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What’s In Your Food?

April 6, 2010 by  

What’s In Your Food?

You’re in the food store and get lost in all the claims about what is healthy and not healthy for you. So you make your way to a vitamin shop or Whole Foods and try your luck there. But when you grab a bag of this, or a bar of that and turn it to check out the label… you are just as lost. What IS all that stuff in there?

In this article I’d like to discuss the worst and the best ingredients in the so-called healthy bars and drinks. I hope you will find this information helpful in your healthful shopping adventures for the healthiest foods for you and your family.

MSG—These initials mean Monosodium Glutamate. It is the main flavor enhancer in your local Chinese take-out place. Like Mrs. Dash, MSG enhances flavor especially in frozen and processed foods… and causes people who are allergic to it to experience headaches, rashes and muscle pains. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics removed MSG from all products for infants under the age of one after injections into lab animals showed nerve cell damage!

Despite the fact that MSG has been proven a poisonous substance, it is so widely used that you might not even think where it might be. Cans of tuna? You bet! Turkey breast cold cuts? Absolutely, in some brands! And the result: an increase in neurodegerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, a serious rise in cases of asthma, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches and heart trouble.

Bottom line: Stay away from MSG. Check the label of everything you buy and avoid the brands that include it. And when ordering food from a restaurant, they are obligated by law to NOT include MSG if you specifically tell them you are allergic. Sounds like a plan.

Maltodextrin—Maltodextrin is essentially a powder derived from potatoes or corn and when combined with other spices and ingredients it becomes a tasty coating for snack foods. This powder food additive is found in items like flavored potato chips, pretzels and crackers.

While the FDA says this chemical is “safe,” it does not label it as being either healthy or unhealthy. That is, the content amount found in food is so low that it barely counts. Yet, in large quantities it is not healthy. So what is “non toxic” in one bag of chips may not be so healthy when one eats several bags of chips, pretzels, crackers in the course of a week, a month or a year.

And while the matodextrin processed in North America is derived from potato and corn, the Asian equivalent is manufactured from wheat and is thus not gluten free. This means that if you are prone to migraine headaches, candida or have Celiac disease… you should stay away from snacks imported from Asia.

Again, check the labels. If an item contains maltodextrin it will say so and if it contains the wheat-based form, this must also be noted on the package. In moderation, the sweet or savory aspect of this additive can be delightful. But over-consumption is unhealthy. Not just because it is a chemical but because the foods it is used to flavor are, themselves, not on the diet plan of any serious wellness program!

High Fructose Corn Syrup—This sweetener has been called the main culprit in the rise in childhood obesity in the United States… but has been given a clean bill by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Talk about bipolar! No wonder we don’t know what is going on with our health. Well, here’s the scoop…

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert its glucose into fructose. This fructose has then been mixed with regular corn syrup, which is 100 percent glucose, and the result is a sweet liquid known as HFCS.

This liquid is the sweetener found in just about every cold beverage in your local convenience store, including iced tea, sodas and energy drinks. Not only that, but it is also found in so-called healthy foods like tomato soup and yogurt, and less healthy items such as salad dressings and cookies.

Yes it’s true that the FDA did a 30-year study and found a correlation between HFCS and obesity and that it is worse for your health than plain sugar. Yet the Corn Refiners Association has launched an aggressive advertising campaign to counter these criticisms, claiming that HFCS "is natural" and "has the same natural sweeteners as table sugar.”

Well, if you have any questions, just look to two of the largest-consumed beverages, Pepsi and Snapple. Both have ditched the nasty stuff and gone back to sweetening their drinks with plain old sugar. Stay away from the HFCS, it will make you fatter than sugar!

Partially Hydrogenated Oils—Whatever you do, stay clear of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. They are unnatural and very unhealthy. You see, the original oil is subjected to hydrogenation, which changes its molecular structure. This allows the oil molecules to harden thus giving it a longer shelf life, which is why manufacturers like it. But the changed oils are actually closer to plastic than to oil, and the hydrogenation process kills the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which are the healthy parts of the original oils.

