My nutrition class went well yesterday. The staff at the Safeway didn’t even bat an eyelash at us. Below are some of the things we discussed in greater depth. Next time I’m going to take them to Trader Joe’s to show them what to buy, instead of what to avoid. That’ll be more fun. In the meantime, here’s some stuff you need to know if you’re shopping at a conventional supermarket. Don’t forget to click on some of the links I’ve provided, they’ll take you to more site with even more information, if you want sources or just more proof.
One in four nutrition labels is wrong. Very often a product will claim to have no calories, sugar or trans fats when it fact, it has calories, sugar and trans fats. Sometimes the carb count is really higher than what it says. Innocent mistake? Perhaps. Or perhaps some labeling is misleading on purpose. If the company gets fined at all, you’ve already bought and consumed their product and are not likely to read the label again if you purchase it in the future so they end up ahead.
The percentages you see on the side of the nutrition label are following the outdated, unhealthy, frankly deadly, USDA food pyramid recommendations. If you’re following any other sort of diet besides the Standard American Diet (SAD), i.e. low carb, low-sugar or high-fat, the percentages on the labels will not be correct for you. If you are following their recommendations, you’ll be sick and fat. 300 carbohydrate grams a day leads to a high risk of excess fat storage, inflammation, and increased disease markers including Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes.
You’ll notice there is no percentage set for protein. This does not mean you don’t need any!!! Quite the opposite, actually. The requirements for this macronutrient differ by the person’s weight. Mark Sisson has a definitive guide to protein that is awesome.
RDIs for vitamins were set back in 1941, revised in 1968 and are the lowest possible amounts to prevent diseases such as scurvy and beriberi. You cannot trust a multivitamin to give you the nutrients for optimal health – they must come primarily from your diet. Multi-vitamins don’t include things like the Omega 3s your body desperately needs and the low level of Vitamin D they contain is atrocious. 75% of our population is Vitamin D deficient! Everyone’s needs are slightly different, depending on age, sex, diet, activity and where you live, so the one-size fits all approach seldom works well . That being said, my daily regime does include a pre-natal vitamin. Perhaps it’s the folic acid – something in it makes my hair really nice and lush. Besides that I take triple the dosage of fish oil, 3000 units Vitamin D (drops), and probiotics a couple times a week. I rarely get sick, have no digestive problems, or anything wrong with me, including depression, allergies or PMS. (I used to suffer from all these things in my PPL (pre-primal life.)
Maltodextrins are made from natural corn, rice or potato starch. The starch is cooked, and then acid and/or enzymes are used to break the starch into smaller polymers. This process is similar to how the body digests carbohydrates. Basically, it is an easily digested form of carbohydrate. It comes in a white powder with a mildly sweet taste and is used in processed foods as a thickener, or a filler since it’s fairly inexpensive. It’s often used to create additional volume to a food product (such as in confections or most packets of artificial sweeteners) without altering flavor.
Maltodextrins are found in many different foods, including canned fruits, snacks, confectionery, desserts, nutritional beverages, instant pudding, flavored gelatins, sauces and salad dressings. It is also used in sweetening some teas, coffee, and powdered soft drinks. You wouldn’t be able to see the amount of Splenda or Equal in a packet without the maltodextrin in there – it’s a cheap bulking-up method. It is also used in pharmaceuticals as a binding agent. Maltodextrins are everywhere. Check some of the food labels on products in your cabinets and refrigerator for the word maltodextrin – betcha you find it mentioned a lot.
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate and will have an effect on your blood sugar. It contains the same amount of carbohydrate and calories as sugar (4 calories per gram). It’s easily digested and is absorbed even more rapidly than glucose. Maltodextrin has a glycemic effect of 106 – 136 (depending upon what chart you read) as compared to table sugar (sucrose) which has a glycemic effect of 65 and glucose which has a glycemic index of 100. So obviously, maltodextrin will affect your blood sugar, and in turn, your insulin levels. However, the degree as to how maltodextrin will affect blood sugar depends upon the quantity of it in the food product. Here’s the problem – maltodextrin is included in the total carbohydrate content, so you really can’t tell how much maltodextrin is in the product.
So how can products that are supposedly sugar free contain maltodextrin? Take the example of Equal. If you read the label, you will see it contains maltodextrin. Yet, the label says Equal contains less than one gram of carbohydrate. This is because while maltodextrin is added to bulk this product, only very small amounts are used – less than one gram of maltodextrin and glucose are added. So in reality, it shouldn’t have much of an effect on your blood sugar because the amount is so small. However, if MANY packets are consumed, it has an effect on blood sugar levels. The amount of Splenda I was consuming before I realized this was the equivalent of 10 g of sugar a day. For someone who is trying to limit their daily maximum amount of carbs to 50 g, 10 g is a sizable chunk. This is important information for women who are suffering from metabolic syndrome, including PCOS.
