How we got tricked into consuming something we are not really suppose to.
Food is the foundation of a balanced lifestyle and it plays a massive role in how we feel and perform. It can mean the difference between feeling like the best version of ourselves and off, even disconnected with our own body.
As a wellness, lifestyle & performance coach I strongly believe good nutrition is the foundation of our highest expression. In my coming essays, I will share basic insights into good eating habits. I will attempt to demystify what can be an overwhelming subject. In a world of endless choices, my goal is to help you better navigate your way to a good food lifestyle. Let's dive in and break down the stuff that really matters.
Whole food is the gold standard. It is defined as food that has been minimally processed or refined and is free from additives or other artificial substances. If we navigate through a grocery store the most obvious representation of whole food is the fresh fruit, vegetable, and meat sections. In summary, the do it yourself items. Keeping it whole can get challenging in a world that demands more and more of our time and attention. So how can we strike a balance between convenience and time-saving options while still eating food that fuels us to feel great?
This is where our main character, clean label, comes in. Next time you are at the supermarket, scan the labels of packaged products for ingredients that contain whole foods. If you can easily recognize and pronounce the ingredients then you are on the right track. And remember fewer ingredients is actually better because it means there is more of what you really want and less of the mystery filler ingredients. If you want to know more about the most common additives, preservatives, and artificial substances and why they are far from healthy, then click here.
Now let's dive a bit deeper. Why do the majority of brands still produce complicated food?
Most brands are mainly driven by profit margins and as such will go to great lengths to dilute and substitute the ingredients in their recipes with cheaper versions. However, this equation only works when the final product still tastes, smells and looks good. Which brings us to the items that can creep up in food when brands try to compensate.
Sugar is cheap and can make anything taste palatable. This is the reason why the less clean labels like to sneak it in. It's also easy to lose sight of your total sugar consumption. Especially when added sugar is hidden in the most unlikely of places like savory foods and sauces. Added sugar can lead to serious health implications such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes. And along with the energy crash you get after a sugar spike, sugar is oxidative (opposite of antioxidant, which is good for you). This, therefore, also speeds up aging. In summary, beware of Added Sugar and all of its relatives like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), anything followed by the word syrup i.e. Sorghum Syrup and other refined culprits like Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Lactose, Maltose, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, and Fruit Juice Concentrate to name a few.
The food industry is astute and in an effort to be perceived as "healthy" engineered artificial sweeteners. They are perceived as healthy because they are a low or no-calorie option. However, artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose pose an even greater health threat than good old fashion sugar. The reason being that these high -intensity sweeteners (200 - 20,000 times sweeter than regular sugar) over stimulate the sugar receptors. Shockingly, this changes your palate to favor sweeter foods. This is a slippery road to a sweet craving addiction, which is difficult to break. Furthermore, some artificial sweeteners have been deemed carcinogenic and linked to cancer.
Products have preservatives because they increase shelf life and consequently profit margins. Preservatives are chemicals that prevent food from rotting. An easy way to evaluate what you're getting into is to ask the following questions: How much shelf life does this product have? Does the product need refrigeration? The longer the product can sit on a shelf outside a refrigerator, well the more preservatives the product probably contains. Most chemical preservatives are carcinogenic and have been linked to cancer.
Artificial Colorants, Flavors and Texturants
Products have artificial colorants, flavors, and texturants because they make food look and taste more appealing. Artificial colorants, flavors, and texturants are desperately needed when food needs to sit on a shelf for months and still look, taste and smell good. Think makeover for food. Additionally, manufacturers are incentivized to opt for artificial because it's also cheaper. Beware of food labels which contain words like i.e. Vanilla "flavor" and/or "aroma", these are code words for it has been made in a laboratory. And because the manufacturer is telling you it is artificial the regulations for these flavors and aromas is significantly lower than using the real ingredient. Why settle for a petrochemical version when you can have the real thing? Artificial food coloring, flavors, and texturants have been linked to increased hyperactivity in children, cancer and DNA damage.
Products contain vegetable oils and processed altered versions like artificial trans fats, trans fatty acids, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils because they are cheap, extend shelf life and contribute to the texture of food. Think crispier, flakier and spreadable. However, vegetable oils are in themselves already highly processed and refined. With some exceptions like olive and coconut oil, which can be cold pressed, the majority of vegetable oils are extracted via the use of chemical solvents and then heated to high temperatures during processing. This oxidizes the oil. Altered oils are created by further processing when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil making it more shelf stable. Artificial trans fats lead to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Trans fats raise the ratio of bad LDL to good HDL cholesterol.
Next, consider Organic. Because even whole food or products with clean labels are downright toxic if they have residues of synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics. All of which can have detrimental health effects. Additionally, Organic farming supports soil health and ecosystems for cleaner water and air. All of which are essential for health. For the list of the dirty dozen, the conventional whole foods that are most likely to be contaminated with synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers click here.
Strawberries- Spinach - Kale - Nectarines- Apples - Grapes - Peaches - Cherries - Pears - Tomatoes - Celery- Potatoes
Health is the culmination of the total choices we make and gravitating towards organic, whole food and clean label products will bring you closer to foods that fuel you for greatness. Flip your standard and choose foods that meet the demand of your lifestyle without compromising what your body needs. Every little step you make in embracing this balance is an act of progress.