons, when it comes to blood glucose levels, the difference between having a normal blood sugar and a diabetic blood sugar is about a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar.
Aspartame, (E951) more popularly known as NutraSweet and Equal, is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar-free”. Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Aspartame is not your friend. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory, the components of this toxic sweetener may lead to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumor, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures. Acesulfame-K, a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baking goods, gum and gelatin, has not been thoroughly tested and has been linked to kidney tumors.
Found in diet or sugar-free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, Jell-O (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breath mints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins and toothpaste.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly refined artificial sweetener, which has become the number one source of calories in America. It is found in almost all processed foods. HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects.
Found in most processed foods, bread, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables and cereals.
Canola or Soybean Oil
We can’t have sugar and flour without the fat. Canola and especially soybean oil, is used excessively in the current food supply. By weight, both canola and soybean oil are predominantly omega-6 fatty acids. Not only does an excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation in the body, but also these highly refined oils, are oftentimes unstable, rancid and oxidized. Rancid oils are a major source of destructive free radicals, which damage our cells and cause aging. To make matters worse, this issue is compounded by heat/cooking.
Enriched Bleached Flour
Next up in weight we have enriched bleached wheat flour. Besides being a source of gluten (a common food intolerance and inflammatory agent), enriched wheat flour is technically no different from white flour. Manufacturers take wheat and chemically strip out naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, then add synthetic one’s back in. Whether the body actually absorbs these synthetic chemicals is debatable. Consider buying gluten free whole unbleached flours as an alternative.
Modified food starch is made from grains, typically corn or wheat. The starch is acid-modified by treatment with hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid or both and bleached with chlorine. The starch retains its granular form and often resembles the original starch, but the modification results in undesirable properties. Modified food starches are used for a variety of different purposes, to retain moisture, to thicken and as a binding agent to name a few. The long-term health effects are not determined yet.
We round out the ingredients with a bunch of additives and preservatives. Emulsifiers are food additives used to stabilize processed foods. Propylene glycol is a clear liquid used in antifreeze and de-icing solutions; our government has labeled this as GRAS, generally regarded as safe for use in food. Propylene glycol is believed to be both toxic to the skin and the nervous system. Mono-diglycerides are one of the most widely used emulsifiers in food production. It is made from hydrogenated oils otherwise known as unhealthy trans-fats.
Caramel color contains 4-MI which is a compound the state of California recently added to its known list of carcinogens. This is what gives colas their brown color.
BHA And BHT (E320)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are preservatives found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. This common preservative keeps foods from changing color, changing the flavor or becoming rancid. It affects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has a potential to cause cancer. BHA is a widely used and a highly controversial preservative in which a large number of countries have restricted its use because of the toxic relationship to the nervous system and the liver.
Found in potato chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy and jello.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG / E621)
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance that overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. Studies show that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side effects, which include depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG affects the neurological pathways of the brain and disengages the “I’m full” function, which explains the effects of weight gain.
Found in Chinese food (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome ) many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, frozen dinners and lunchmeats.
Trans Fat/ Hydrogenated Oils
Trans fat is used to enhance and extend the shelf life of food products and is among the most dangerous substances that you can consume. Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation. Numerous studies show that trans fat increase LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems. Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding 2 per cent, a move that effectively bans partially hydrogenated oils.
Found in margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods and fast foods.
Common Food Dyes
Studies show that artificial colorings, which are found in soda, fruit juices, and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked some food colorings to cancer. Watch out for these:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133)
Banned in Norway, Finland, and France. May cause chromosomal damage.
Found in candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods.
Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124)
Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission. Found in fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy and bakery products to name a few.
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
Banned in Norway and Sweden. It increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.
Found in American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages and lemonade to name a few.
Sodium Sulfite (E221)
Preservative used in winemaking and other processed foods. According to the FDA, approximately one in 100 people are sensitive to sulfites in food. The majority of these individuals are asthmatic, suggesting a link between asthma and sulfites. Individuals who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death by closing down the airway altogether, leading to cardiac arrest.
Found in wine and dried fruit.
Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite
Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is used as a preservative, coloring, and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. This ingredient, which sounds harmless, is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. There, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs: the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970’s but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products. Why does the industry still use it? Simple: this chemical just happens to turn meats bright red. It’s actually a color fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant.
Found in hotdogs, bacon, ham, lunchmeat, cured meats, corned beef, smoked fish and many other types of processed meat.
Sulfur Dioxide (E220)
Sulfur additives are toxic and in the United States of America, the Federal Drugs Administration has prohibited their use on raw fruit and vegetables. Adverse reactions include bronchial problems particularly in those prone to asthma, hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing, tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E. Not recommended for consumption by children. The International Labor Organization says to avoid E220 if you suffer from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease.
Found in beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, and potato products.
An additive used to increase volume in some white flour, bread, and rolls, potassium bromate is known to cause cancer in animals. Even small amounts in bread can create problems for humans.
Found in most breads.
If you consume foods out of a box, bag, etc. often you are probably consuming these additives. Rather then feeling helpless, simply start reading labels and avoid pre- packaged foods. Look up recipes instead and make with fresh and pure ingredients. Fortunately we use none of the ingredients in our regular all natural or organic foods.