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The Toxic Additives Hiding In Your "Healthy" Foods ("Explained" Part III)

Ah, alas... we enter the final chapter in the "Food Additives Explained" series. For this final round, we thought we'd take a look at specific ingredients from some of our very own clients favorite "health" foods. No doubt, these are also products that stand out to MOST in this country as "health" foods which presumably help them lose weight and get fit. But time and again, we run into clients who, despite their best effort, still can't lose the weight or who simply feel like crap (or both).

While we all are bio-individual and withstand toxins differently, it's safe to say that our food industry definitely is responsible for wearing out all of our bodies to some degree. And is it their responsibility to take care of us? Really, actually, no. They are run by businesses whose job it is to MAKE MONEY. This means often times chemicals are used to make products taste better and last longer for the lowest cost a company is committed to spending.

As Wendell Berry once said, "People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to HEALTH. And are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to FOOD."

So it's up to us!!! If you eat anything from the following companies (and anything processed for that matter), read your labels, and minimize use...better yet, find a better alternative: Bowmar Nutrition, Quest, Hormel Natural Selects, Hillshire Farms, Dannon Light N Fit Greek Yogurt, Flatout, Dave's Killer, Walden Farms, and PBFit.

Caramel Color

What is it?: Nope. This doesn't come from caramel. Sorry, guys! This kind of color is made by a reaction when sugars are combined with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and high heat.

Why are they dangerous?: The byproduct of this chemical reaction are 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole, and guess what? These two guys have been studied by the very government that allows them in our foods and are determined causes of leukemia and various organ cancers. One such cancer is thyroid cancer. Thyroid affects your metabolism. And we all know cancer doesn't just suddenly show up one day. It's inflammation created over and over to the point your cells become confused, overly excited, or regenerate abnormally. So if your thyroid is quietly being affected, this could be affecting your ability to lose the weight.

Lecithin (Sunflower or Soy):

What is it?: A healthy fat/lipid used to emulsify food to prevent separation and keep a consistent texture. Lecithin can come from a variety of sources, and are commonly found in ice creams, dressings, chocolate, and more.

Why are they dangerous?: There is nothing wrong with organic sunflower seeds, sunflower oils or organic soy (always go organic with these, and you'll avoid any potential pesticides!). But the chemical used in the lecithin extraction process, hexane, stirs up some controversy. This chemical is also used in household items like varnish and glue...and you wouldn't want to put THOSE down your throat! A build up of hexane residues in the body may lead to kidney and liver issues, the two organs responsible for filtering out toxins from your body. If your kidney and liver health are compromised, your body may not be filtering out other toxins, which leads to a build-up of inflammation in the body. And inflammation often leads to digestive and other compounded health issues.

Enriched Flour / Enriched Wheat Flour

What is it?: Flour in which most of the bran and germ from wheat has been removed. This gives bread a finer texture, increases shelf life, and is also cheaper for companies to purchase in order to make their products in large quantities (and also make money on it).

Why are they dangerous?: The bran and wheat germ is where you find all the fiber and nutrients in grains. These things slow down the digestion of our food and help provide bulk to our stool. Not having these in the flour (and thus our bread products) means these foods digest very quickly, spiking blood sugar more rapidly. When your body has excess sugar in the blood, the liver has to come in and put out that fire filtering some of that sugar out. When there's an excess of this sugar, some of it gets stored as fat. But even if there isn't an excess of sugar, putting your liver on high alert isn't a good thing to do often. This creates inflammation in the body that eventually can build up to other problems in the body from poor digestion to diabetes. Lastly, because enriched flour gets broken down very quickly, you get hungrier faster ("I just ate lunch an hour ago! Why am i hungry again!?") THAT'S WHY! Stop taking shortcuts on finances and packaged products, learn to read labels (look for 100% whole wheat, not just "whole wheat"), and go for the good stuff.

Acesulfame Potassium

What is it?: Nope! This isn't banana dust! It's another tricky, hard to recognize, artificial sweetener. This ingredient also goes by the brand names Sweet One and Sunett.

Why are they dangerous?: Short-term and moderate use has not shown to be harmful to humans long-term, but frequent and long-term use is still under debate. Like any artificial sweetener, this guy can raise blood sugar, disrupt metabolic processes in the gut, generate cravings for more sweets, and create digestive discomfort (since they don't metabolize and just sort of hang out in the gut until our body absorbs it and we pee it out). And there have been studies that have shown acesulfame potassium to increase the amount of sugar absorbed by the gut, which can lead to weight gain.

Celery Powder:

What is it?: Preservative derived from celery (much of which is produced using GMO's and pesticides) used in cured meat to color, preserve, season, and prevent bacterial growth.

Why are they dangerous?: You've probably seen the health claim on some lunch meat packaging "uncured" or "nitrate/nitrite-free". While, yes, this is a great thing to look for to protect yourself from cancer-causing chemicals typically found in traditional hot dogs, its a bit of a lie. You see, this label really only applies to man-made nitrates like potassium or sodium nitrate. Celery powder, however, is also a nitrate. It just happens to be natural. points out, "A significant amount of processing goes into producing celery powder for use in cured meats, and the celery itself does not have to be organic," meaning you may be ingesting some other chemicals with it. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University adds, “There is little evidence that preserving meats using celery…is any healthier than other added nitrites." And yet, unlimited amounts of it are allowed in meats labeled "uncured" or "nitrate free", so it's just another way for companies to sound healthier when they really aren't.

Modified Cornstarch:

What is it?: No, this does not mean genetically modified. This ingredient is simply corn starch that has been treated in some way, such as with heat or acid, to degrade it to a consistency more suitable for food production. This stuff is typically used to improve the consistency of foods.

Why is it dangerous?: I will start this one off by saying not ALL modified corn starch is bad. The trick is to ensure your product is organic or that this one ingredient comes from an organic source. The reason for that is corn is one of the top two crops that are genetically modified in the world (right there with soy). And GMO's bring with them pesticides, inflammatory, and cancer-causing chemicals you don't want in your body. Including too much of THAT stuff in the diet wreaks havoc on our digestive tracts, endocrine systems (hormones), and immune system. So just do your homework and make sure you've got a Certified Organic product in your hand, otherwise, it's just another cheap ingredient the manufacturers are trying to skirt by you.

Turbinado Sugar / Coconut Palm Sugar:

What is it?: SUGAR...that's it. It's a less processed, more raw (not not less caloric, more healthy) version of sugar.

Why is it dangerous?: Like any other sugar, this stuff is best consumed in moderation. At the end of the day, it's empty calories that spikes blood sugar, overexcites your cells, causes cravings, and can make it harder to lose weight when its constantly hiding in your food. Sugar is also the number one favorite food of bad bacteria lurking in your gut, so why would you want to provide them a feast? The more this stuff is in your diet, the less balanced your digestion and hormones become over time. So just limit where you apply it, and make sure that ingredient is really necessary. I can't tell you how many lunch meat products I have some across that have unnecessary added sugar.

So there, you have it...a little more awareness over how the food industry is tricking you with health claims. BE A WISER CUSTOMER. Healthier, cleaner alternatives DO exist, and the more we buy THOSE OPTIONS, the closer we get to an industry-wide shift. Maybe when that shift happens, we will have LESS health scares, LESS weight loss stories (because people wouldn't have gained it in the first place), and MORE transparency. But it starts with US.

(In case you missed it, and you're looking for MORE insight on common food additives, check out our Part 1 and Part II of this series!)


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