To Eat or Not To Eat? That Is The Food Label Question

To Eat or Not To Eat? That Is The Food Label Question

Some time ago I was buying tomato sauce at the grocery store and glanced over the label. I was surprised to find some of the ingredients written in a language which I didn’t know. Fortunately I was taught to not talk to strangers and since I didn’t know those words, I didn’t buy it. Instead, I decided to learn more about reading labels.

Food labeling is a tricky game -sometimes almost a joke. To avoid this, learn how to eat right by becoming food label savvy and other smart ways. First, know your body, second, learn generally what makes for food healthy and third, know what ingredients are harmful.

Know Your Body

Some people are aware of many things happening in their body and others don’t feel much of what is going on, but all of us can improve this awareness. The more you pay attention to how foods affect you, the more awareness you will get. This awareness can tell you the most important information about food i.e. does my body like it or is my body happy eating it? Your body has an amazing amount of detailed information about what happens after you eat something and the more you can tap into it the better off you will be. You will come to appreciate foods that increase your health and have greater motivation to avoid hurtful and troubling foods. Most of all, you can tell the difference, even if the label and everyone else says it’s ok.

What Makes Food Healthy?

We all have some idea of what is good for us and what isn’t, but the maze of conflicting and changing opinions are confusing. Clarity comes by starting with the concept that fresher is better. Some say the closer to the sun the better, in other words, freshly grown. We harvest a crop and then transport, store, process, add preservatives, colorings, flavorings etc, package it, transport, transport, transport, and finally after weeks or months, it ends up on your plate. A good amount of the original nutrition is lost by that time or chemical preservatives were required to keep it from spoiling. Organic labeled foods are not allowed to contain many preservatives – a good start, but shortening the time between harvest and eating is much better. Also, reducing blending, chopping, heating or cooking improves nutrition. If you have to process a vegetable or fruit (chop, blend, cook), eat it soon after preparing it.

Microwave ovens are especially hard on nutrition because the heating action inside the food also rips apart nutrients, rendering the food dead. Some foods, like spices, are basically killed by microwaving them before you buy them. The organic label, among many things, means the food has not been irradiated (microwaved).

Many foods at the store are nutritionally killed for you, and manufacturers add back colorings, flavorings, and preservatives to make them appear fresh. These doctored up foods often demand more nutrition from your body than they supply, sapping away precious strength just to digest and get rid of them. Any front of the package label claiming no preservatives, colorings etc. is a good start. Just check the ingredients for problem items listed at the end of this article.

Fresh foods don’t require many ingredients to taste good. Nature is the master chef; we don’t bother to list the millions of plant nutrients that make the color, flavor, natural preservation mechanisms, and health building components in fresh, whole broccoli. The flavor is unique, but there is only one ingredient on the label. Choose foods that have fewer ingredients and ingredients with names that look like foods, not chemicals.

With that in mind, it is obvious the fresh produce section is the best section to shop in the grocery store, but not all stores have equal produce quality. Grocers like Sprouts Fresh Market make produce their selling point. They source much of it from local producers and you can tell the difference. Even better, local farmers markets are among the best places to frequent for this. If you can, it is worthwhile to get to know the local producers yourself and visit their farms.

Bad Ingredients

You were probably wondering when I was going to get to this point. It is important, but only if you have good food to start with. The list of what is bad for you is long and can be difficult to read, but don’t get overwhelmed. Just start reading labels and becoming familiar with foods you eat first. You don’t need to know the chemistry behind these ingredients like “phenylalanine”.

To keep it simple, remember that names of foods look like grocery list items and chemical names look like lab experiment ingredients. Your body will handle man-made chemicals as toxins. These chemicals make food look good, taste good, smell good, or stay fresh but are still seen as toxins to the body. When you see them as ingredients it means the food had poor nutrition to start with or was made worse by adding them. Even fortified foods are not really more nutritious. The vitamins used to fortify the foods are actually chemical look-alikes. They can do some good, but cause imbalances in the body because they are partial nutrients at best and at worst can cause harm because they overstimulate the body. Look for something like “Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid)”. The word “as” is the important part. It is saying a chemical is being used as a vitamin. If the word “from” is used, that means the nutrient is coming from the food listed.

