What Makes Food Unhealthy?
First things first, let’s establish that the most common culprits are considered to be salt, sugar and fat.
The fact is that the body requires all of these in certain quantities. Consumed in moderation, none of these can be considered harmful.
What this means is that your body needs a certain amount of salt since sodium is essential for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, maintaining pH balance and hydration.
While sugar is a simple carbohydrate and can be replaced by complex carbohydrates in the diet, sugar provides an immediate boost to energy levels. Although, I do have to add that choices of stevia, maple syrup or honey as a sweetener are far more healthy than using sugar!
Fat is a form of stored energy that is called upon in times of need. Making fat, breaking it, storing it and then using it at a later time is the way in which the body regulates energy.
Two thirds of the brain cells are made of fat and therefore you can imagine the importance of this ingredient in our diets.
While the basic ingredients in food are required in certain proportion, there are some that are prevalent in processed foods that we could do without.
Some of the most commonly used ingredients and chemicals in processed foods that make them unhealthy are:
* Artificial colors and flavoring – Chemical flavoring is toxic in nature, it gives a sudden rush to the system causing hyperactivity and enhancing chances of ADHD in children.
* Trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils – Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils that are made from a process that increases the level of free radicals. They are mostly prevalent in cake mixes, baked goods and peanut butter. They decrease the proportion of HDL or good cholesterol in our system increasing the chances of heart ailments.
* BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) – A chemical added to processed foods to retain the level of fat, BHT can cause many skin allergic reactions.
* MSG (mono sodium glutamate) – Known as a food additive for Chinese food, this is a chemical that is now being used in most restaurants to make food more flavorful since it enhances the basic flavor of the dish. MSG is banned for children below the age of 6. It should however, be banned for adults too. MSG excites the nervous system and is also responsible for brain cell death.
* Artificial sweeteners – While these are often considered to be a healthier option for sugar, the most commonly used artificial sweetener, aspartame, is thought to cause cancer in the long run.
* Sodium nitrate and nitrite – Typically found in meat products, these can hamper the manner in that your body processes sugar, increasing the risk of diabetes.
* Sodium benzoate – This chemical is used to keep bacteria away from preserves like jams, jellies and fruit concentrates. It is known to be responsible for harming the immune system.
* Suphites – Used to preserve food color and enhance shelf life, suphites are typically used in canned foods and frozen products. These chemicals are highly allergic and can cause flushed faces, rashes and swelling of the face, tongue and throat.
Breaking the “Healthy Food” Myth
To be able to eat right, it is essential to know what foods are actually healthy.
In addition to that, it is essential that we are able to identify the marketing gimmicks adopted by many food companies to fool us into believing their packaged foods are healthy or healthier.
Here are some of the foods which are considered to be healthy but may not be:
There is no doubt that fruit juices needs to top the list of unhealthy foods that are considered healthy. It is assumed that fruit juices are beneficial since most fruits are considered to be healthy. But fruit juices that we normally consume are far from healthy.
They are highly processed by pasteurization and are then stored in large tanks to ensure a year-long supply in the market. For proper storage, all the oxygen in the juice is also removed. Chemical flavoring (like ethyl butyrate) and color is added to enhance the appeal.
Fruit drinks hardly have any qualities of fruits. They are mostly made by adding high levels of corn syrup and may also be made from mold-laden or overripe fruit.
Even when you squeeze out of glass of fresh juice, it contains high levels of sugar. It is best to consume the whole fruit so you get the benefits of fiber and antioxidants the fruit promises. These also reduce the ill effects of sugar present in the fruit.
Energy bars have always been thought of as pre-workout snacks and therefore associated with fitness and health. This very association is what creates an aura of health around this product. The facts, however, are different.
Most energy bars are laden with high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat and excess sugar (or unhealthy sugar substitutes). Each bar can contain 350 calories or more.
The reason why energy bars are a good pre-workout snack is to fill up on carbs for enough energy for the workout.
Vegetable Oil and Fake Butter
Saturated fats and animals fats have been criticized to such an extent that we tend to lean towards vegetable oils like canola, soy or safflower oils. These vegetables oils are refined using a chemical process that can result in free radicals being added to the oil.
Fake butter or margarine is sold in the market as fat-free butter. What it contains is something called trans fat. Trans fat is made by converting liquid vegetable oils into semi solid or solid state by hydrogenation.
So essentially you consume the same chemically processed vegetable oil that has gone through an additional chemical-adding process. Trans fat is known to be associated with low birth weight, cancer, bone health issues, hormone fluctuations and infertility too.
