It’s all so confusing; who would have thought that what we read on a box label may not be accurate? How can this be? How can food companies get away with it? Unfortunately they do get away with it and our health pays the price. With all the misinformation and marketing tools companies use, it’s more important than ever to decipher food labels.
A fact: the front of a package is designed to SELL you the product. It’s an advertising billboard and can be VERY deceiving. If you remember anything about this article, I want you to remember that in order to know what’s in the food you’re buying, you want to read the ingredient list, NOT the claims on the front of the package.
Words like ‘natural’, ‘whole grains’, ‘fresh’, ‘fat free’ and ‘low fat’ on the front of a label are most often actually what you want to avoid. Crazy, I know!
Be suspicious and dig deeper for the facts. Food companies are allowed to promote benefits on the front of the package that are not necessarily true. For example, a food can contain MSG disguised under other names (there are more than 40!), but the packaging can claim “No MSG.”
It’s also important to look at the sugar and sodium content. We should all be conscious of our sugar consumption, but most don’t know that sugar can be disguised so many ways making it difficult to decipher. Did you know that sugar has over 50 different names? Yep, that’s true! And sodium content can be very high in processed foods since salt is used as a way to preserve food and keep it from spoiling.
So before we put any packaged items in our shopping cart, we need to ask ourselves is it real food (example: are there less than 10 ingredients that you recognize?) or is it food-like substance (not real food, but more like a chemistry experiment). It matters very much what we put into our bodies, especially if optimal health is our goal. My rule is if I can’t pronounce an ingredient/s AND/or it has more than 10 ingredients in it I don’t buy it!
When reading the ingredient list, there are many offenders & controversial Ingredients to watch out for. These 5 are the ones that I feel are the most often used. You will want to avoid them!
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has been shown to damage immune function, speed up the aging process, and contribute to weight gain. Found in everything from crackers to bread, chips, yogurt and sauces. I’m amazed at how many products contain HFCS!
2. Refined Sugar
People in the US consume 130 to 160 pounds of sugar per year. In other words, we are consuming half a cup of sugar a day and most of us aren’t even aware of it. 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. Trans Fats
Trans fats are found in hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, trans fats cause about 50 thousand premature heart attack deaths per year! Trans fats also increase the risk for cancer, obesity, depression, asthma, osteoporosis and more. Trans fats are found in cookies, cakes, frozen food, crackers, chips, etc. It looks like the U.S. government is finally taking steps to eliminate the use of trans fats in our food supply, so this is a step in the right direction.
4. Artificial Sweeteners
Did you know that artificial sweeteners can decrease your good gut bacteria by as much as 50%? Artificial sweeteners have also been found to spike insulin and leptin levels. This can cause weight gain even though you are drinking a zero calorie drink! Leptin is a hormone that tells your body it’s full. When this hormone is over-stimulated, your body does not get the message as early that you are satiated, leading to consuming more food that you normally would.
MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. You’d be very surprised to know where this substance lurks. It’s usually disguised under other names like: yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, sodium caseinate, soy protein and a few others. It’s very common to find MSG in soups, sauces, crackers, flavored chips etc.
Studies show that mice injected with MSG increased their food intake by more than 40%. MSG is a known obesogen (causes obesity) and studies have also shown MSG to be a neurotoxin (toxic to our nervous system).
The list goes on and on but for space reasons I only listed 5. It has become clear that the chemicals that are allowed in our foods are a big part of the health crisis in this country. It’s also sad that these additives are allowed in our food. Some countries have banned most of these ingredients from their foods. So it’s important for all of us to turn get into the habit of reading those labels.
Want to learn more about how to read food labels? Watch my short webinar on Label Reading, click here: Food Label Reading .
Do you need some help to lose weight and focus on healthier eating? Need someone to understand your time constraints and focus in on your weight goals? Then I can help you. I have several options to be able to get you started ,whether its developing a workout plan or navigating you into a whole foods approach to lose weight for good. If you are interested I invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can set up a convenient complimentary 15 minute consultation to discuss how you can get started on your way to a healthier lifestyle!