I made the mistake of grocery shopping with my husband this weekend. He’s an educated, intelligent man and a wonderful husband and father so I was shocked to see how little regard he had for our family’s health when adding items to our cart. When I asked him about some of his choices, I realized that although he is knowledgeable about many things, basic nutrition is not one of them.
I am pretty sure that when I started hyperventilating when he added a case of Ramen noodles to our cart, he thought I was being dramatic. This was nothing though, compared to near heart attack I had when he picked up a 70-count box of frozen popsicles from the SNACK aisle (NOT the frozen food section). I felt like I was shopping with a serial killer and I’m pretty sure he felt like he was shopping with an asylum escapee.
Okay, I know he wasn’t trying to intentionally harm his family. The fact of the matter is that his lack of knowledge about the dangers of his food choices will harm his family whether or not that was his intention. So, for his sake (because I make him read my website) and for yours (in case you don’t know it already), I’m going to list the foods and ingredients you should avoid, and why.
What’s So Bad About Processed Foods?
I know not everyone is a health nut. Sure, we all know we SHOULD choose healthy foods, but choosing not-so-healthy options isn’t so bad, right? Right! I’m not trying to convince you to avoid processed food altogether. Life’s too busy to be picking up fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, and eggs each day and whipping up every meal from scratch. I do hope you will consider the risks of relying too much on convenience foods though, because they are pretty scary.
Here’s a short list of the common side effects of additives and preservatives found in processed foods:
- Food Allergies
- Weight Gain
- Inflammation and Weakened Immunity
- Decreased Absorption of Vitamins and Minerals
- Learning Disabilities
- Memory Loss
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cardiovascular Disease
For more information go to http://www.livestrong.com/side-effects-of-food-preservatives.
If you enjoy some potato chips while watching tv Saturday night, you’re probably not going to get cancer from it. If you do it every night, you’re pushing your luck.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind, processed foods are addictive. They stimulate dopamine, in a fashion very similar to cocaine use. Thus, the more processed food you eat, the more you will crave it even when you are consuming so much that you are experiencing negative side effects. Click here to read how processed food addiction occurs.
Ingredients To Avoid
Artificial Colors: Hard to avoid, I know, but worth skipping if you can since they have been linked to ADHD, visual and learning disorders, nerve damage, and cancer.
Artificial Sweeteners: Ironically, the biggest proven problem with artificial sweeteners is that they have a negative effect on your metabolism. If you absolutely MUST sweeten your food and/or drinks, stick with natural sweeteners like honey or stevia.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): Sadly, manufacturers aren’t required to list this in the ingredients even though it can damage your liver, thyroid, heart and kidneys. To be sure to avoid it, skip citrus flavored soda.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): These additives are commonly found in chewing gum, chips, cereal, cookies, other snack foods, and vegetable oils. Half your pantry, right? I’m not saying you should throw them all out, but do consider that although the FDA allows them, they are banned in England. Why? Because they have been linked to liver and kidney damage, infertility, birth defects, and cancer.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Despite corn growers’ claims that their research shows HFCS is just as safe as sugar, there’s a pile of research on the other side showing a link to type-2 diabetes, strokes, and cancer.
Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Oil: This is loaded with trans fat which increases bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. Oh yeah, and for those of you concerned about your weight, it increases abdominal fat. So, skip the margarine and pick up some whipped butter instead.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Chinese food isn’t the only place you will find MSG. Watch out for it in snack foods, seasonings, canned soup, and frozen dinners. It is an excitotoxin which means it can damage or kill cells causing depression, vision impairment, and fatigue. It is also tied to obesity.
Sodium Nitrite and Nitrite: It’s hard to find affordable deli meats without them since they prevent botulism (which is the reason the FDA allows them even though they are considered dangerous). But hey, if you’re okay with headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and an increased risk of cancer, go ahead and load up.
A Simpler Strategy
I’m a strong advocate for reading nutrition labels but I understand that not everyone shares my passion. If you’d rather not spend a lot of time scavenging the ingredient list of every product you buy for the ingredients listed above, here’s an easier strategy to quickly omit a lot of unhealthy ingredients from your life:
- Try to do most of your grocery shopping on the perimeter of the store (i.e. produce section, meat and seafood department, and dairy section).
- If a product has more ingredients listed that you don’t recognize (or can’t pronounce) than ones that you know, don’t buy it.
- When looking at the nutrition label, do NOT buy the item if the % Daily Value for Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, or Cholesterol is over 5%.
For more tips on how to eat and shop healthy, see “How To Eat Healthy For Life.”