Breakfast cereals are considered to be healthy because people believe the grains they are made from are healthy. A large proportion of ingredients added in these cereals are toxic in nature.
They have been tested and shown to contain carcinogenic fumigants, genetically modified ingredients and more. To add to that, you might also want to rethink your stance on cereals after seeing the high levels of sugar they contain.
Soups have been considered healthy for as long as anyone can remember. However, when this was the case, the soups were made from scratch at home using healthy grass-fed animal meat and fresh vegetables.
Soup mixes available in the market, however, are a different deal altogether. These soups contain extremely high levels of salt and taste enhancers like MSG. In addition, the amount of corn flour used to make the soup thick and luscious is also harmful to health.
Many moms do not bother to check their kids from consuming ketchup because they feel it helps them consume a healthy vegetable – tomatoes. Ketchup has extremely high levels of both sugar and salt.
Commercially produced ketchup contains less tomato and more pumpkin, a vegetable that costs much less. Added to that are color and flavor enhancers that are extremely harmful for the body.
Most people on a diet reach out for the salad menu when ordering food at a restaurant, assuming that a salad is healthy and light. But if you stop to consider the ingredients of the salad, you will realize that chicken, tuna or shrimp salads have many hidden calories.
The biggest culprit in these salads is the sauce that you choose to top or make your salad with. Mayonnaise is laden with fat as is Thousand Island and Ranch. Ask for the sauce on the side, or ask for the salad to be garnished with vinaigrette, and you will make it a healthier meal.
“Fat Free” and “Sugar Free” Foods
When walking down the aisle in a supermarket, we assume that packaging marked as ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’ is the healthier option. But remember, neither of these means that the packaged food is calorie free.
Foods that claim to be sugar free are likely to be high in fat and vice versa. In some cases the sugar free variant is likely to have large amounts of carcinogenic sugar substitutes.
Yogurt is obviously better than high fat cream and therefore frozen yogurt ought to be healthier than ice cream. While yogurt may contain slightly lower amounts of fat than cream, the difference is not enough. The amount of sugar added to the yogurt to make it sweeter is extremely high, not to mention the toppings that one tends to add over it.
How to Choose ‘Really’ Healthy Food
Finding convenient options of healthy food has become extremely difficult. We have become so used to opening a can and pouring the ingredients into a bowl or recipe that fresh, organically grown food seems too much of an effort.
The good news is that many food manufacturers are educating the consumer and moving towards a truly healthy offering.
Many marketing campaigns are still pawning off unhealthy foods as healthy based on advertisements and past associations of health.
Here are some things you need to check before you can classify a food as actually healthy:
* Has the food been grown or raised without pesticides? While all organic foods fit this description some of the non-organic foods also fit the bill.
* Is the food fresh? The fresher the food, the more nutrients it retains and therefore can be considered more healthy. If you have a choice between stale organic food and fresh non-organic food, you should choose the latter.
* Is the food genetically engineered? Genetically engineered food can be extremely cheap. But that is not what we are looking for when we put the health of our family first.
* Does it contain growth hormones or antibiotics?
* Does it contain preservatives, artificial sweeteners, artificial coloring or any ingredient mentioned above?
While shopping, it is always best to know the seasonal produce and choose those that are locally grown. These are likely to be fresh and devoid of any preservatives. If you must, frozen foods are better than canned foods.
Make it a habit to read the back panel for the ingredients and nutritional details just as religiously as you look at the price. Look for the amount of sodium and carbohydrates. You will want to pick products that are low in both. Trans fats should also be avoided as much as possible.
Choose foods that are high in fiber and compare nutrition details. Over time, you will get an idea of the level of sodium, sugar or fat each kind of product should contain. For example, you can find shredded wheat cereals that are healthy or 100% whole wheat bread that has high levels of fiber.
Oil Blends to End the Winter Blues
* 3 drops Orange
* 2 drops Grapefruit
* 4 drops Orange
* 1 drop Ylang Ylang
* 3 drops Orange
* 2 drops Ginger
* 3 drops Grapefruit
* 2 drops Cypress
* 3 drops Bergamot
* 2 drops Clary Sage
* 3 drops Bergamot
* 1 drop Neroli
* 1 drop Jasmine
Directions: Select one of the blends shown above. Then, choose which method you’d like to use the blend – diffuser, bath oil, massage oil or air freshener
Get your dried, organic herbs, organic essential oils, bulk spices, loose leaf organic teas and aromatherapy supplies at the place where we shop – Starwest Botanicals!