Read Those Food Labels!

The ingredients on food labels are the most important items you will read on a product. Some are so small you can barely read without glasses.  Reading labels are confusing and very misleading. It’s no wonder most people don’t read the small print. Most people don’t read food labels, just the large front labels, exactly what manufacturing and food industry wants you to read.

 Here are just some examples of what you see on the front of products, usually in bold print  : fortified with calcium, nutritional, helps reduce cholesterol, no fat, low sodium, no artificial colouring and the list goes on.

 You need to understand and interpret these ingredients and nutrition information on food labels before going shopping. You need to know if the products have any added ingredients such as  food additives. If the list of ingredients is long, the product will have no doubt food additives in the product, and you’re risking your health by eating it. When you read a label and see “spices”, “no artificial ingredients”, “no preservatives”, “all natural ingredients” and “real fruit flavors” — BEWARE!!

Statements like this DO NOT mean there are no harmful ingredients in the product. The manufacturer hopes you’ll think there are no harmful ingredients, but as you will see from the following example, it’s not true.

Soup example:  A well-known soup company has these ingredients in their chicken noodle soup:

Chicken Stock, cooked chicken meat, carrots, enriched egg noodles (wheat flour, egg white solids, whole egg solids, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), celery, water, contains less than 2% of the following ingredients: Modified wheat starch, salt, chicken fat, monosodium glutamate (MSG), modified food starch, sugar, soy protein concentrate, onion powder, flavoring, sodium phosphates, spice extract, dehydrated parsley, chicken flavor (contains chicken stock, chicken powder, chicken fat), dehydrated garlic, spice, beta carotene for color.

Here is my chicken noodle soup:

Organic chicken breast, Organic chicken stock, Organic Carrots, Organic Celery, Onion, Oregano, Basil, Pepper, Sea Salt, Whole Wheat Extra Wide Noodles.

The commercial soup label has a long list of unwanted food additives, that don’t belong in your soup. Here are few explanations of some of the ingredients in this soup:

    Thiamine mononitrate (synthetic Vit. B1) – false sense of nutritional value

    MSG – flavour enhancer, and neurotoxin

    Modified food starch – a thickening agent

    Soy protein concentrate – a filler

    Sodium phosphates – emulsifier used to prevent the chicken fat from separating from the chicken stock

As you look for healthier foods, you can easily find the right products just by reading nutrition food labels. Here is a summary of reading a nutrition fact label.

Just recently noticed that a well known onion soup mix that many of us add to our meatloaf has new packaging on which it states very boldy… 0 No Artificial Colours or Flavours…but when you look at the ingredient label, it lists monosodium glutamate as an ingredient!  It is safe to assume that this known neuro-toxin/flavour enhancer is not considered a food additive by this very large company.    Remember, we vote EVERY time we shop.

 A serving size is a measured amount of food or drink, such as 2 to 3 ounces of meat or 1 cup of milk.

Serving sizes are standardized so that nutrient levels in each serving are comparable. Consumers and dietitians may use serving sizes to determine how much of the recommended daily levels of certain substances (vitamins, minerals, fats, calories, cholesterol) a particular food represents.   Serving sizes may vary depending on how certain foods are prepared (e.g., raw, cooked, canned).   Serving sizes should not be confused with portion sizes or helpings of food, which are the amounts of food typically served or eaten during a meal or snack.   Portions can vary from meal to meal or person to person. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, serving sizes are usually much smaller than portion sizes.   Most foods are sold and consumed in larger portions than is recommended by government standards. For example, the average bagel consists of two serving sizes, pasta is almost five servings and a steak may be two and a quarter servings. 

I recently visited a major grocery chain to read the labels on popular baby foods.  What I found is frightening.  No wonder kids today are suffering from increasingly serious food allergies.   Ask yourself why kids are deathly allergic to peanuts?  When I was growing up, EVERYBODY ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch, drank raw cow’s milk and lived to tell the tale!   Why is the research targeted at coping rather than finding out why the statistics for allergies have risen over the years?  What has been added to our food supply in the last 30 years that has caused these allergies?  An allergy is not a disease, it is a SYMPTOM of something else going on in the body.

We must know what we are eating as today’s food supply is loaded with preservatives, additives, artificial flavourings and colourings.  Did you know that there are at the very least over 4000 chemicals that can be added to our foods and listed in the ingredients as “spices”?   I have seen listings of as much as 14,000 chemicals. 

Ingredients such as hydrolyzed protein is a code word for MSG. It is a way that food manufacturers hide MSG. They even go as far as to label food “No Added MSG” and it is full of hydrolyzed protein. They hide it because it is addictive and causes people to eat more food; sort of like nicotine for food. The problem is that it is a neuro-toxin and causes headaches in 20% of the population.  This is found in everything from soups to crackers to gravies to baby foods!  YES even baby food!  This is VERY addictive.  I admit, I used to use this stuff back in the 80’s.  I added it to EVERYTHING because it did enhance flavour.  They still sell what I used to use and it is called “ACCENT” in the familiar red and white container.  If you turn it around and look at the ingredients label, the ONLY thing it lists is MSG – Monosodium Glutamate.

Did you know that propylene glycol is a humectant, meaning that is keeps things from drying out? This is a common additive in Anti-Freeze  * Brake and Hydraulic Fluid  * De-Icer  * Paints and Coatings  *  Floor Wax  * Laundry Detergents  * Pet Food  * Tobacco *  Cosmetics  * Toothpastes  * Shampoos  * Deodorants  * Lotions   * Processed Foods and many more personal care items. 

