Do you really know what is lurking in your pantry? How adept are you at reading labels? When you have a choice to make at the grocery store, is it considered an informed one? If you need an overview on food labelling, check out this article by Precision Nutrition https://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-labels-part-1
Sugar By Any Name
Sugar is in almost every product that comes out of a package. Listed below are just 61 of the ones you will see on packaging and should be familiar with.
There hasn’t been a recommended, defined limit for added sugars, but as of 2014, it was estimated that Canadians ate 88lbs of sugar a year (about 1 in 5 calories).
When you are looking at a label, when it comes to sugar you have to look at total grams of sugar in a product as well as the source of that sugar. 4 grams of sugar equals roughly 1 teaspoon of sugar. 1 gram of sugar equals roughly 4 calories.
I randomly picked a popular yogurt single serving cup in vanilla. There was 10 grams of sugar, which is 2.5 teaspoons – it was a full 10% of the product weight, and of the 100 calories, 40 of those were sugar.
The same brand in plain, unsweetened had half the amount of sugar (and we can now see that is all naturally occurring lactose). When looking at your pantry, you want to pay attention to the hidden sugars – you truly would be surprised what products have sugar. Like siracha hot sauce. Others you would expect, like barbeque sauce, but you have to become a label hunter.
Everyone can do with less sugar for a multitude of reasons, obesity and diabetes are the ones that comes to every one’s mind first. But it's also vital for fertility. For the pantry raid, go through your fridge, freezer and pantry, and start label hunting. Is there sugar in that package? How much? How many different types? How would you use that product? On its own, or in combination with other sugar filled items? How many items would you consume in a day (and how does that sugar add up?) When you start paying attention to labels and understand what they are telling you, you can find better options. There are BBQ sauces that don’t have a sugar product a first ingredient. Low sugar cereal options. Start with the plain yogurt and add in your own fixings at home (raw honey is actually an AMAZING sweetener option, in moderation of course!).
And don’t be fooled by artificial sweeteners either, they still illicit an insulin response, and come with their own issues.
Although they don’t add calories to your diet, they can cause tremendous problems over the long term and are just as dangerous as eating excessive processed sugar. Aspartame and sucralose both raise blood sugar levels significantly higher than does refined sugar.
The mechanism by which this occurs is that these noncaloric artificial sweeteners alter the bacteria in the gut (which we are learning are more and more important to our whole body and mind health!) What many people don’t realize is that artificial sweeteners also can cause a dangerous addiction — an addiction to overly sweet foods.
They retrain the taste buds to need more and more, sweeter and sweeter foods. This leads to even greater incidences of obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney damage and so much more. 6 of the worst offenders are:
o Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NutraTaste Blue)
o Sucralose (Splenda)
o Acesulfame K (ACE K, Sunette, Equal Spoonful, Sweet One, Sweet 'n Safe)
o Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin)
This is a partial list of what to look out for (and this isn’t just food products, but even things like toothpaste!):
o Acesulfame potassium
o Sweet ‘N Low
Any product that has any type of hydrogenated product (hydrogenated oil, partially-hydrogenated, shortening, some margarine) is a zero-acceptability product. Hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils whose chemical structure has been altered to prevent rancidity in foods, which increases shelf life and saves money for food manufacturers.
The process of hydrogenation involves the addition of hydrogen atoms to the oil's available double bonds. As the level of hydrogenation increases, the level of saturated fat increases and the level of unsaturated fat decreases.
The hydrogenation process converts what are known as “cis” double bonds to “trans” double bonds. This is where the term “trans-fat” originates. Hydrogenation also has the technical advantage of making foods solid or partially solid at room temperature. The way the trans double bond alters fats, is that it allows the fat molecule to lay flat, thereby being able to tightly pack together, causing blockages.
