The hidden dangers of “health” foods

by Amy Renee

You woke up late for work. No time for breakfast. You barely have time to shower, get dressed, make your best attempt at your 5-minute makeup and hair routine before you scurry out the door frazzled. On the way to work you hit traffic. Ugh. Stress. Your tummy growls. More traffic. Finally you get to the office and you realize how hungry you are. You hurry to your office hoping no one notices you’re ten minutes late. As soon as you have time to breath your eyes focus on the box of Special K snack bars on a shelf above your printer. Oh thank God! At least you have something healthy to hold you over until lunch…or do you? I mean, with only 100 calories per bar and the tagline, “drop a jean size in two weeks,” they can’t be all that bad, right?

With all the marketing scams on processed food products today people are tricked in to thinking they are making wise choices when they quite possibly would’ve been better off eating a candy bar. Seriously! We’ve all been guilty at one time or another. Manufacturers love to add claims to their products to make them sound healthy, when in actuality they are far from it. But as innocent consumers we often take the manufacturer’s word for it, I mean the government wouldn’t let them lie to us, would they? “Made with whole grains.” “Sugar free.” “Low fat.” “Heart healthy.”

The simple truth

Food manufacturers lie. If we want ourselves and our families to be healthy we need to be “ingredient savvy” and not fall for the gimmicks. You’ve heard me mention my blog post on how to read the nutritional label on food products before and for good reason. IT’S IMPORTANT! So if you haven’t already read it, please take some time to do so now.

Let’s look at some examples

Example One: Fruit & Vegetable Juice

The cold pressed juice trend is huge right now and as you know even I do a one-day juice cleanse once a month. I love it. You can read my post on juicing here and my post on my one-day cleanse here. But there’s a big difference between making your own juice and trusting someone else (a manufacturer) to make it.

  1. As I mention in my juice post, cold pressed juice oxidizes very rapidly meaning it loses much of it’s antioxidants (those things that fight cancer and other adverse health conditions by binding to free radicals) soon after the juice is made. So if you are purchasing juice from a store or having it delivered from a juice cleanse company, chances are most of the antioxidants are already gone, basically leaving you a bottle full of sugar with only a few of those precious nutrients left.
  2. When you juice at home, not only do you know your juice is super fresh, but you also have the option of leaving some of the fiber in. Most slow juicers have a control switch where you can close it off completely (all pulp goes into a separate container) or leave it slightly open so that some of the pulp (fiber) stays in. If you are making juice simply for the health benefits and not doing a “cleanse,” I suggest you leave some of the pulp in since it will slow down the rate at which sugar is released into the blood stream. You don’t have that option with store bought juice.
  3. Pasteurization – many juices available in stores, such as the one I am using in the example below are pasteurized. Although this kills off any bacteria that may have formed and allows the juice to keep from spoiling for a longer time, it also destroys most of the enzymes and much of the vitamin and mineral content in the juice.

Can you see the circled parts of the label?

Look at where I circled the servings on the label. Two servings. Now look at the sugars. 28 grams of sugar per serving times two servings, that’s 56 grams of sugar in one bottle of juice!!! Yes, fruit and vegetable sugars are better than table sugar, but keep in mind that your body can only store so much of this in your glycogen stores and blood to be used as energy and the rest will be converted to triacylglycerol (fat molecules) and stored as fat. If you aren’t particularly active (if you aren’t going for an hour long run, playing soccer, or doing an hour or two of intense cardio, etc.) you’re not going to be burning enough glucose (sugar) that you would require to drink this much.

Check out what I circled on the right side of the label. “Gently pasteurized.” Oh, so they killed off the nutrients gently. Ha ha. Too funny!

Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle of water if you’re thirsty. Unless you’re an endurance athlete there is no reason you should be drinking this stuff. If you want to do a juice cleanse. Make your own juice!

Example Two: Breakfast and/or Snack Bars

In the beginning of this post I used Special K snack bars in my fake representation of something many of us would deem as “healthy” since it’s claims and advertisements would have us believe as such. It states right on the label, “100 feel-good calories” and “made with whole grain.” Umm, well it does have rolled oats and that is a whole grain. But hold on. Let’s take a closer look at the ingredient list.

Hmm. Well, as I mentioned, rolled oats (the whole grain) is the first ingredient. That’s good. Oh, wait…corn syrup is the second ingredient and as you know from my blog post on how to read and understand nutrition facts labels (I know you all read it, right?) you know that the ingredients are listed in order by predominance, meaning these specific snack bars consist mostly of rolled oats and corn syrup. That’s a lot of sugar! Not only that, but corn syrup is a REALLY BAD form of sugar. Next on the list is rice flour (not too bad), then sugar, and fructose – so basically more sugar and more sugar. Next in line is vegetable oil and in parentheses is “partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil,” meaning that vegetable oil has been modified to make the bars last longer on the shelf turning that fat into TRANS FAT!!! A type of unnatural fat that the body doesn’t recognize and CAUSES CANCER!!! Oh my.

