My Top 5 Food Additives to Avoid
As we already talked about, there are thousands of additives that are put into our food to make it taste, look, or smell better, or last longer on our shelves or in our fridge. The list of food additives can definitely be overwhelming, and even though a lot of them are said to be safe, I still wonder how much we should be eating foods that have things added to them at all. But, the reality is that most (if not all) of us will eat foods on a regular/daily basis that have things added to them. So, while in theory it would be nice to say, “Avoid all food additives”, it’s just not practical or realistic.
But, there are definitely some food additives that are worse than others – some that have been shown to have harmful effects on our bodies and our health, that we should try to avoid completely, in all of our food. Theses are the ingredients that I am specifically looking for when I am reading an ingredient label. If a food I’m considering buying has one of these ingredients I will try my absolute best not to buy it, and find an alternative, or consider making it myself from scratch.
1. Hydrogenated Oil or Partially Hydrogenated Oil – aka Trans Fat.
I’m sure we’ve all heard by now that Trans Fats are bad for us. It increases the risk of coronary heart disease and raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol. And while partially hydrogenated oils were once common in foods like margarine and fried foods like potato chips, since it has gotten such a bad rap (deservedly so) lately, it seems like food companies are moving away from their use of these deadly fats. But beware! Just because an item says, “Trans Fat Free” on the package, does not mean that it does not contain partially hydrogenated oil. Take a look at the ingredients. If you see any kind of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil on the label, then it does indeed include trans fat, but just in an amount small enough per serving that they don’t have to list it in the Nutritional Information and can claim that it is trans fat free. Sneaky, huh? At my house, I have found trans fat in crackers, tortillas, and cookies (and I’m sure there are others).
How do I try to avoid Partially Hydrogenated Oils? Mostly by making things myself, from scratch. Then I know all the ingredients and that there’s no trans fats sneaking in there. I have made crackers from scratch, but need to try some new recipes. This is the reason that I started making my tortillas at home, until I discovered how yummy homemade tortillas are, and now I make them because they’re so good! We also try to make our own baked good like cookies, brownies, muffins, etc., from scratch. Basically, avoiding processed food is a good way to avoid trans fats! We also only use butter – no margarine or spreadable “butter” here.
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
We’ve also all probably heard how bad High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is for us too. It contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, and can even deplete our bodies of the vitamins and minerals it needs! HFCS is the most common form of sugar now consumed in America, mostly in soda (or pop, whatever you call it). 🙂
But it’s also found in condiments, salad dressings, sauces, and lots of other places. I found it in our favorite BBQ sauce (the first ingredient! what am I going to do?) and caramel syrup for ice cream.
How to avoid HFCS? Again, probably mostly by avoiding processed foods, but this one is definitely a bit harder for me than trans fats because many of the things that have HFCS are things that I am not as likely to make myself. I haven’t delved into making condiments, dressings, or sauces. I do really like the Meijer Naturals brand, if you live by Meijer, because it does not contain HFCS, specifically the ketchup is really good. Also, cut soda (or pop) out of your diet (and yes, even diet soda because those contain artificial sweeteners which we will talk about later this week). I know this might be a really, really hard one for some people, but as someone who used to drink soda pretty much every day, I can tell you that you can do it, and you won’t even miss it (most of the time)! 🙂 Not only is it better for your health, it’s much better for your wallet too!
So, those are my top two ingredients to avoid when reading ingredient labels and deciding what food I am going to buy and feed to my family. Am I perfect at keeping these things out of my house? Of course not, but I figure if I can be aware and proactive we can greatly reduce our consumption of these harmful food additives.
Please come back later this week (hopefully tomorrow, but I don’t want to promise too much), where I’ll share the next 3 of my Top 5 Food Additives to Avoid.
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