I have always enjoyed a fairly healthy eating style, so I thought. And then I went to Italy. I spent a year studying food systems and how to choose healthy ingredients, evaluate the quality of food, and select good manufacturers.
Returning home from this wonderful cultural, agricultural, and culinary adventure, I set out to evaluate my own pantry for the quality of ingredients I kept on hand. What I learned about my “healthy eating” style was shocking!
I read the ingredient of every product in my pantry and targeted foods that contained food dyes, trans fats, monosodium glutamate and high fructose corn syrup. I also tagged any foods that might contain a GMO, or genetically modified organism. It was a surprise to find more than 50 “foods” in my pantry that contained one or more of these ingredients.
Picture Worth A Thousand Words
A picture is worth a thousand words. This picture shows what I discovered would be better to eliminate or limit. As you assess your pantry for healthy nutrition offenders, consider eliminating food dyes, trans fats, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup and GMOs.
My rationale for selecting these particular ingredients is supported by a plethora of research that suggests they are not in keeping with a healthy lifestyle.
However, because the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed them to be considered “generally recognized as safe”, there is no requirement to warn consumers of potential side affects.
Ironically, most of the research conducted to support this has been at the hands of the manufacturers. Other countries have banned or required warnings on foods that contain some of these ingredients. Let’s consider why these may not be healthy for consumption.
Dyes made from unrefined petroleum make foods more appealing to the visual sense of consumers. They are believed to be a possible carcinogen, behave like estrogen and are linked with hyperactivity and ADHD in children. There is no nutritional value in food dyes.
Manufacturers create trans fats for processed foods by pumping hydrogen atoms into vegetable oils. This increases the shelf life of the oil and makes it solid at room temperature. This makes it difficult for the body to metabolize and adversely affects the lipoprotein makeup in the body, contributing to increased risk of heart disease, insulin sensitivity, type II diabetes and inflammation.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a flavor enhancer, often found in Chinese foods, soups, spice packets, processed meats and some canned vegetables. The effects on the body, though not life threatening, can include headaches, flushing, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and other symptoms. Still being debated, we’re better off avoiding this chemical for our health.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
GMOs are foods from seeds that are genetically altered by inserting a gene that can withstand Roundup pesticide. This is a toxic fertilizer/pesticide containing glyphosate, which has recently been classified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen.
GMO foods include corn, soy, canola, papaya, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash. Many animal products also hit this list because GMO products are fed to livestock, specifically corn and alfalfa.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener from corn that undergoes heavy processing. It’s found in sodas, candy, jams, barbecue sauce, ketchup, and a plethora of other foods. The chemical makeup metabolizes in the liver, with links to obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia, to name a few.
Please keep in mind these claims are under debate. There are as many citations supporting their use as there are against it.
It is better know the information and make our own decisions to help us live a long, healthy lifestyle, and enjoy a high quality of life as we age.