Atlantic Coast Chiropractic

Decoding the food package labels and ingredients

It is inevitable that you will be bombarded with advertisements in the form of food packages during a normal trip to the grocery store. " Low fat, zero calories, and no added sugar" are but a few of these hot words. Unfortunately, most of these labels are misleading and definitely do not lead to a healthy lifestyle. When one ingredient is left off the list, another one needs to be added for taste, usually leading to even more harmful ingredients.

As discussed in the previous blog, eating real,live, fresh foods are best. This month we will be focusing on a few (there are way too many to go over) of the most common ingredients in packaged foods, what they are, and what they might be linked with. This list will be a starting point to understanding the "other ingredients list as this is much more important than the "nutritional fact" list. Remember looks can be deceiving.

Number one on our list must be sugars and sugar substitutes. Whenever you see the front of a package touting low anything it is almost always because they have added sugar or artificial sugars. Studies have found that sugar and sugar substitutes are highly addictive, block absorption of almost all minerals, and most importantly spikes insulin levels. Yes, even the sugar substitutes cause all of these things and maybe even more!

Here are the following names you should look for on the "other ingredients" lists and try to avoid: Agave nectar, brown sugar, caramel, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, and sucrose.

Here are the sugar substitutes you should look out for: sucralose (splenda), acesulfame potassium (diet and zero calorie sodas), aspartame (equal/NutraSweet), and saccharin (sweet'n low).

The second most important ingredient to be wary of is food coloring. Until the 20th century, food coloring was obtained from natural sources. People gathered spices, like saffron and turmeric, to add colors to their foods. Today, most artificial colors are made from coal tar. This is used in sealcoating products to protect the shine of industrial floors. While still approved in the US, many other countries have banned these chemical agents.

Why? Food coloring has been linked to things from tumors, cancer, and even inhibit nerve-cell development. Plain and simple, consuming food coloring is toxic to your body and dangerous for your DNA. Be especially careful with foods you are giving children!

The following are the most commonly used food colorings in the US and should avoided at all cost: citrus red 2, red #3, red #40, blue #1, blue #2, yellow #5, and yellow #6.

Continuing along here, the following list are ingredients found in most packaged foods, and although might not be as dangerous as food coloring and sugars, should be avoided when possible.

1. Benzoates (sodium benzoate/potassium benzoate)- These are preservatives that extended the shelf life of foods and liquids. Over use of preserves have been found to increase risk of allergies and asthma. The more a food needs to be preserved the less fresh ingredients are in that product and hence less health benefits.

2. Guar Gum- This is a thickening and emulsifying agent used to bind ingredients together. While this ingredient is safe for use, it causes malnourishment of amino acids, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein.

3. Sodium Nitrite- This is another preservative that should be avoided. there has been much controversy over the safety and links to sodium nitrite that still go on to this day whether it causes cancer or not. While that debate can rage on, one thing is for certain. Synthetic sodium nitrite contains residual heavy metals like arsenic and lead. Due to these concentrated levels it is advised to avoid this preservative as well and use natural alternatives instead.

4. Sulfites (sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, calcium sulfite)- While sulfites are banned in fruits and vegetables, they can still be found in potatoes, shrimp, wine, and beer. Sulfite consumption can lead to asthma and allergies, but had also been found to destroy B vitamins, causing nutrient deficiency.

5. Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils- This is the group of oils known as trans-fats and are found in most packaged foods. Trans-fats are directly linked to increased risk of heart attacks and raise the bad cholesterol (LDL), while lowering the good cholesterol (HDL). Although many nutritional fact labels will show 0g trans-fat, it can still be hiding in the food, which is why reading the "other ingredients" list is so important. The FDA allows food manufactures to list 0g trans fat as long as there is less than .5g of trans fat per serving! You would not believe how many hidden ingredients can be found on the list when you just look at the nutritional facts and think this is a healthy food.

When trying to change your eating habits for the better it is best to eat whole, fresh foods, when possible. This will give your body the best chances of absorbing all of the proper nutrients, while keeping your detoxification organs at rest. When you read the "other ingredients" list, the list has to be in order from the ingredients that makes up the most of the product to the ones with the least amount in the product. If you must consume packaged foods, make sure the aforementioned ingredients are at the bottom or near the bottom of the list. Lastly, the smaller the "other ingredients" list is, the less processed the food is and most likely more healthy for you.

Following these guidelines will help make you an informed buyer in the grocery store and help keep you and your family as healthy as possible.

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