The list below can steer you away from dangerous foods. Bookmark this page so you can refer to it while shopping and you will be on your way to healthier eating!

Artificial sweeteners:
  • Aspartame
  • High Fructose Corn Suryp (HFCS)
  • Agave Nectar (has high amounts of fructose)
  • Neohesperidine dihydrochalcone
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sugar alcohols (erythritol, glucitol/sorbitol, glycerol/glycerin, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, or mannitol)
  • Advantame
  • Neohesperidine dihydrochalcone
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Alitame
  • Cyclamate
  • Dulcin
  • Equal
  • Glucin
  • Kaltame
  • Mogrosides
  • Neotame
  • NutraSweet
  • Nutrinova
  • Phenlalanine
  • Saccharin
  • Splenda
  • Sorbitol
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Twinsweet
  • Sweet ‘N Low
  • Xylitol
  • Bleached Starch
Refined oils:
  • Canola (also called “Rapeseed”)
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Soy
  • Sunflower
  • Safflower
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Refined Palm Oil
Monosodium glutamate or MSG goes by many names. These include:
  • MSG Accent
  • Autolyzed Plant Protein
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Aginomoto
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Citric Acid (when processed from corn)
  • Gelatin
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Hydrolized Plant Protein (HPP)
  • Hydrolized Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Monopotassium Glutamate
  • Monosodium Glutamate
  • MSG
  • Natural Flavoring
  • Natural Meat Tenderizer
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Senomyx (wheat extract labeled as artificial flavor)
  • Textured Protein
  • Yeast Food or Nutrient
  • Yeast Extract
Also, these ingredients likely contain MSG:
  • Annatto
  • Barley Malt
  • Bouillon
  • Broth
  • Caramel Flavoring (coloring)
  • Carrageenan
  • Corn syrup and corn syrup solids (partly depends upon the process used)
  • Cornstarch
  • Dough Conditioners
  • Dry Milk Solids
  • Enriched
  • Fermented anything
  • Flavoring Seasonings (This does not always mean salt and pepper)
  • Flavors & Flavoring
  • Flowing Agents
  • Gums
  • Lipolyzed butterfat
  • Low or No Fat items
  • Malt Extract or Flavoring
  • Malted Barley (flavor)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Milk Powder
  • Natural Chicken
  • Pectin
  • Protease
  • Protein fortified anything
  • Protease enzymes
  • Protein Fortified Milk
  • Reaction Flavors
  • Rice or Brown Rice, Syrup
  • Soy Protein
  • Soy Protein Isolate or Concentrate
  • Soy Sauce or Extract
  • Spice
  • Stock
  • Ultra-pasteurized anything
  • Vitamin enriched
  • Wheat
  • Whey Protein Isolate or Concentrate
  • Whey Protein or Whey
  • Yeast Nutrients
Preservatives/Chemicals in packaging
  • Phthalates
  • DEHP (Di-Ethylhexyl Phthalate)
  • DiNP (Di-Isononyl Phthalate)
  • DEHA
  • BPA (Bisphenol A)
Food Preservatives/Additives:
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • 1-Methylcyclopropene
  • Astaxanthin
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Propyl Gallate
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Sodium Bisulfite
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole BHA
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene BHT
  • tert-Butylhydroquinone TBHQ
  • Sulfites
  • Azodicarbonamide
  • Potassium bromate
  • Propylene glycol
  • Enriched flour
  • Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
  • Brominated vegetable oil
  • Olestra
  • Carrageenan
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Camauba wax
  • Magnesium sulphate
  • Chlorine dioxide
  • Paraben
  • Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose
  • Aluminum
Food Colorings
  • Red #40
  • Blue #1
  • Blue #2
  • Citrus red #1
  • Citrus red #2
  • Green #3
  • Yellow #5
  • Yellow #6
  • Red #2
  • Red #3
  • Brown HT
  • Orange B
  • Bixin
  • Norbixin
  • Annatto

Sources for this story

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