Take a look in the mirror. Consider that the reflection shining back represents a culmination of the dietary choices you have made over time. Are you satisfied with what’s there? Is your skin glowing from the freshest bounty of the season? Or is it mottled with dry skin or speckled with acne from the processed convenience foods that add weight to our bodies, dull our skin and poison our pantries?
Sneak a peek in your pantry. What’s there? Boxes of processed breakfast cereals? Sesame crackers? Protein bars? Have you considered the hidden ingredients lurking in these foods– or what’s lurking in the packaging of these foods? These and other hidden ingredients can affect your health, dull your energy, and cause a myriad of symptoms from migraines to muscle cramps.
A recently published book called “The Pantry Principle”, by Mira Dessy, can help you purge your pantry and rid your fridge of chemicals and additives found in processed foods. The book teaches you how to read a food label and educates you to the many unhealthy additives that may (or may not) be declared on the packaging. Dessy also introduces the reader to the health effects many of these additives can have on the body and its systems. Then she encourages the reader to clean up his/her diet, one step at a time. Dessy helps the reader to understand the information on the back label of the package. Doing so offers clues to what might be lurking in that box of seemingly healthy crackers.
Understanding a Food Label
The current mandatory food label information required by US law includes: the total number of calories, amount of fat and its breakdown into saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, protein, sugars, a few micronutrients (Vitamins A, C, Calcium and Iron) and dietary fiber. Additionally, some ingredients must be listed. Ingredients are listed in descending order of its presence in the food. Surprisingly, federal guidelines allow a manufacturer to claim that there is 0 percent of an ingredient if the total value per serving is less than 0.5 grams. Trans fats in many products are now listed as “0” since one serving contains less than .5g. Keep in mind that often one serving is far less than a person will eat. One cookie with a mere .4g transfats (which is listed as “0”), quickly totals to 1.2g transfats when three are consumed. This level exceeds the daily allowance for transfats, (which ideally should be zero).
Startlingly, federal regulations do not prohibit a manufacturer from replacing the natural ingredients in a food with chemical analogs or substitutes. For instance, the wheat used in many processed products is stripped of its natural versions of niacin, iron, vitamin B1, B2, and folic acids. The manufacturer may replace them with nutrients that are chemical in nature instead of from natural sources.
Clearly any food that has been processed away from its original nature is not a good choice. The banner “100% whole wheat” may not necessarily be whole grain. Whole grain consists of all three parts of the plant’s kernel. Whole wheat flour may be made with enriched wheat flour rather than whole grains. Do not get lulled into a false sense of nutritional security. Always check the back of the package and read your labels.
Misleading Food Labels
Interestingly, the term “natural” may easily mislead the common shopper. Many food manufactures slip this word on the front of their packaging. What does “natural” really mean? It is an unregulated term in the food industry and has no real definition.
For instance, tiny additives called monosodium glutamate (MSG) that enhance flavor in products are often indicated on the package by the term “natural flavoring.” MSG can cause headaches, numbness, tingling or burning on the face or neck. It is considered an excitotoxin and potentially toxic to one’s nervous system. MSG is often listed as a different ingredient. (The book provides a list of the many names that disguise this ingredient).
Some food manufacturers also use the “natural” ingredient carrageenen, which is made from red seaweed. It is allowed in organic products. Even though its source is natural, it should be avoided in the diet due to its potential MSG effects and the fact it is linked to inflammatory effects on the gastrointestinal tract.
Clearly, “natural” labels may make it difficult to know what is exactly in the food. Unless the ingredient list is clean, your best option is to avoid the food altogether. Dessy reveals that several additives are protected under an FDA regulation covering “incidental food additive labeling,” wherein the manufacture may skip any mention of an ingredient on the label. The emulsifier propylene glycol (yes, antifreeze) is one example. Ill effects of this and other emulsifies have been observed in animal studies. So keep in mind, simply because an ingredient does not appear on the food label, you may want to learn what foods may contain such stabilizers, emulsifiers and preservatives and avoid them. Dessy’s book can help you navigate these murky waters.
Armed with “The Pantry Principle”, you can clean your diet and rid your pantry of many hidden, unhealthy ingredients step by step. Before you know it, your entire pantry will be stocked with foods that will support you and your family’s health goals. You skin will reflect the vibrance of the season. Ridding your diet of excess, hidden chemicals will certainly make the reflection in the mirror all the more enchanting!
Katey Greene is a Nutrition Therapist Practitioner and certified health coach who studies at the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver. Owner of Evolve Nutrition, she designs and tailors customized programs that work step-by-step to meet your personal health goals. Katey specializes in working with busy, stressed out individuals and families helping them find a calming balance of work, play, and health. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.evolvenutrition-colorado.com