When planning a healthy diet it is important to realize that some of the ingredients commonly found in food are highly processed substances that can cause harm to your health. About 60 percent of the average American diet consists of refined grains, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial foods with chemical additives. Here are a few toxic food ingredients to avoid:
Trans Fats – Trans fats are the result of corn, soybean, or palm oil being processed with hydrogen to turn them into solids. Trans fats are used to help packaged foods stay “fresh,” meaning that the food can literally sit on the shelf for years without spoiling. Eating junk food with trans fats raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lowers your “good” HDL cholesterol. These fats also increase the risk of blood clots and heart attacks and should be excluded from your diet.
Shortening – Remove food from your diet that lists shortening or partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient, since these are trans fats and can clog your arteries and cause obesity. Foods that contain monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats such as olive, peanut, and canola oils are a healthy alternative. They can help to improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.
White Flour, Rice, Pasta, and Bread – When a whole grain is refined, most of its nutrients are lost in an effort to extend its shelf life. Fiber, vitamins, and minerals are lost when the bran and germ are removed from grains. Regular consumption of refined grains can elevate your blood sugar and insulin. You should replace processed grains with whole grains, like brown or wild rice, whole-wheat breads and pastas, barley, and oatmeal.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of the most harmful components found in the American diet. The amount of refined sugar we use has declined over the past 40 years, but we’re consuming almost 20 times as much HFCS. It increases triglycerides, boosts fat-storing hormones, and drives people to compulsive overeating and weight gain. You should eliminate it from your diet.
Artificial Sweeteners – Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin), and sucralose (Splenda) may actually be doing more harm than good. Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners affect the brain in a way that makes it more likely that you will consume extra calories. Even though these substances have been FDA approved, the long term health consequences of regular consumption of the chemicals in artifical sweeteners remains very controversial. You should avoid all artificial sweeteners.
Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites – Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and salami contain these preservatives. They are believed to be linked to colon cancer and can lead to diabetes. You can protect your health by always choosing fresh, organic meats.
MSG – Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a processed “flavor enhancer”. The degree of potential harm caused by MSG remains uncertain, but high levels of free glutamates have been shown to seriously interfere with brain chemistry. It is advisable to flavor your food with natural spices and herbs.
What we eat helps to determine the quality of our long term health. You will feel better and live a healthier life by becoming more aware of what you are consuming.
Written by Dr. Forley on March 20, 2013