As modern diets evolve, eating healthy is becoming more and more complicated. So much of what we consume has been genetically engineered, processed, or contains chemical additives and preservatives. Many of these additives and processes are making us sick. Others are making us fat.
Eating to be healthy is no longer as simple as “eat less, move more”. We need to make more educated choices.
As a general rule, I advocate a diet that is as close to nature as possible. Avoid processed foods. Don’t eat products that have an ingredient list that reads like the inventory of a chemistry lab. If a label has more than a couple ingredients, or you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients on the list; it’s probably best to steer clear of that food item.
Here are my “Icky 8” toxins to avoid in modern foods:
- Trans Fats/Partially Hydrogenated Oils. While the saturated fats that naturally occur in many foods like nuts, fish, and eggs are (in moderation) an essential part of our diets, many of us have been led to believe that they are evil. Instead, a movement towards low fat diets and the introduction of alternative products like margarine has led to the rise of dangerous trans fats. Trans fats are created by turning vegetable oils into a solid form by adding hydrogen. They raise our (LDL) cholesterol and contribute to heart disease by raising blood levels of triglycerides and lipoproteins. It’s best to avoid any product containing partially hydrogenated oils.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup. By now, most of you have heard at least a little about the dangers of HFCS. This common sweetener has been shown to increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and even depression. It’s really just glucose that is highly processed into a form of fructose (the type of sugar found in fruits) by artificial means. Companies use this sweetener because it’s CHEAP.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). MSG is a neurotoxin that can overexcite nerve cells to the point of cell death. It has also been linked to diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. This is the “salty” additive used for taste in canned soups, hot dogs, and most fast food. Avoid it like the plague.
- Artificial Sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and others cause a long list of health problems. They interfere with your body’s natural hormone levels, cause diabetes, and trick your body into overeating. Some of these chemicals have even been linked to brain tumors in studies conducted on animals.
- Potassium Bromate. Commonly found in bread, potassium bromate is used to bind gluten molecules together and aid in the baking process. It is banned in China, the EU, and Brazil because animal studies have repeatedly shown PB to cause cancer of the kidneys and thyroid.
- Common Food Dyes. Some studies have linked food coloring to behavioral problems in children and the rise of childhood ADHD. Other studies, conducted on animals, have found these dyes to cause several types of cancers. Certain food colorings are even banned in many countries across the world.
- Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite. This preservative extends the shelf life of deli meats, hot dogs, bacon, and certain other meats. It can cause noticeable immediate side effects like dizziness, nausea, and headaches. It can also cause more serious long term side effects like cancer of the stomach or esophagus.
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT). These chemicals are preservatives commonly found in many different types of food. Studies have shown that BHA, specifically, can be an endocrine system interrupter. The National Institute of Health also concluded that these chemicals are likely to be human carcinogens. The same chemicals are also found in rubber and petroleum products. I don’t want to eat that…
So there you have it; my “Icky 8” reasons to get back to eating a more natural diet. Mother Nature had it right the first time. Let’s stop adding chemicals and manmade trash to the equation.