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Thinking About Processed Foods Part 2

[Last week I started a conversation about Processed Foods and introduced you to a way of thinking about those Nutritional Facts labels.  This week I finish looking at that label and wonder whether there is a better way to think about what we eat.]

What Else Does This Label Tell Us?

It shows us that we are eating a lot of Sodium and that we are getting 0% of the vitamins the government recommends we consume every day, although we are consuming 5% of the iron we need.   We also have to think about the serving size. In this case the serving is 26 grams. This is less than one ounce of food. If you are focused on Calories, you have just traded 5% of the Calories you need in a day for a bag full of Fat and Sugar with no other apparent value.

From my perspective this food is not looking very appetizing. Honestly, how much do you think you know about this food? To learn more, let’s analyze the Ingredient List:

Ingredients: UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), SOYBEAN OIL, SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, SALT, LEAVENING (CALCIUM PHOSPHATE AND/OR BAKING SODA), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOY LECITHIN, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NATURAL FLAVOR.

The Consumer Protection Act requires ingredients to be listed from highest to lowest volume in the product. So the first ingredient will always be the highest and the last will be the lowest in volume.

The first ingredient here is Unbleached Enriched Flour. We know this more than likely means Dwarf Wheat because that is now the most prevalent wheat grown. Recall our earlier discussion on the havoc this wheat is wreaking in public health. It’s been enriched according to government standards.

The next item is Soybean Oil. Soybean Oil presents many health issues. The first of which is that Soybean Oil has been genetically modified. In this case, in two respects. First, so that herbicides can be sprayed directly on the plant. Second is so that under labeling regulations it doesn’t have to be listed as a Trans Fat. Hydrogenating oils makes them shelf stable. Soybean Oil is volatile and will go rancid. But through genetic engineering Soybean Oil is made shelf stable without hydrogenation because it has been made low in linolenic acid. Linolenic acid is the good Omega-3 fatty acid that our brains need to function at their optimal. But on a label the Calories from this Fat look bad and this fat is reactive and can go rancid. So the Linolenic acid is converted to Linoleic acid. The Soybean Oil that we consume in packaged foods is mostly Omega-6 fatty acid, which we consume naturally from many sources and do not need to consume specifically.

Soybean Oil is used in packaged food products because it is cheap and plentiful. But there are additional issues with Soybean Oil that you should be aware of so that even if you find Organic Soybean Oil you might want to pause to consider whether you should eat it. Soybean Oil contains goitrogens which interfere with your thyroid function, isoflavones which is a phytoestrogen and acts like estrogen in your body, phytic acid which prevents mineral absorption, enzyme interfering molecules and blot-clot promoting substances. Do you enjoy edamame at your favorite sushi restaurant or eat tofu as part of your regular diet? Leave your soy consumption to that. You don’t need it supplemented with packaged foods.

The third ingredient is sugar. There is so much information about the impact of sugar on our health that you probably feel overwhelmed by it. Gosh, can’t we eat sweets? Enjoy our favorite desserts? Do we have to give up all our yummies? That seems unreasonable! But there is no doubt that even what Americans consider “moderate” consumption of sugar leads to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. We were not designed to consume 17 teaspoons of sugar in one beverage, for example. Our ancestors consumed something like 20 teaspoons of sugar in an entire year!

As we have said many times throughout our writing, we believe in a balanced approach. Raise your awareness. Make good choices. Allow yourself to indulge in the things that you love. So when you are looking at a packaged good product such as snack crackers, ask yourself if this is where you want to eat your sugar? This product is mostly sugar. Perhaps you can forgo a product like this and have your cake for dessert.

Next we find Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil. Here is the Trans Fat! Here is what we know: If the fats have been replaced with Trans Fats or “partially hydrogenated oils” you are increasing the amount of unhealthy, or bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreasing the amount of healthy, or good cholesterol (HDL). This increases your risk of heart disease. The example above states 0g of Trans Fats. However, this product could still have up to a gram of Trans Fats included in its ingredients. You need to look for the words “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients. This is such a good example of how the labeling can be manipulated!

Even more, Cottonseed Oil in and of itself is not good to eat. Where else would you find cotton seed oil? You would never cook or bake with this. Cottonseed oil is very high in saturated fats which is why the oil in this product has been hydrogenated. But cotton is also a GMO crop. It has been genetically manipulated to withstand the direct application of herbicides. Cotton is also typically sprayed with high doses of pesticides. This is a crop that is high in chemical application. There is no reason to eat cottonseed oil at all other than it is cheap for production and so packaged foods companies use it a lot and so if you just have to have that favorite brand of crackers you will be eating it.

