There are countless foods on the market that companies advertise as healthy or label their products as natural, to trick their consumers into buying their production. Regulations behind food labeling are complex, so it can be confusing for everyday shoppers to determine what is actually good for you. This is where getting self educated on foods and ingredients plays an important role in your overall health and diet. This involves checking labels and being aware of what you are putting into your body. As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, don’t be mislead into purchasing products just by looking at the front label that claims to be healthy. The best way to avoid these ingredients is to stick to whole foods and make up your own recipes but here are some of the ingredients to look out for on your next grocery trip.
- BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE (BHT)
BHT, related to butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives but better known as carcinogens. They alter hormone function and can accumulate in body tissue and may cause other health problems such as liver enlargement and cancer. It’s crazy to think that this ingredient which is found in our foods (breakfast cereals, and dried soups, etc) is actually also found in rubber, jet fuels, cosmetics, petroleum products and pharmaceuticals. There are, however, conflicting studies that show that it’s not detrimental to our health, as it is approved in Canada and is considered safe in small amounts. The best way to make your decision is to do your own personal research and determine if you’re okay with consuming this ingredient. Although there is no guarantee, BHT can be better avoided by buying organic products.
- HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS)
HFCS is a sweetener made from corn. It is a popular alternative to regular sugar as it is cheaper and sweeter. Like other added sugars (sucrose), hfcs contribute to unwanted “empty” calories, meaning it adds calories to your diet but provides no essential nutrients. Over consumption fructose is linked to an increase risk of diseases such as fatty liver, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is found in all sorts of foods and beverages and falls under many different names. Many of these foods such as nutritional bars, salad dressing and yogurt are mistakenly assumed as healthy. Another example of foods that contains hfcs is low fat products. To make up for the missing flavor that it adds, it is replaced with sugar. Similarly, the best way to avoid this ingredient is to check and compare labels because there are products better than others. Ultimately, the best way to know what you’re eating is to make your own food using wholesome ingredients.
- PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OIL
Last, but definitely not least, we have partially hydrogenated oil AKA Trans Fats! Trans fats are used to increase the shelf life of a product and to stabilize flavor, they also save the manufacturers tons of money! Like most things that save manufacturers money, they are horrible for us the consumers. Trans fats are twice as difficult to digest as saturated fat, and the fact that they increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL) makes them contributors to, heart disease, diabetes, cellular deterioration, and nutritional deficiencies. Spotting partially hydrogenated oil can be tricky, some foods will say they are “trans fat free” because they contain less than 0.5g trans fat. DON’T BE FOOLED! The only trans fat free foods are the ones that do not contain ANY partially hydrogenated oil!