How to Avoid Dangerous Ingredients & Be a Smart Label Reader

One of the first kitchen rules I have on my family early on was this: Anything with high fructose corn syrup is not allowed in our house. By age 7 my daughter was already reading food labels in the grocery store for ingredients. With a sigh she would place an item with high fructose corn syrup back on the shelf without even a glance at me. This simple rule eliminated about 80% of grocery items and limited the majority of my shopping to the peripheral aisles.

Why eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High fructose corn syrup is a cheap “super sugar” extracted from the by-products of the corn industry. After an 8 step refining process, it becomes a 4 carbon molecule that is 4 times sweeter than cane sugar. Ubiquitous in industrial foods, you’ll find it in everything from ketchup, bread, baked goods, candy, crackers, cereal, sodas, even supposedly “healthy” protein bars and diet protein drinks.

New research suggests that high fructose corn syrup does not appear to trigger leptin, the hormone that helps us register feelings of satiety in the brain. Subjects in the study ate more than those eating products made with cane sugar. Additionally high fructose corn syrup is a known inflammatory trigger, raises triglycerides, and increases your tolerance for sweets. It certainly promotes a sweeter palate. The more sweets you eat, the more sweets you crave, and we know where that leads! This is why I recommend that one of the first things to eliminate from your pantry is all foods containing high fructose corn syrup. Instead use Stevia, coconut sugar, honey, or agave syrup if it is okay on your diet plan.

Precautions and Guidelines for Oils

I also recommend getting rid of all foods made with “hydrogenate vegetable oil” or “partially hydrogenate vegetable oils.”. These are all forms of dangerous “trans-fats.” I also suggest avoiding corn oil, soy oil, or cottonseed oils. These oils all highly undergoes process, which may give them a long shelf life in processed foods, but your arteries don’t need these industrial oils at all, and your body gets absolutely no nutritional value from them. Instead, opt for extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, almond, walnut, avocado, flax or grape seed oil as part of ingredients. These are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and help prevent heart disease.

Avoid Misleading Claims & Stealth Advertising Traps

Many food companies are claiming that their products are with Omega-3’s. Obviously the food industry is attempting to get in on this heart healthy campaign by adding in this beneficial ingredient. However, on closer inspection many of these products have as little as 32 mg per serving. This is far less than the recommended 1000-1500 mg daily. That equates to 1/10 of the amount of Omega-3 found in 1/2 ounce of salmon. “Made with” implies that it’s been added afterwards, in other words processed, so be cautious.

Another misnomer that really irks me is “Made with whole grains”. You’ll find this claim on packaging for of bread, cereals, crackers, and even yogurt. Unfortunately, companies aren’t part of the requirement to disclose the actual amount of whole grains included. This kind which is often less than a few grams per serving. In order to truly benefit from the added fiber, vitamins, and minerals in the grains you do eat, be sure to opt for products made from “100% whole grains”. This ensures that you are not eating a bunch of refined flour (essentially junk food) disguised as healthy food. Sprouted grains are even better!

When recent research strongly suggested that a diet high in fiber supports healthy heart and colon function, the industrial food companies quickly added “high fiber” to their marketing campaigns especially for common ingredients. Cereals, breads, and energy bars claim to offer up to 35% of the daily fiber requirement. Unfortunately much of this added fiber is man-made or salvaged from plant by-products. The optimistic research on fiber is based on naturally occurring fiber only. It is better to get your fiber from natural sources like berries, vegetables, and beans.

Be a Smart Label Reader for Ingredients

Read labels carefully to get a healthful jump start on your spring cleaning. Removing high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy oils, and misleading additives will help you de-clutter your kitchen and detoxify your system.

Author
Christine James As a regional leader in obesity medicine, Dr. Christine James helps people from the Seattle area transform their lives. She provides science-backed, individualized weight loss programs at Sound Medical Weight Loss in Kirkland, Washington. Dr. James specializes in helping patients improve their overall well-being, including their cardiovascular health and conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.

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