We all love convenience. Can you remember what life was like before the convenience of internet banking, internet shopping and social online networking? But it’s taking convenience a little far when our health is the price, and consumers are paying big time! Packaged and processed foods certainly help save time and labour and, thanks to all the preservatives, they last forever. The inclusion of additives means we can have pasta in five minutes, noodles in two and a whole chicken dinner in no longer than 10. What is really in all these convenient snacks and meals, what are they actually feeding us? These unhealthy amounts of salt, refined sugar, bad fats and other ingredients that you need a scientific textbook to decipher, can lead to weight gain, food allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, digestive disorders, skin issues, cancer and much more. The complete list of nasty additives found in processed food goes on endlessly, so let’s just go over the most common ones. Here’s what you need to look for next time you take a gander at an ingredients label:1. Artificial sweeteners
You might think you’re doing your thighs a favour by choosing a ‘diet’ version of your favourite food or drink, but artificial sweeteners are even worse for us than regular sweeteners. Aspartame, (E951) is a neurotoxin and carcinogen, more popularly known as Artificial Sweeteners is found in foods labelled "diet" or "sugar free". Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of nasty reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory, the components of this toxic sweetener may lead to a wide variety of ailments including diseases such as lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures. Plus, in combination with other food additives like artificial colours, artificial sweeteners can have a much more potent effect on nerve cells.2. Refined Sugar
White, highly processed sugar is found in pretty much all processed foods. Everything from tomato sauce, soup and pasta dishes to bread and bottled beverages is laced with sugar. High consumption of sugar and the corresponding elevated insulin levels can cause weight gain, bloating, fatigue, arthritis, migraines, lowered immune function, obesity, cavities and cardiovascular disease. It can also disrupt absorption of nutrients, possibly leading to osteoporosis, depression, PMS symptoms and stress.3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Most commonly known as the flavour enhancer in Chinese food, MSG is also an ingredient in many packets found on supermarket shelves including soups, salad dressings, frozen entrees and chips. MSG is an excitotoxin which are toxins that bind to certain receptors. For instance it turns off the receptor that tells your brain it’s full, making you want to consume more food. It also over stimulates the brain, causing a drug-like rush as dopamine levels rise. Side effects include headaches, itchy skin, dizziness and respiratory, digestive, circulatory and coronary concerns. 4. Artificial Colours
Artificial colours are added to our foods and drinks to enhance their appearance and make them more appealing to consumers. Most are derived from coal tar and can contain up to 10 parts per million of lead and arsenic and still be generally recognised as safe by the FDA. Artificial colours can cause allergic reactions and hyperactivity and ADD in children, and may contribute to visual and learning disorders or cause nerve damage. 5. BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) block the process of oil rancidity. They are preservatives found in some common foods such as chewing gum, cereals, candy, vegetable oils and potato chips. These additives seem to affect sleep and appetite, and have been associated with liver and kidney damage, hair loss, behavioural problems, cancer, fetal abnormalities and growth obstruction.6. Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite
Bacon, salami and other processed meats are laced with dangerous preservatives called sodium nitrate and nitrate. These compounds transform into cancer-causing agents called nirosamines in the stomach. Noticeable side effects include headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Plus, these meats have are continuously being linked to causing cancer.7. Pesticides
Pretty much all conventional foods contain pesticides. More than two billion pounds of pesticides are added to the food supply every year. Many of the pesticides used throughout the world are carcinogenic. Pesticide accumulation also undermines our ability to resist infectious organisms, may impair fertility and contributes to miscarriages and birth defects.8. Olestra (Olean)
Olestra is a calorie-free fat substitute used as an ingredient in snacks and chips. You may be thinking calorie-free fat is a winner, but this additive inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. It can also cause diarrhoea and anal leakage. Extra fat or anal leakage? What would you prefer?9. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
Do the words ‘trans fats’ mean anything to you? If you’re one of the masses who fell for the margarine trap, or if you are partial to the odd biscuit or cake, you need to know about the dangers of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This is made by infusing vegetable oil with hydrogen. When this occurs, the level of polyunsaturated oils (good fat) is reduced and trans fats are created. Trans fats are used to extend shelf life and is among the most dangerous substances you can consume. It is associated with the increased risk of heart disease and attacks, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol.What can you do to protect yourself?
The moral of the story is not only to read food labels carefully, but also to eat a diet that is as high in fresh whole foods as possible. You don’t have to worry about deciphering the ingredients panel on a bunch of spinach! Select organic fruit and vegetables that are in season wherever possible and supplement your diet with antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins.
Partially courtesy of www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au