Trans fats work against the body in many ways. They increase bad cholesterol --low-density lipoprotein, or LDL -- and decrease good cholesterol -- high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. Furthermore, they block the production of chemicals that combat inflammation and benefit the hormonal and nervous systems, while at the same time allowing chemicals that increase inflammation. This means that trans fats promote inflammation and negatively impact cholesterol levels. Think of fats as a lock and key system. The lock being various cells in your body that require fat (all of them). When a trans-fat comes along, it can fit in the lock, but cannot activate the mechanism, and then jams in the lock. The proper fat comes along looking to do its job and cannot fit into the lock because the trans-fat is now uselessly jamming the space.
Trans fats are found a lot in baked items, snack and deep-fried foods. You cannot trust a label for being trans-fat free, because there is an “acceptable” limit that manufactures are allowed to stay under to be able to still list their products as so. Even at minimal levels, this man-made fat is poisonous to your system. You need to become an expert label reader and know which ingredients to stay away from: hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, shortening, and many margarines.
For more on the good fats, check this one out - https://www.givepeasachance.ca/post/fat-to-eat-or-not-to-eat
The Artificials (Colour, flavour, nitrates and preservatives)
Does it have artificial in the ingredient (artificial flavour, colour)? Then you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Artificial food additives can negatively affect behavior in children, even when they aren’t diagnosed with ADHD.
Children with symptoms of hyperactivity can benefit from eliminating heavily manufactured foods that contain artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. There are studies that show hyperactivity seems to reduce when synthetic food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate are removed from the diet! Some preservatives are even migraine triggers for many individuals. A focus on good health, is keeping our gut microbes happy and healthy, and all the artificial additives do anything but.
Many artificial colours are manufactured from petroleum products and have been linked to many health concerns like allergies, asthma and hyperactivity. However, there are lots of products out there now that are using natural colours (turmeric powder, chlorella, beet, spinach, etc). Some colours you should definitely stay away from include:
o Sunset yellow FCF (E110)
o Allura red (E129)
o Quinoline yellow (E104)
o Tartrazine (E102)
o Carmoisine (E122)
o Ponceau 4R (E124)
o Blue #1
o Blue # 2
o Red #3
o Red #40
o Yellow #6
o Green #3
o Caramel Colouring
Excitotoxicity occurs when brain cells are damaged and killed by the over-stimulation of their glutamate receptors (glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter). Unfortunately, the combination of two or more food additives can amplify the excitotoxic effects in the brain. When brilliant blue food colouring is mixed with monosodium glutamate (MSG), the excitotoxic effect is 7 times more potent than if the additives were kept separate.
MSG – there is lots of conflicting information out there with respects to MSG. It does occur naturally in some foods (like tomatoes!), but when it is produced and added artificially where it is not found naturally, it has been shown to have negative effects. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which 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.
And again, artificial sweeteners, as listed above. 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 tumour, 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.
Sodium Sulfite (E221) Preservative used in wine-making and other processed foods. According to the FDA, approximately one in 100 people is 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.
Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is used as a preservative, colouring, and flavouring 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. Nitrates can also increase your risk of developing cancer.
Research on adults makes a convincing argument to avoid cured or smoked meats, but even more compelling is the evidence linking consumption of nitrates to a significantly increased risk of the major childhood cancers, including leukaemia, lymphomas and brain cancers. Children who eat 12 hot dogs per month have nearly a ten times risk of developing leukaemia as children who do not eat hot dogs. Children who eat hot dogs once a week double their chances of developing brain tumours; eating them twice a week triples the risk.
Pregnant women who eat two servings per day of any cured meat have more than double the risk of bearing children who have brain cancer.
Children who eat the most ham, bacon and sausage have three times the risk of developing lymphoma. 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 colour fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant. The good news is that there are quite a few nitrate free products out there, including bacon and luncheon meat! These should be treated as a treat anyway, but you can feel better knowing and sourcing the better options.
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 flavour or becoming rancid. Affects the neurological system of the brain, alters behaviour and has a potential to cause cancer. Repeated studies have shown that BHA and BHT increase the risk of cancer as well as accumulate in body tissue, cause liver enlargement, and retard the rate of DNA synthesis and thus, cell development.