I just checked a label of a popular “flakey” packaged cake and it listed propylene glycol as an ingredient!  WE ARE EATING AUTOMOTIVE ANTI-FREEZE!  and we wonder why disease is becoming rampant.  No amount of anti-freeze is safe for human ingestion.  You may not feel the damage immediately, but I can assure you that damage is being done.  It may take years to surface but why risk your health or your “Golden Years”?   Check the label next time you pick up your favourite “Light” sour cream and ask yourself “Why is there anti-freeze in my sour cream?”   Why are we allowing this?

The FDA claims that the amount used is safe.  So just a bit of anti-freeze is safe so long as you are not drinking the entire container!  Remember who the FDA (U.S. Food and DRUG Administration) works for!  Here’s a hint-it’s not you or me!  And if you think we are safe here in Canada, think again.  Health Canada is our version of the FDA and they too are bombarded by the food and pharmaceutical company lobbyists, who are making sure that their financial interests are protected.

Nutrition Facts

The Nutrition Facts on food labels gives you information on calories, grams of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, and protein in each serving plus some percentages of a few nutrients. What they don’t tell you is that:

1 gram of fat = approximately 9 calories.

1 gram of protein = approximately 4 calories.

1 gram of carbohydrate = approximately 4 calories.

4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar

Here’s an example to show you how to use these conversions to get meaningful information from the Nutrition Facts on food labels:

Suppose you have a 123 calorie snack with 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein and 13 grams of carbohydrate of which 12 grams of the carbohydrate is sugar.

To get fat calories, multiply 9×7=63 calories from fat. To get percentage of fat, divide 63 fat calories by 123 snack calories to get 51% fat.

To get protein calories, multiply 4×2=8 calories from protein. To get percentage of protein, divide 8 protein calories by 123 snack calories to get 7% protein.

To get carbohydrate calories, multiply 4×13=52 calories from carbohydrate. To get percentage of carbohydrate, divide 52 carbohydrate calories by 123 snack calories to get 42% carbohydrate.

To get the number of teaspoons of sugar in the snack, divide 12 grams of sugar in the snack by 4, to get 3 teaspoons of sugar.

This is good and useful information, but not the most important you need to get from food labels about the food item.

Some Ingredients to Watch Out For on those Food Labels!

Enriched wheat flour is white flour. The bran and the germ portion of the whole wheat, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, have been refined out. To compensate for refining out approximately 20 nutrients, they add back 4 synthetic nutrients, niacin (vitamin B3), reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate (synthetic vitamin B1), and riboflavin (vitamin B2). These nutrient additives…are added to mostly refined and processed foods giving a false sense of nutritional value and can lead to nutritional imbalances.

High fructose corn syrup is basically sugar derived from corn. It is associated with blood sugar problems, depression, fatigue, B-vitamin deficiency, hyperactivity, tooth decay, periodontal disease and indigestion.  Used in bread, processed meats, pastries, cereals, some brands of yogurt, ice creams, salad dressings and more.

Dough Conditioners, in general, can cause mineral deficiencies.

Ammonium sulfate may cause mouth ulcers, nausea, kidney and liver problems.  Used in fertilizer, fire retardants and bombs as well as white, fluffy bread!  Yum, Yum!

Sodium stearoyl lactylate may be corn, milk, peanut or soy based, and may cause blood pressure and kidney disturbances, water retention, itching, swelling, hives and muscle spasms.  Found in baked goods such as bread, cookies, crackers, etc.

Brown sugar is frequently white sugar with molasses added. It is associated with blood sugar problems, depression, fatigue, B-vitamin deficiency, hyperactivity, tooth decay, periodontal disease and indigestion.

Mono and diglycerides may be soy, corn, peanut or fat based. They may cause genetic changes, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions.  Emulsifier founds in packaged foods such as baked goods, soft drinks, candy, gum and ice cream.

Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is associated with heart disease, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol.  Found in potato chips, crackers, peanut butter, cookies and candy bars.

How is hydrogenated oil made and why?  I am glad you asked!  Oil is heated and hydrogen bubbles are passed through it.  The fatty acids in the oil acquire some of the bubbles which makes the oil more dense.  Fully hydrogenated and you get a solid fat, partially hydrogenated, and you get a semi-solid fat (partially hydrogenated) with the consistency of butter, only ALOT cheaper to use than real butter.   Only thing before the final stage of processing is the smell, more smelly than rancid butter!  So they steam distill the partially hydrogenated oil to remove the odour.  Next time you see “partially hydrogenated oil” on the label, think “rancid butter”!

Partially hydrogenated oils have been linked to multiple sclerosis, and allergies that lead to arthritis.  They will also make you fat.  Essential fatty acids are essential to every metabolic function in your body.  You WILL get the quantity of essential fatty acids that your body needs to sustain life, no matter what.  You will not stop being hungry until you do.   If you are consuming lots of these oils, which only contain a small amount of essential fatty acids, your hunger will not be satisfied.  Real fats found in fish, eggs, nuts and olive and coconut oils will help you lose weight.  Contrary to what the diet food industry (a $150 billion dollar a year industry) wants you to believe, eating real fats will help you lose weight.  Fat does  not make you fat, sugar makes you fat.  But sugar is still better for you than aspartame, which has been patented as an appetite enhancer NOT a diet product. 

There is so much more to add here, as many books have been written on food additives.  My hope is that I have peaked your interest and have prompted you to now look more closely at the food labels on the products  you buy for yourself and your family.

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