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The nasty nine: Food additives to avoid like gold corduroy

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Wellness Warrior
May 11, 2011

We all love convenience. Who can even remember what life was like before things like internet banking, internet shopping and internet stalking? I mean, networking, internet networking. But it’s taking convenience a little far when our health is the price. And we are paying big time! Packaged and processed foods certainly help save time and labour, and thanks to all the preservatives, they last forever. The inclusion of additives means we can have pasta in five minutes, noodles in two and a whole chicken dinner in just under 10, but what are they really feeding us? These unhealthy amounts of salt, refined sugar, bad fats and other ingredients that you need a scientific textbook to decipher, can lead to weight gain, food allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, digestive disorders, skin issues, cancer and much more. We would be here until Suri Cruise heads off to college if I were to go through all of the nasty additives found in processed food, so let’s just go over the most common ones. Here’s what you need to look for next time you take a gander at an ingredients label …

1. Artificial sweeteners
You might think you’re doing your thighs a favour by choosing a ‘diet’ version of your favourite food or drink, but artificial sweeteners are even worse for us than regular sweeteners. They have nasty side effects like cancer and brain disorders because of the toxicity of their chemical breakdown in the body. Plus, in combination with other food additives like artificial colors, artificial sweeteners can have a much more potent effect on nerve cells. Read more in this post I wrote about aspartame.

2. Refined Sugar
White, highly processed sugar is found in pretty much all processed foods. Everything from tomato sauce, soup and pasta dishes to bread and bottled beverages is laced with sugar. High consumption of sugar and the corresponding elevated insulin levels can cause weight gain, bloating, fatigue, arthritis, migraines, lowered immune function, obesity, cavities and cardiovascular disease. It can also disrupt absorption of nutrients, possibly leading to osteoporosis, depression, PMS symptoms and stress.

3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Most commonly known as the flavour enhancer in Chinese food, MSG is also an ingredient in many packets found on supermarket shelves. MSG is an excitotoxin, and excitotoxins are toxins that bind to certain receptors. For instance it turns off the receptor that tells your brain it’s full, making you want to consume more food. It also over stimulates the brain, causing a drug-like rush as dopamine levels rise. Side effects include headaches, itchy skin, dizziness and respiratory, digestive, circulatory and coronary concerns. For more on MSG, click here.

4. Artificial Colors
Artificial colours are added to our foods and drinks to enhance their appearance and make them more appealing to consumers. Most are derived from coal tar and can contain up to 10 parts per million of lead and arsenic and still be generally recognised as safe by the FDA. Artificial colors can cause allergic reactions and hyperactivity and ADD in children, and may contribute to visual and learning disorders or cause nerve damage. Click here for more on this.

5. BHA and BHT
BHA and BHT block the process of oil rancidity. These additives seem to affect sleep and appetite, and have been associated with liver and kidney damage, hair loss, behavioral problems, cancer, fetal abnormalities and growth retardation.

6. Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite
If there is one group of foods I can urge to avoid at all costs it would be bacon, salami and other processed meats. They are laced with dangerous preservatives called sodium nitrate and nitrate. These compounds transform into cancer-causing agents called nirosamines in the stomach. Noticeable side effects include headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Plus, these meats have are continuously being linked to causing cancer.

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7. Pesticides
Pretty much all conventional foods contain pesticides. More than two billion pounds of pesticides are added to the food supply every year. Many of the pesticides used throughout the world are carcinogenic. Pesticide accumulation also undermines our ability to resist infectious organisms, may impair fertility and contributes to miscarriages and birth defects.

8. Olestra (Olean)
Olestra is a calorie-free fat substitute used as an ingredient in snacks and chips. You may be thinking calorie-free fat is a winner, but this additive inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. It can also cause diarrhea and anal leakage. Extra fat or anal leakage? What would you prefer?

9. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
Do the words ‘trans fats’ mean anything to you? If you’re one of the masses who fell for the margarine trap, or if you are partial to the odd biscuit or cake, you need to know about the dangers of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This is made my infusing vegetable oil with hydrogen. When this occurs, the level of polyunsaturated oils (good fat) is reduced and trans fats are created. Trans fats are associated with heart disease, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol.

The moral of the story is not only to read food labels carefully, but also to eat a diet that is as high in fresh whole foods as possible. You don’t have to worry about deciphering the ingredients panel on a bunch of spinach!

Check out this post: Whole lot of love (how and why to embrace whole foods)

Do you avoid additives? Will you aim to from now on?

Positive affirmation for the day: I attract abundance into my life by changing my thinking from “What can I get?” to “How can I serve?”.

This article was posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 2:44 am

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