Like it or not, if you’re not buying organic, you’re eating toxic chemicals, pesticides and nastiness. It’s a dirty world out there and farmers are using whatever means necessary to maximize crop yield. They do not have your best interests at heart. Don’t panic though – you can minimize your exposure by being selective. You may have heard of something called the “Dirty Dozen.” It’s a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the most amounts of pesticide residue. You MUST try your best to buy these items organic, if nothing else. The problem is, it’s hard to find some of the items on this list, especially number one. But do what you can. And remember, this isn’t limited to fresh produce. Make sure can of peaches you buy are organic, and bags of frozen bell peppers as well. Here’s the Top 20. A quick google search will give you ALL fruits and veggies listed in order.
- (worst) Peaches – 100
- Apples – 93
- Sweet Bell Peppers – 83
- Celery – 82
- Nectarines – 81
- Strawberries – 80
- Cherries – 73
- Kale – 69
- Lettuce – 67
- Grapes – Imported from outside U.S. – 66
- Carrots – 63
- Pears – 63
- Collard Greens – 60
- Spinach – 58
- Potatoes – 56
- Green Beans – 53
- Summer Squash 53
- Hot Peppers – 51
- Cucumbers – 50
- 20. Raspberries – 46
MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.
Although the FDA continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise. Numerous glutamate receptors have been found both within your heart’s electrical conduction system and the heart muscle itself. This can be damaging to your heart, and may even explain the sudden deaths sometimes seen among young athletes.
“When an excess of food-borne excitotoxins, such as MSG, hydrolyzed protein soy protein isolate and concentrate, natural flavoring, sodium caseinate and aspartate from aspartame, are consumed, these glutamate receptors are over-stimulated, producing cardiac arrhythmias. When magnesium stores are low, as we see in athletes, the glutamate receptors are so sensitive that even low levels of these excitotoxins can result in cardiac arrhythmias and death.”
Many other adverse effects have also been linked to regular consumption of MSG, including:
Obesity, eye damage, headaches, fatigue, disorientation and depression
Further, even the FDA admits that “short-term reactions” known as MSG Symptom Complex can occur in certain groups of people, namely those who have eaten “large doses” of MSG or those who have asthma. According to the FDA, MSG Symptom Complex can involve symptoms such as: Numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain or difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, and weakness.
No one knows for sure just how many people may be “sensitive” to MSG, but studies from the 1970s suggested that 25 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. population was intolerant of MSG — at levels then found in food. Since the use of MSG has expanded dramatically since that time, it’s been estimated that up to 40 percent of the population may be impacted.
Tips for Keeping MSG Out of Your Diet
In general, if a food is processed you can assume it contains MSG (or one of its pseudo-ingredients). So if you stick to a whole, fresh foods diet, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll avoid this toxin.
The other place where you’ll need to watch out for MSG is in restaurants. You can ask your server which menu items are MSG-free, and request that no MSG be added to your meal, but of course the only place where you can be entirely sure of what’s added to your food is in your own kitchen.
To be on the safe side, you should also know what ingredients to watch out for on packaged foods. Here is a list of ingredients that ALWAYS contain MSG:
These ingredients OFTEN contain MSG or create MSG during processing:
|Flavors and Flavorings
||Natural Flavors and Flavorings
||Natural Pork Flavoring
|Natural Chicken Flavoring
||Soy Protein Isolate
|Anything Enzyme Modified
||Natural Beef Flavoring
||Anything Protein Fortified
So if you do eat processed foods, please remember to be on the lookout for these many hidden names for MSG.
Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils.” Look for them on the ingredient list on food packages.
Companies like using trans fats in their foods because they’re easy to use, cheap as hell and last a long time. They also give foods a desirable taste and texture and extend their shelf life by months. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used over and over and over.
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) ones. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
We didn’t even know trans fats were bad for us until the 1990s. By this point, they were everywhere in our food chain. Companies didn’t stop using them just cause they were killing us. Look out for foods like French fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and shortenings. You bet your ass the restaurant chains are using them, so be careful when you’re eating out.
As for food you’ll see in the supermarket: Products containing less than 5 g of fat show amounts rounded to the nearest 0.5 g. Amounts less than 0.5 g are rounded down to 0 g. For example, if a product contains 0.45 g of trans fat per serving, and the package contains 18 servings, the label would show 0 g of trans fat, even though the product actually contains a total of 8.1 g of trans fat. Beware! The way to know if a product has trans fats in it is to look for the word “hydrogenated’ in the ingredients. If it’s there, it has trans fats.