BHT is VERY prominent in packaged goods, especially cereals, and you’ll be surprised to see how many once you actually start looking (even your wholesome Cheerios have BHT!)
BPA is another one (you know the stuff they removed from water and baby bottles years ago because they found it mimics the hormone estrogen). Scientists have linked low-dose, long-term exposure of the chemical to breast cancer, changes in the reproductive system, and other health problems. You thought you were ok now, but it is not only still used to line many of the canned products on your shelves, but that receipt that was handed to you every time you go grocery shopping is most likely coated in BPA and has been shown to pass through skin. (https://medicalxpress.com/news/2010-11-bpa-thermal-paper-receipts-skin.html) You should be eating very minimally from cans, unless they are confirmed to be BPA free, and even some of the alternate can liners are also hormone disruptors (as are many plastics). Companies are working at phasing it out, but it still has not been banned.
The way around exposure to BPA cans is to not buy canned food! Fresh, frozen or glass jars are a better option, and if a can is the only option you have, never heat a product in it!
As for the till tape, let them put the receipt in your bag, and dump it straight into the garbage when you get home! We’ll cover BPA a little more in a few weeks.
Artificial leaveners – bread can be one of the hardest items to source. “Food” manufacturers use a combination of artificial leaveners, and preservatives to increase the shelf life. Bread is not meant to last weeks (even days) sitting on your counter. Preservatives like calcium propionate are linked to ADHD. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-shocking-truth-about-bread-413156.html (I know its UK, but it highlights the problems in the bread making process!) Your bread should be raised either as a sourdough or using yeast, not baking enzymes. A quick search, and from an enzyme manufactures website (Danisco, aka DuPont), I quote “Try DuPont™ Danisco® bakery enzymes and put yourself on track for higher profits. Gain more control over the bakery process – and obtain better bread product even with poor grain quality.”
Poor grain quality.
A manufacturer can use a poorer quality grain, and this product will last a long time on the shelf! The best part is, that manufacturers don’t have to label the usage of such products on the label. Another product used in bread are Dough Conditioners – these are unnecessary in traditional bread making and only make the process faster and cheaper for the food industry to make bread in big machinery. Many dough conditioners like azodicarbonamide (which is banned all over the world), DATEM, monoglycerides, diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate are linked to health issues. Unless your bread is baked in-store, it is going to have preservatives (and even that isn’t a guarantee, so talk to the baker!) If you’re going to eat bread, Stick to in-store baked, or from a bread bakery such as Cobbs – you can ask about the process. You can also find preservative free bread in the freezer section!
Are There OK, Natural Preservatives?
Acidic foods, such as lemon juice or vinegar, help preserve freshness by increasing the acidity of a food. An acidic food creates a hostile environment for microorganisms. The active component in lemon juice is citric acid, a natural preservative you may read on an ingredients list. Citric acid, however, is not always derived from citrus fruits; it is often derived from corn. Acetic acid is the active ingredient in vinegar; it is often added to foods in its isolated form as a natural preservative. Acids are frequently used to preserve a wide range of canned and bottled foods and drinks. Antioxidants help keep foods fresh by countering the effects of oxidation. Oxidation causes a food to turn rancid. Citric acid is an antioxidant as well as an acid. Another common natural antioxidant preservative is vitamin E (tocopherols). Some spices seem to retard the growth of microorganisms while also reducing the rate of oxidation.
These spices include cloves, mustard, sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano. If you’re looking for a hot dog treat, find one cured with Celery Extract over nitrates. These spices may be effective natural preservatives due to their naturally high levels of antioxidants. Adding preservatives is not the only way to keep foods fresh. Other methods of food preservation include refrigeration, freezing, freeze drying, desiccating and canning. Many preservative-free breads and tortillas, for example, are sold frozen and will not stay fresh for long if left on the kitchen counter. Fermenting and pickling are great ways of preserving foods (but again, you have to watch for “food” manufacturers who still add preservatives to increase the shelf life!)