Okay, there’s a lot of bad ingredients here, but to save time I’m going to skip right to the end and mention some of the worst.

Here are some things that stuck out to me and are really bothersome, particularly since they are legal in the U.S. yet banned in other countries.

  • BHT also known as butylated hydroxytoluene is a preservative that causes cancer in animal studies.
  • Artificial food dyes. These food additives are completely unnecessary to the taste of food products yet they can inhibit nerve cell development. Research studies have linked food dyes to everything from hyperactivity in children to brain cancer. In fact, some studies examining the effects of food dye consumption by children with ADHD found that food dyes contributed to increased symptoms and when they were removed from the diet, children with ADHD responded almost as well as those who were treated with drugs such as Ritalin or other stimulants.
  • Yellow 5 is a particular concern since it has been shown to contain up to 10 parts per million (10ppm) of lead and arsenic, both toxic and become lethal at very small amounts. Yellow 5 has also been linked to cancer, yet it remains to be used in the U.S. while banned in countries such as Norway, France, Finland, Austria, and the U.K.

Do you see what I mean? These bars don’t seem so healthy anymore now do they? Wouldn’t you rather just spend ten minutes in the kitchen and make your own snack bars? They’d probably taste WAY better any way!!!

For more information about food additives read my blog post by clicking here.

Hey – we’ve all been too trusting at times, believing that manufacturers are telling us the truth. But unfortunately more often than not that just isn’t the case. Manufacturers are smart and they use intelligent advertising methods to trick consumers into thinking their products are good for them. A lot of people think this is illegal, that we are protected from this type of thing. Not true. 🙁

This is funny. Check out this clip from Jimmy Kimmel live and although it’s super funny, it pretty much sums up how naive the public is when it comes to food labeling. Check it out by clicking on the link here.

Don’t let food manufacturers trick you

Don’t just look at the front of the package when you’re shopping for food products. In fact, I recommend you don’t purchase any packaged foods at all. You can easily make delicious and healthy snack bars, snack balls, and portion packaged snack mixes at home instead.

But what about those times when you don’t have that option, like when you’re traveling and have unexpected delays or get stranded somewhere?

If you make your own treats like I suggested above you can easily pack some of those to bring with you. A great option for traveling is nut butter and fruit sandwiches. My favorite is homemade almond butter and banana with cinnamon on wheat pita bread. I always make myself one or two of these to bring with me when traveling to ensure I always have healthy food if I get hungry. But if you’re starving and the only thing available is a grocery or convenience store, I recommend seeing if they have any fresh fruit. A lot of stores have oranges, apples, bananas, and sometimes fruit bowls (make sure the fruit isn’t sitting in syrup) available and you can always wash it in a nearby bathroom. Sounds gross to wash your food in a public restroom, but better than food borne illness! Other healthful options include nuts, preferably raw and unsalted, but lightly salted roasted nuts without any added oils will do too.

REFERENCES

  1. Goldschmidt, V. 12 dangerous and hidden food ingredients in seemingly healthy foods. http://saveourbones.com/12-dangerous-ingredients/. [no publish date]. Accessed on January 18, 2015.
  2.  Hyman M. Health foods that are dangerous for your health. Dr. Mark Hyman. http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/07/04/health-foods-that-are-dangerous-for-your-health/#close. Updated on October 19, 2014. Accessed on January 18, 2015.
  3. Adams M. The 10 worst toxins hidden in vitamins, supplements and health foods. Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/039638_toxins_ingredients_nutritional_supplements.html. Published on March 26, 2013. Accessed on January 18, 2015.
  4. Perez A. 8 foods we eat in the U.S. that are banned in other countries. Buzz Feed Life. http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyperez/8-foods-we-eat-in-the-us-that-are-banned-in-other-countries#.am0dMY1OQ. Published on June 19, 2013. Accessed on January 18, 2015.
  5. Gordon E. 10 healthy foods that are not healthy. Love Live Health. http://www.lovelivehealth.com/10-healthy-foods-that-are-not-healthy/1/. Published on October 22, 2014. Accessed on January 18, 2015.
  6. Naked Juice Company. http://www.nakedjuice.com/our-products/juice/green-machine.
  7. Special K salted caramel chocolate snack bar. http://www.specialk.com/en_us/products/chewy-bars/salted-caramel-chocolate.html. Accessed on January 30, 2015.
  8. Cordes N. The truth about food (dyes). CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-truth-about-food-dyes/. Posted on June 3, 2008. Accessed on February 3, 2015.
  9. Jimmy Kimmel Live on YouTube. Jimmy Kimmel Live: what’s a GMO?. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzEr23XJwFY. Posted on January 28, 2015. Accessed on March 9, 2017.

 

Post last updated on March 9, 2017.

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