I've been a nutrition geek for a few years now…reading, researching and studying food and nutrition. It is of interest to me because I want to learn how to keep my mind and body healthy, feel great and manage and prevent disease, and help others do it too.
My research and study, along with personal experience and testing foods in my body, is why I choose to stay away from processed, packaged foods the majority of the time. I would be a liar if I said I never eat food that comes in a package. However, even when choosing packaged foods, I am incredibly careful and picky about what I select to put in my body. The selection I do make almost always comes from the organic section of the supermarket. Here's why:
#1 I want to avoid genetically modified (GM) foods and the only way to know that my foods do not contain them, since GM foods do not have to be labeled, is to buy organic.
#2 Although I still read labels even when I shop in the organic section, I have a much better chance of knowing everything that is listed on the label because organic foods "must be free of artificial food additives, and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, like chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients" (1).
#3 The choices I make at the supermarket determine the future of food and I want my grocery store to know what I support; organic, local foods that are not GM foods, that do not use synthetic pesticides, and do not use artificial ingredients.
I was browsing the frozen food aisle at the grocery store earlier this week and reading random food labels (told you, geek) and one item particularly caught my eye. Five years ago if I was shopping, this is an item I easily would have purchased without looking at the label because of how delicious and healthy it appeared to be.
Well, clever marketing and pretty pictures don't fool me now so I turned it over to read the label.
The first four ingredients were all recognizable: cooked whole grain pasta, wheat semolina, water, and chicken tenderloins; doesn't sound too bad, right? Then, it gets into several ingredients that just can not be pictured in the mind. It lists so many ingredients it makes you wonder how they fit all that into one little frozen dinner.
Let's take a closer look at just a few of these additional ingredients. The descriptions of these food additives all come from, A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, by Ruth Winter, M.S. :
Modified Food Starch –
- Is ordinary starch that has been altered chemically to modify such properties as thickening or jelling.
- Babies have difficulty in digesting starch in its original form. Modified starch is used in baby food on the theory that it is much easier to digest. Questions about safety have arisen because babies do not have the resistance of adults to chemicals.
- Modified starch has been on the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) top-priority list for reevaluation since 1980 but nothing new has been reported by the FDA since.
- Is malt sugar. It is colorless crystals derived from malt extract and used as a nutrient, sweetener, culture medium, and stabilizer.
- It is soluble in water and used as a sweetener for diabetics and in brewing.
- It is nontoxic but has been reported to cause tumors when injected under the skin of mice in doses of five hundred milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
- There is no reported use of the chemical and no toxicology information is available.
Dextrose (Corn Syrup) –
- A sweet syrup prepared from cornstarch.
- Used in maple, nut and root beer flavorings for beverages, ice cream, ices, candy, and baked goods. Also used for envelopes, stamps, sticking tapes, aspirin, and is found in many, many food products.
- It may cause allergic reactions.
- The final report of the FDA in 1980 stated that there is no available evidence that it is a hazard to the public when used as it is now.
Disodium Guanylate –
- A flavor intensifier believed to be more effective than sodium inosinate and sodium glutamate.
- Can be isolated from certain mushrooms and is used in canned vegetables.
- The FDA data bank has fully up-to-date toxicology information available for this additive.
Disodium Inosinate –
- Is a flavor potentiator (a flavor ingredient with little flavor of its own that alters the flavor response) that is odorless and colorless. It is a white crystal or powder.
- Inosinate is salt of inosinic acid, which is prepared from meat extract; also from dried sardines. No known toxicity.
Do you understand much of what you just read? Neither do I.
The point I wish to make is, I don't know, even after reading the description of these added food ingredients, exactly what they are. What I do know is that I want to stay as far away from foods that have had to be tested by the FDA to determine their safety. Food that has to be given to mice to see if they cause tumors just honestly scares me, even if the results come out negative.
You don't hear about broccoli being tested in mice to make sure it doesn't cause tumors now do you? No.
PLEASE make smart choices when you shop. Choose whole, real foods that don't require labeling the majority of the time. Shop organic as often as possible. Always, ALWAYS read labels when buying pre-packaged foods and look for ingredients that you can picture and pronounce.
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Health and blessings,
Randi's passion is to teach people the importance of getting into the kitchen to cook! When people get into the kitchen to cook, they can control their health and their waistline. She uses fresh ingredients and traditional foods in her cooking like butter. She is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, exercise enthusiast and a consultant for an international marketing company.
1. "Organic Food." Wikipedia. 5 November 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food