We’re looking for corn, soy, “vegetable” – pretty much anything except Extra Virgin Olive (EVOO), coconut, avocado, flax, hemp, butter, ghee (clarified butter) or lard, and only when cold pressed/virgin. In order to extract “vegetable” oils (even regular olive oil), solvents or heat are used (unless the oil is listed as “virgin”). Chemical solvents are an issue on their own, but when heat is used, the chemical structure of the oils is also changed. You essentially are getting a rancid product. Light, heat and air degrade oils, and for the most part, the healthier the oil, the more sensitive it is to these destructive forces. Every cell in your body contains fat. These rancid vegetable fats can be used to build cell walls as a last resort, but they are not the proper building blocks to create a healthy, strong, cell membrane. You’re building a high rise with lego instead of bricks and concrete. We’ll cover how to choose the best oils in two weeks!
“Health Halo” Foods
Look for “health halo” foods. Are they adding terms that would trigger you to think that the food is actually healthy? Do you have any? If so, why did you choose them? Was it the language used to describe it? Was it the packaging? A trendy “superfood” ingredient? Is it organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleo, or something else?
Read the nutritional information. Once you’ve identified the “health halo” foods, take a closer look. Is your “healthy” organic dark chocolate peanut butter cup all that nutritionally different from that mass-market peanut butter cup? Chances are, it’s just different packaging.
Count how many varieties of junk foods you have. If you love ice cream — how many flavors do you have? If you peek into your cupboards, are there cookies, popcorn, candy, or chips? Without judgment, count the total junk food variety currently in your home. Generally, the more options you have, the easier it is to overeat.
Go through your pantry, fridge and freezer and start looking at labels!
Clear off a large table, or all your counters, so that you can group items together. We’ll sort them into a few different piles (feel free to use sticky notes to determine what food goes where, and get the kids involved too!) Sort the pantry all at once, then the fridge, then the freezer!
The piles are, in priority sequence (so if it fits more than one category, start put it in the highest):
A. Hydrogenated/Trans Fats products
B. A type of sugar in the first 5 ingredients/more than 2 types of sugar listed in the ingredients
C. Artificial Colours/Preservatives/additives/artificial sweeteners/vegetable oils
Take a look at the piles and see what is left. Anything from A should be an automatic no; do not pass go, do not collect $200. Take a look at pile B. What is here? Are there substitutions that could be made to get off the sugar train? Are there real food substitutions that can be made? What about pile C. What alternatives could be used to get away from the artificial? Which of these things do you eat together in a meal, and what is eaten within the same day?
The thing to remember if that an item is in the house, you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it. By starting to think about labels, you can think about the common “selective attention” trap that we fall into when it comes to food. By looking at a few ingredients of a food, the ones you can feel good about, you can ignore whatever aspects of the food that make you feel bad. For example, a fruit yogurt – at least there is calcium and some fruit, but the tendency is to ignore the sugar. At least they’re getting calcium with chocolate milk, but also potentially the same amount of sugar as in a chocolate bar.
Pretty soon you start making poor food choice in the name of nutrition in focusing on the “healthy” aspects of the food, not of the food as a whole. Based on the information above, is this something you want you or your family eating? Are you being tricked into thinking a food is healthy because it has healthified ingredients (now with whole grains!) A pizza is still a pizza, even with a whole wheat crust. It’s a great time to reflect with everyone on what you actually have in the house to eat, what your health goals are, and how ready you are to change!
And lastly, before you put ANYTHING back, take a look at the expiry date. If its expired, toss it! If it has an extended expiry date, think to yourself, why and how! Let’s start to think and talk about what we eat and how our everyday food choices can shape our lives!
If you want help on figuring out what should stay and what should go, book a free consult now and let's work together to clean up your pantry!
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