DO NOT CONFUSE TRANS FATS WITH SATURATED FATS. Saturated fats have been vilified for the last 50 years or so, but are actually quite good for us. Saturated fats are fats from animal sources and our bodies know exactly what to do with it – use it for sustained energy. Ironically, our heart uses saturated fat as it’s preferred energy source, so low-fat products claiming to be “heart healthy” are completely full of shit. TRANS fats are man-made and chemically produced. We did NOT evolve to consume them. Trans fats are what clogs our arteries, gives us heart disease and eventually kills us. The RDA for trans fats is ZERO GRAMS. Dr. Mercola has a great video and further info on trans fats on his site.
Organic, free range, all natural, natural:
Organic is the only word in this list that means anything. The other words aren’t very well regulated. For example, a product can say it is “all natural” but still contain modified cornstarch, maltodextrin, and “natural flavors” (which aren’t natural at all). MSG is technically natural. So is arsenic.
Free range can mean that the 300,000 chickens in one coop have access to a little door at one end for several weeks before slaughter. Since they have never been outdoors, they won’t ever go outdoors as chickens get set in their ways. But since they have “access” to that little door, the company is legally allowed to write “free range” on the packaging. Still want to pay more for those free-range eggs? You can really tell if the free-range label is crap if it says “100% Vegetarian Feed” on the carton. If the chickens were wandering around outside, they would be eating bugs. That wouldn’t be very vegetarian, would it?
As for organic meat, I know it’s expensive and hard to find. But other than the 15% salt-water solution which has been injected into your chicken, there are several other reasons for avoiding conventionally raised chicken found in most grocery stores.
One of the major problems with non-organic animal meat is that they tend to bioaccumulate toxins to a higher degree than vegetables, and conventional livestock feed is frequently laced with a variety of pesticides used in growing the crops the feed is made of.
Unlike conventional fruits and vegetables, where peeling and washing can greatly reduce the amounts of these toxins, the pesticides and drugs that these animals get exposed to during their lives can become incorporated into their very tissues, especially their fat.
While you can cut off some of it, you may still be ingesting high amounts of toxins if you consume such foods regularly. For this reason alone, if you’re on a tight budget but want to improve your diet, shopping for organic chicken and other meats is a definitely the place to start.
But another important factor that sets organic chicken apart from its conventional counterpart is they will not contain antibiotics and other growth promoting drugs.
Poultry farmers regularly treat chickens and other birds with antibiotics to prevent the development of intestinal infections that might reduce the weight (and profitability) of the birds. Yet scientists have become increasingly concerned that the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a health hazard by accelerating the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could lead to a pandemic or other human health crisis.
HORMONE FREE DOES NOT EQUAL ANTIBIOTIC FREE.
Don’t let the clever labels fool you.
There is so much to talk about when it concerns sugar that I can’t list it all here. Suffice it to say, you want to avoid sugar at all costs. However, since it is addictive and is in EVERYTHING, unless you eat whole, natural foods, you will be getting quite a lot of it. Sugar is what makes you fat. It can wreak havoc on your hormones. And artificial sweeteners aren’t a good substitution, either. They’ll help you pack on the pounds, too, while giving you cancer, migraines or both.
Believe it or not, all the added fiber you see in products on the shelves is actually BAD for you. The advice to add extra fiber in the form of grains to your diet to deal with constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a recipe for disaster and can lead to all sorts of health problems down the road. For an extremely detailed explanation of why you should actually eat a LOW fiber diet, please visit www.gutsense.org. Avoiding dietary fiber in food isn’t an easy task. It is often hidden behind obscure names such as cellulose, β-glucans, pectin, guar gum, cellulose gum, carrageen, agar-agar, hemicellulose, inulin, lignin, oligofructose, fructooligosaccharides, polydextrose, polylos, psyllium, resistant dextrin, resistant starch, and others.
These ingredients are factory-made from wood pulp, cotton, seaweed, husks, skins, seeds, tubers, and selected high-yield plants that aren’t suitable for human consumption without extra processing. They are widely used to add texture and volume to inferior food. For example, guar gum or cellulose gum are added to water and dry milk in order to fake yogurt or sour cream consistency, carrageen gives texture to cheap ice cream, and pectin thickens fruit preserves.
Any fiber you ingest should come from fruits and vegetables, and if you MUST, whole grains (although this isn’t great for you either) – but certainly not from a packet of Splenda or a candy bar.
