Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I feel like people don’t think that most of what they have in the pantry is that bad for them. I see people in the grocery store with their carts full of bright colored packages of processed foods. Kids today live on snack foods, but parents feel secure because the packaging assures them that there is nutrition in those snacks. Then it struck me the other day – the mere presence of Nutrition Facts labels on packaged food is deceiving people into thinking that there is ACTUALLY nutrition contained in that package. We can thank the FDA for this. I’m sure it started out to let people know about the bad stuff, like sugar grams or fat grams (no, fat is not bad, but the FDA wants you to think it is), but it has evolved into something that says, “Eat me, I’m healthy!” Let me tell you folks, nothing could be further from the truth! This has been a light bulb moment for me. So now that I’ve had this epiphany I think I can address the issue properly. Let me show you a couple of example of why processed foods are unhealthy. We all know ice cream and cookies are unhealthy, but what about these… Breakfast CerealThe label says it’s made from whole grain, it’s low in fat and it provides 100% of your daily vitamin and mineral needs. The problem is that it will raise your blood sugar very quickly, causing a crash soon after, leaving you hungry for more. (The whole insulin roller coaster is a topic for another day.) The whole grain that is used is processed beyond recognition. There are different levels of processing, from simply grinding the grain to grinding, mashing, and extruding under very high pressure. Just because a study says that whole grain is beneficial does NOT mean that whole grain in ALL its forms is beneficial. Processing destroys those benefits. Grains have a substance in them called phytic acid that binds with minerals in your body and carries them away, leaving your body depleted. We can take measures to neutralize this phytic acid, but certain processing actually makes that phytic acid more potent. Extruding is one of those processes (this is how we get those neat little shaped Os and stars and such, by high pressure extrusion). There was a test done on boxed cereal and mice. Three groups of mice were tested. One group was given the breakfast cereal and water, one group was given the cardboard box and water, and the control group was fed rat food and water. The rats in the control group stayed healthy. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. This is the interesting part, the rats that were eating the cereal died BEFORE the rats eating the box! Before they died, they exhibited schizophrenic behavior, threw fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions. The processing done to grains to become breakfast cereal actually makes them toxic. If that isn’t enough, the vitamin and mineral content on the box is very deceiving. The manufacturer knows that the processing is destroying the grains, so they have added SYNTHETIC vitamins to sell you on it. These vitamins are not recognized in our bodies, doing us no good. Make your family good old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast, or better yet, eat some eggs – God’s wonder food! Flavored YogurtYogurt has received a lot of attention in the last few years in the media because of the probiotics (like acidophilus) it contains. Here again, like the breakfast cereal, just because a study says yogurt is healthy does not mean that all FORMS of yogurt are healthy. The typical yogurt consumed is the fruit-flavored variety. I used to eat a lot of these myself! So what’s so bad about them? Let’s start with how they are made. First the milk is pasteurized, which kills almost ALL the vitamins, ALL of the enzymes, reduces the availability of it’s minerals, and damages the fragile proteins. Then the milk is homogenized which makes the fat particles so small they will stay mixed into the milk, but also makes them very susceptible to oxidation and rancidity, contributing to heart disease. Then the milk is usually thickened with powdered milk, which contains oxidized cholesterol, which is harmful to our arteries, and potent carcinogens, like glutamic acid (due to the high temperature drying process), which is toxic to our nervous systems. Then the sugar is added, often high fructose corn syrup, coloring (read here to see where the red comes from, surprising!), fruit and artificial flavors. Don’t think that the sugar-free varieties are better, they are even worse, artificial sweeteners of ALL types are dangerous chemicals. What about the benefits of yogurt? Do they outweigh these negative aspects? In short, no, the probiotics are there to help fight off the bad bacteria in your gut, but the sugar in the yogurt is actually FEEDING the bad bacteria in your gut. Plus your body can’t absorb the calcium because the vitamin D has been destroyed (it’s often supplemented with synthetic vitamin D, which your body just eliminates as waste) and the fat has been damaged or is absent. So the bottom line is that flavored yogurts have NO nutritional value. I’m not saying don’t eat them; just know that you are eating a dessert. You will be much better off eating plain full fat yogurt (sweeten with some raw honey, if you like) or better yet, make your own from raw milk. Granola BarsAs I heard Dr. Roizen say once, “These are just candy bars.” Ingredients are listed in descending order so when you see sugar listed second it means there is a lot of sugar in this product. (Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey) Red flag number two is the third ingredient, Canola Oil. I have mentioned this oil before, it is one of the worst oils for you, very, very high in the wrong kind of Omega-6 and the Omega-3 is damaged. Next is crisped rice, this is overly processed rice like the kind in breakfast cereal; we just talked about why that is so bad. The fifth ingredient listed is a very deceiving one, soy protein. We have been conditioned to think that soy is very healthy, but let’s explore this ingredient and decide for ourselves. The real name of the ingredient is soy protein isolate and it is made by removing the fiber from the soybean in an alkaline solution, then the beans are put in large aluminum tanks with an acid wash. This acid makes the soybeans absorb aluminum, which remains in the end product (big culprit of Alzheimer’s and dementia). After the acid, the beans are treated with many other chemicals including nitrates, which are linked with cancer. Soy is a goitrogen, which means it reduces thyroid function; low thyroid function in kids includes abnormalities in brain development and maturation. Soy is very high in phytates. This is what we talked about with the cereal; phytates actually remove minerals from our bodies. Soy contains natural phytoestrogens (act like estrogen in our bodies), this may be good for menopausal women, but certainly not for kids. Many doctors are now linking the consumption of soy with the early puberty development that has become the norm for young girls. So, as you can see, soy is not our friend. The next three ingredients are sugar, not good, then salt, then soy lecithin, another soy product, need I say more. After some baking soda comes some natural flavor. Now this sounds good, something natural. Ha! Often MSG is included in ingredient listings as natural flavor. Why else would they need to list a natural flavor unless it was a chemical? You have oats and honey listed, you certainly don’t need to list “oat flavor” and “honey flavor”, we can already see they’re there, so this tells me it is a chemical product. Then some nut flours. So to sum up, I agree with Dr. Roizen, these are just candy bars. This goes for energy bars as well. Do your family a favor and make some homemade muffins, even if they aren’t 100% whole wheat, you can avoid the soy, high fructose corn syrup, and chemical flavors at home. Reading over this post, I really sound like I’m ranting and raving, but I do not apologize. I whole-heartedly believe that packaged food is THE worst thing for your health. There are a few packaged food items I eat from time to time, and I certainly won’t look down my nose at anyone else eating them, but I don’t want you to be deceived into thinking that you are partaking of some nutrition. Think of these items listed above as dessert and nothing more. I could list many more processed foods that masquerade as nutrition, like Lean Cuisine, Baked Lays, Whole Wheat Triscuits, Campbell’s Soup - but I think I’ve made my point. This goes for food items at the local grocery store, but EVEN at the local health food store. The bottom line is that packaged, processed food should not be such a big part of our diet. Things like canned, diced tomatoes or frozen veggies are okay because they have had very minimal processing. It seems to me that the more processed a food is the more advertising is on the package convincing us it’s a healthy food that we should buy. We must be ever conscious of marketing ploys at the grocery store! So please don’t be overwhelmed by this new information. Take your babysteps; pick one packaged food item at a time to cut out. I will be including more recipes in the future to help you substitute the packaged food for REAL food.