Next is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Well, we just can’t impress upon you strongly enough our beliefs about consuming High Fructose Corn Syrup. We don’t do it at all. The first reason is that all HFCS comes from GMO corn. All of it. If you are eating GMO corn, you are consuming herbicide residue, insecticide DNA as well as any variety of pesticides and other chemicals. You have probably heard that HFCS metabolizes the same in the body as table sugar and that there is no difference between the two. The chemistry shows, however, that consuming HFCS is very different than table sugar. When getting down to the chemistry the glucose and fructose molecules in HFCS are not bound. This means that the glucose molecule is rapidly absorbed in the system. This causes high spikes in insulin which drives appetite and overconsumption. The fructose molecule goes straight to the liver which causes liver damage. The HFCS requires more energy to digest in the gut and actually is a cause of leaky gut syndrome. That’s actual holes in your intestine which allows food particles to invade your body, leading to a host of other medical issues.[1] It gets even crazier. HFCS has been found to be contaminated with mercury. There is no standard of inspection which tests the toxicity of this product.

“Corn sugar” is not a natural product at all. In order for corn to become sweet for consumption by humans, a chemical process must occur. This process is so secret that people outside of the industry aren’t allowed into the factories to see how it happens.

What’s more the corn sugar industry is heavily subsidized by the government. That makes corn syrup very cheap for production which is why it has become so prevalent in our packaged foods. Do I want my tax dollars subsidizing a giant and very profitable industry so it can sell cheap corn syrup that contributes to the deterioration of public health? One thing is for sure, HFCS drives more people into the healthcare system. Think about this.

And we aren’t even finished.

The next ingredient is Soy Lecithin. Lecithin is a wonder of food science and an important part of processed and packaged foods. It is an emulsifier which means it makes oil and water mix together giving salad dressings their smooth creamy texture and chocolate its silkiness. So many of our foods wouldn’t look the same way they do without them. And it’s not just cosmetic, the emulsions contribute to taste and texture of food as well. It’s what keeps the oil and water in mayonnaise together so they don’t separate in the jar. Lecithin is also a surfactant which means it reduces the surface tension of foods and allows liquids to smooth and be absorbed faster.

Lecithin can be derived from many different sources, such as canola oil. But it is most commonly derived from soybean oil (which we have already discussed). Soy concerns apply to soy lecithin, including the conern that the soy is a GMO crop. In addition, the chemical process to produce soy lecithin involves the use of harsh solvents which may or may not leave residue on the product but in any case do produce environmental concerns for processing waste.

Malted barley flour is made from germinated barley hulls and is used either for flavor or as an enzyme in dough that helps yeast to feed.

The last ingredient in this product is Natural Flavor. That phrase can open a pandora’s box of analysis and debate. A fair synonym for this phrase would be Artificial Flavors. They really aren’t all that different. But the thing is we really don’t know what is in Natural Flavors and it will vary from product to product or from manufacturer to manufacturer. What is in a Natural Flavor ingredient will depend on what the producer needs – does the product need to enhance a certain flavor or add a certain flavor or enhance texture or replace an ingredient that is lost during processing or even pasteurization. The additional ingredients included in Natural Flavors may include solvents and preservatives. Although Natural Flavors are originally derived from a natural molecule (as opposed to Artificial Flavor which is completely synthesized through chemistry) all of the processing of these ingredients takes them far from nature. Ultimately there is no transparency with Natural Flavor because manufacturers consider them to be trade secrets and under law do not have to reveal their contents.

We need to start thinking for ourselves about what makes for healthy food, rather than relying on the government. We need to inform ourselves about what the ingredients mean.

We now know that when food companies remove the natural fats and calories and replace them with artificial ingredients to decrease the number of calories, increase flavor, enhance texture and increase shelf life. Because of this we are missing out on the parts of food which are essential for optimum brain functioning and more. When the amount of Calories in a food product can be manipulated through chemistry how do we know what we are really eating? Finally, if a “food” is harmful, how can it provide nourishment? Is it really a food?

Food for thought, yes?

~Kristine

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/high-fructose-corn-syrup-dangers_b_861913.html

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