Read the labels! If you didn’t learn the name of the ingredient on the product’s label by the first grade, it doesn’t belong on your plate or inside your stomach. That’s all there is to it.
Contrary to popular belief, juice is really, really bad for you. The vitamins it contains are usually added in the form of citric acid, since the fruit being juiced is of inferior quality and is naturally lower in vitamins and nutrients. Plus, when they pasteurize (cook) the juice, it destroys all the nutrients so they have to add them back in somehow. You don’t want to know how they make citric acid. I’ll just say it’s usually made from fermented corn NOT citrus fruit as the name implies.
Other than the unnatural “vitamins” you are getting, the only other thing juice contains is SUGAR. Most juices have the same amount of sugar as regular sodas. Don’t fool yourself by thinking “oh, it’s okay, it’s natural sugar.” Sugar is sugar. In fact, fruit sugar is fructose, which is immediately available in your bloodstream as it needs no conversion. Other sources of fructose are honey, agave and high fructose corn syrup. Without the fiber from the fruit, your blood sugar levels will shoot up dramatically, followed by a horrible crash. By the way, you would have to eat 7 oranges to get the equivalent amount of sugar from ONE glass of orange juice.
If you are like most people, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about how much bromine you’re absorbing from your car upholstery or your Mountain Dew. But bromine toxicity is a definite danger from some surprising sources, and it can wreak havoc on your health. You are already exposed to far too much chlorine and bromine. Bromine can be found in a number of places in your everyday world, including:
•Pesticides (specifically methyl bromide, used mainly on strawberries, predominantly in California)
•Bakery goods and some flours often contain a “dough conditioner” called potassium bromate
•Soft drinks (including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Sun Drop, Squirt, Fresca and other citrus-flavored sodas), in the form of brominated vegetable oils (BVOs)
Mountain Dew, one of the worst beverages you can drink, uses brominated vegetable oil as an emulsifier. Not only that, it contains high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, more than 55 mg of caffeine per 12 ounce can, and Yellow Dye #5 (tartrazine, which has been banned in Norway, Austria and Germany.) A weapon of mass destruction — in a can.
A major contributor to thyroid dysfunction is unfermented soy. Soy isoflavones can wreak havoc on your thyroid and hormones in general. Kaayla Daniel’s groundbreaking book, The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food is a powerful exposé that reveals the truth about the soy myths that have infiltrated our culture.
It’s ironic that soy has become so accepted as a health food when, as Dr. Daniel states, thousands of studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid- and hormonal dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility–even cancer and heart disease. So if you want to keep your thyroid healthy, you’ll definitely want to avoid unfermented soy products of all kinds, including soy milk. Fermented forms of soy such as tofu and soy sauce seem to be tolerated better by the body.
Secrets the Restaurant Industry doesn’t want you to know:
Two Men’s Health columnists have uncovered some dirty little secrets that the restaurant industry would rather keep quiet. In some cases, the true contents of what’s put into your meals at restaurants (both fast-food and sit-down) are shocking. In others, the information could not even be drawn out of corporate employees.
How can a restaurant hide the nutritional facts of its food? Because of The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. This legislation says that fast-food and chain restaurants are not required to provide calorie, fat, or sodium information for any of their menu items unless they describe them as “low sodium” or “low fat.”
Not surprisingly, many of the restaurants took advantage of this protection and kept their nutrition facts to themselves. Here is just a sampling of the secrets the restaurant industry has been keeping:
1. Arby’s “100 percent all-natural chicken” contains artificial flavoring, and its “all-natural smoothies” may contain high-fructose corn syrup.
2. An order of Aussie Cheese Fries at Outback Steakhouse has 2,900 calories.
3. Hooters wouldn’t disclose any nutritional facts about their food, but investigation revealed that its wing sauce contains partially hydrogenated margarine, maltodextrin, propylene glycol alginate, xanthan gum and other additives.
4. A medium-size fruit-and-yogurt smoothie from Dunkin’ Donuts has more than four times the sugar in a chocolate-frosted cake doughnut.
5. Pastries at Panera Bread contain synthetic food colorings that have been linked to irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbance in children.
6. A large order of pasta at Maggiano’s contains two pounds of noodles.
7. The top four ingredients in Baskin Robbins’ Blue Raspberry Fruit Blast are Sierra Mist soda, water, sugar and corn syrup.
8. The French toast sticks at Burger King go into the same fryer as the pork sausage, pork fritters, Chicken Tenders, chicken fries, Big Fish patties, hash browns, onion rings, and Cheesy Tots — and all of these contain harmful trans fats.