What this means is that the body does not get the desired antioxidant affect of consuming oils, and the new hydrogenated oils are then treated in the body as fatty foods that the bloodstream can’t process. The result is fat stored in the body. Excess storage of fat in the body and arterial plaque build-up, then, are the big issues with partially hydrogenated oils.

Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated oils at all costs. Check the labels on spreads, crackers, cookies, cakes and even some so-called fruit snacks.

The bottom line is you should eat natural foods and fresh foods and always read the labels. When in doubt, write down the ingredient and do an online search. You just might be surprised at what you find!

The ones listed above are the worst ingredients found in the foods you eat. These are the “foods” that the FDA says are okay to feed Americans. Yet, we are becoming sicker faster than ever before and suffering long, slow deaths from heart disease, obesity and high cholesterol levels.

Now I want to tell you about the best ingredients to look for in the foods you eat. These are among the best foods you can eat and should be included in your daily diet. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Whole Grain–­Before we get to whole grain, let’s first look at “enriched flour” products. These are the breads and rolls and pastas that are first stripped of their outer grain portion, removed of their nutrients and bleached of their natural color. The product is so poor and so value-less that they are “enriched” with vitamins and nutrients. Ridiculous! Forget these products, they are scams and unnatural.

What you should be grabbing for are whole grain products. These are carbohydrates that are made from the entire grain and contain the original vitamins, nutrients and fiber and are thus good for digestive regularity, normal blood sugar levels, healthy cholesterol levels and optimal brain function.

When checking out the ingredients on carbohydrate products, looks for those where the first ingredient listed says whole grain, whole wheat, whole meal or whole corn. These will be in the form of bread, pastas, hot cereals, brown rice, bulger, buckwheat, spelt and wild rice. The United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that each of us get at least three servings of whole grains every day.

Soy Lecithin—A product of soybean oil and also extracted from soya beans, soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier in prepared foods. It keeps chocolate from crumbling or splintering, helps dough rise in baked goods and keeps spreadable “butters” and cheeses from separating.

This product has passed the muster of the American Dietetic Association. It was found not only safe, but also good for you. As a result, soy lecithin also comes in supplement form. You see, it’s packed with choline, which is found in eggs and is known to boost brain development while also preventing heart disease, lowering cholesterol and helps treat dementia. Not too shabby.

The bottom line is, the USDA says soy lecithin is a safe emulsifier. And keeping your intake below 3.5 grams per day will yield no known side effects. So if you have to grab a bite of a processed food, look for this as its ‘hold it together’ ingredient. Better yet… go for whole, unprocessed foods instead.

Disodium Phosphate—The liver and gallbladder are so important to your health and wellness. They help purify blood and break down toxins and fats. As far as food preservatives go, disodium phosphate is one of the better ones. In fact, it helps maintain proper pH levels in the body as well as metabolizing cholesterol.

Disodium phosphate is found in products such as frozen hash browns (to keep their brown color), canned tuna (for buffering and chelating), poultry and pork (as a scalding agent) and potato products (as a sequestrant).

On the whole it is best to avoid preservatives in foods as they are generally toxic to the body and harmful to the liver. However, disodium phosphate actually supports liver and gallbladder function and has properties that foster good health. So, go ahead and eat limited amounts of preserved meats, fish and potato products—just be sure they are preserved with disodium phosphate and nothing else.

Riboflavin—Who doesn’t know how vital the B vitamins are to the body? Like magnesium, the B-complex vitamins are essential to so many vital functions of the body. And riboflavin (B2) is among the most important of the group.

In fact, a deficiency of riboflavin can cause nervous system disorders and lesions on the skin and digestive tract. This water-soluble vitamin helps maintain normal cell function and proper metabolism and aids in the production of energy.

Vitamin B2 is found in both plant and animal tissue. As such, if you eat a well-balanced diet there will be no need to take a supplement containing this vitamin. Riboflavin can be found in meat, green vegetables and dairy products.

In conclusion, there are many healthy and unhealthy foods out there. But even among prepared foods, there can be healthy options. The choice is yours to make. So next time you are out shopping, or running to grab a quick snack, check the labels. Look for those foods containing whole grains, soy lecithin, disodium phosphate and riboflavin. They can do a body good!

Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley

is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach.

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