Whilst we know that whole foods presented the way nature intended are best, there are always times when you may need something in a hurry or if you want something on hand for travel. If this is the case the first thing we need to do is look at the ingredient label.
Today we will look more into how to scrutinise food labels.
Whilst it may seem a tad overwhelming, just remember that once you find your staples you won’t have to keep looking at all the labels. Just be sure to check new products and also if there are any changes to the items ‘recipe’ or packaging. Keep in mind, the health of your children and yourself is worth the couple of minutes it takes to read a label.
The packaging and nutritional labels can be a bit deceptive. It is best to completely ignore any health claims on them. There are so many loopholes that it is easy for manufacturers to make something look healthier than it is. We can use the nutrition table to get a better understanding of what is in a product but I feel it is much more important to look at the ingredient list. Whilst it probably won’t list all of the ingredients (as discussed in part 1) that have gone into making the particular food, it is more specific than the nutritional table.
Here are some ingredients to be wary of;
There are only 5 grams of glucose in our blood at one time and it is tightly regulated by our body. Anything over or under this can be very dangerous. If you were to eat something with 5 grams of sugar you are doubling your blood glucose levels, making your body work very hard as it has to try to compensate for this sharp increase. Sugar has many different names on a food label. In fact, in Australia sugar can be listed as over fifty names other than sucrose. Look out for anything as a syrup, Dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, agave, just to name a few!
If a product advertises that it has low or no sugar, check for artificial sweeteners. These are proven carcinogens and many still create blood sugar reaction as the taste alone can trigger a blood sugar response and will also keep the sugar cravings going.
Low fat does not mean healthy! Look for the quality of fats. You want to avoid trans fats, hydrogenated fats, ‘vegetable fats’ canola oil, sunflower oil and any fats that have been cooked or heated. These are toxic to our bodies and dangerous to consume. As stated previously fats play many very important roles in our bodies, one being the structure of our cell walls. These are made from the fats we eat. If we want healthy cells which can let nutrients in and toxins out, we must eat only healthy fats. Look for healthier options such as coconut oil, lard (from healthy animals), palm oil (sustainable) in heated products or the cold seed, nut and olive oils listed previously.
Soy and soy products should be avoided for many reasons. Firstly, they are full of phytic acid which stop us from absorbing the nutrients in our meals. High phytate diets have led to growth problems in children. Soy also contains trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion. Soy phytoestrogens also disrupt endocrine (hormone) functions in the body. The processing of soy creates carcinogenic compounds and soy products contain high amounts of aluminium. These are just a few dangers associated with soy. Please be wary.
There are many reliable sources of information on the dangers of soy. A good read on diet and its effect on our health is ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ by Nora Gedgaudas
Additives and preservatives http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/additiveoverview/Pages/default.asp will give you a list of food additives so you can do your research! Anything made in a laboratory should be avoided. Our bodies cannot recognise these and many are toxic and create further burden on our bodies.
Vitamins and minerals
The minerals and vitamins found in whole foods (foods in their natural form, unprocessed) are available for our bodies. Nuts, seeds and grains need to be soaked in order to release theirs (and to reduce the inhibitory phytates) but in general in their natural form we are able to digest and utilise them. In this form, the minerals and vitamins general also come with the co factors required to aid the absorption of these nutrients.
We must be wary of processed foods which are fortified with minerals or vitamins. Manufacturers usually do this as all the nutrients are usually destroyed during the manufacturing process, leaving them with no nutritional value. To make it look better, vitamins and minerals are added. The problem is that these are mostly in a form which makes them unusable to us. It may look good on the packet, but our bodies can’t recognise them and are unable to use them. This also adds to the toxic burden on our bodies as they must be broken down and excreted.
The other problem is that these nutrients aren’t in the correct ratios and aren’t coming with the required co factors. This means we end up with an imbalance of nutrients as our bodies will need to use up some of its stores to deal with the imbalance.
So let’s get sceptical!!
Product Details: Sanitarium Up and Go
Filtered Water, Skim Milk Powder, Cane Sugar, Wheat Maltodextrin, Soy Protein, Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Canola), Inulin, Hi-maize Starch, Corn Syrup Solids, Fructose, Cocoa (0.5%), Oat Flour, Mineral (Calcium), Food Acid (332), Flavours, Vegetable Gums (460, 466, 407), Stabiliser (452), Salt, Vitamins (C, Niacin, A, B12, B6, B2, B1, Folate).
Here we can see that despite the claims made on the front and side of the pack we can see this is not a healthy option at all. It quadruples the body’s blood sugar level, it is full of toxic ingredients such as processed milk products, soy, vegetable oils, sugars, gluten, man-made vitamins and additives…. You can see how we are all being seriously misled.
Now you are aware and looking for perhaps healthier options there are a few more things you will need to be wary of. Advertising at its ‘best’. I will list some common claims made on packaged foods and what to look out for. You will soon see that foods advertised as health foods are often full of just as many toxic ingredients as other snacks.
- – How many of the ingredients are organic? Often there are only one or two ingredients that are organic.
- Just because it is organic doesn’t mean it is healthy. For example, organic sugar is still sugar. Organic wheat still has gluten and thus effects stomach permeability and absorption of nutrients.
- How are the foods prepared? Are the oils in the product heated (and thus damaged)? Are the grains puffed? (again heating damaging and making them toxic.)
- Are there preservatives or sweeteners added?
- What grain are they using to substitute? Soy? Corn? These sorts of substitutes can be as bad, and in some cases worse for you.
- Again look for the oils, preservatives, sugars.
- Look for what the sugar replacement is. Is it a different form of sugar? Anything with sugars will raise blood sugar levels, our body’s cannot tell the difference. Any artificial sweeteners are also to be avoided. They are chemicals we are not built to handle and many have been proven to be carcinogenic. Fruit in whole form, or the occasional stevia would be all I would recommend.
‘No added sugar’
- This is sneaky as it means it probably does have sugar, the manufacturers just didn’t add extra.
- Look for sugar replacements.
- Need to look and see what alternatives are being used. Remember to have the title ‘natural’, doesn’t mean it had to come from nature
‘Low in fat’
- Often items that have had the fat taken out are ultra-processed and denatured. Fat contributes largely to taste so be sure to check for extra sugars or sweeteners or salt.
- The item may be low in fat but we need to be more concerned with what type of fat is being used. Is it a health giving fat or a toxic one?
I realise this may seem overwhelming. There are so many things to be wary of, companies have been having a lend of us for quite a long time. This can be fun though, time to get sceptical, time to investigate! And always remember, eating things that don’t come in a packet is the easiest and healthiest option.
If you would like more information or guidance on any of these topics, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the clinic.
We can even organise a personal shopping consultation to help get you started on your journey. This will not only benefit your children but yourselves.
On our next and last post on lunches, we will give you healthy and easy ideas on what to pack for lunches and snacks.
Until next week.
In Good Health,
Chloe Brooks. Nutritional Therapist.