Major changes in how foods are harvested, packaged and prepared affect health in many ways, but few of us have a strong enough will to only consume naturally raised, unprocessed, largely raw and unrefined foods. Moderation comes into play, but there are a few modern foods we should avoid at all costs, and today we take a closer look at eight of the foods to never eat.
1.America’s Movie Mainstay
Buttered popcorn, both microwave and movie theater varieties, have a huge amount of calories from fat. Add salt, and this cinema staple becomes a dismal diet choice. According to a lab analysis conducted by the Center for Science and Public Interest, a small popcorn from Regal, America’s largest chain of movie theaters, has 670 calories. A medium or large, both containing 20 cups of popcorn, have 1200 calories. That’s right, medium and large servings have the same amount of popcorn, the only differences being there are free refills on a large, and they are packaged differently, for the large tub of popcorn to appear colossal, versus the tall, slender medium bag. Those who opt for buttery topping to be added to their order can add 130 calories to a small and 200-260 calories to a medium and large.
One of the biggest pitfalls of movie theater popcorn, outside of the ridiculously inflated cost, is our tendency to over-indulge while absentmindedly munching in the dark during a movie. When the movie is half over, nobody is still shoveling popcorn into their mouths, hopefully, but there is no way to undo the fact one typically eats nearly half of their recommended daily calories when consuming a medium movie theater popcorn. Sadly, there are no mindful alternatives at most multiplexes, but if microwave popcorn at home is a dominant snack, there is a great way to enjoy the crunch without battling the butter bulge.
For healthier, yet tasty, DIY popcorn, place a couple tablespoons of organic kernels in a paper lunch bag, fold the top, and microwave on high until kernels stop popping, which is approximately two minutes. Another alternative is to pop on the stove top in a large pan, using a couple tablespoons of oil, to about three tablespoons of popcorn. The key to success with this method is to toss in two kernels, then add the remainder when those two pop. In addition to being healthier, DIY popcorn is more economical.
Ah, American cheese, a product that is neither American or cheese. Created by Swiss scientist Walter Gerber in Alpine country in 1911, processed cheese was made popular in America by James L. Kraft and was eventually embraced due to the convenient nature of the individually wrapped slices that had a much longer shelf life than cheese. They were sold at a cheaper price point, and Kraft’s marketing efforts paid off in dividends. Today, many brands of processed cheese, sold as American cheese, exist, but the FDA dictates that no product containing more than 51 percent additional ingredients can be labeled as cheese.
Cheese product is not cheese, even if cheese is listed as one of the ingredients. Real cheese is hardly a stellar smart choice for those trying to lose weight, but it is far superior to faux cheese. Yellow Tartrazine and Yellow 6 are the most common food colorings used in American cheese and are actually banned in some European countries because animal studies have shown these food coloring products to promote tumor growth in the kidneys and adrenal glands.
Have you ever wondered why American cheese melts so well on the grill? Consistent melting is attributed to the emulsifiers added to the making of processed cheeses. Emulsifiers keep water and oil bound together. Select compounds used in emulsifiers, such as sodium phosphate, have health risks. This substance is a saline laxative, still used by some physicians to treat constipation or to induce diarrhea before procedures such as colonoscopies. Prescribing doctors caution that it can cause kidney damage. This is not something you want on your next grilled burger.
Speaking of your next grilled burger, if you advocate putting an end to over-medicating the population, refusing to consume corn-fed beef should accompany your plight. Cows’ stomachs are naturally pH neutral, and corn-based diets create an acidic environment in a cow’s stomach that leads to significant health problems, including diarrhea, bloat, liver disease, ulcers and a weakened immune system. Pumping cattle full of antibiotics combats these conditions, but also reduces the quality of meat. Extensive usage of preventative antibiotics in livestock contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans.
Excessive amounts of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and growth hormones speed up the lifespan of cattle. Corn-fed cows can be slaughtered at 14 months of age in most instances, versus at 4-5 years, with corn-fed cows. This huge difference in maturity time means corn-feeding is volumes more profitable, despite the fact it is a far less healthy method. The fatter a cow becomes on grain, the more saturated fat and calories there are in its meat.
Canned tomatoes are cheaper and easier to store than their jarred and boxed counterparts, but they must be avoided due to the resin linings of tin cans having bisphenol-A (BPA). This industrial chemical is linked to so many ailments, including diabetes, heart disease and reproductive issues. Why do we single out canned tomatoes when there is BPA in all canned items? The acidity in tomatoes causes BPA to leach into the can’s contents. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning fetal brain development can be effected. If that sounds scary, it should. Studies have supported the fact that BPA can impair brain development and increase one’s risk for developing cancer.
Inherent dangers of canned tomatoes containing increased BPA levels must not be overlooked, especially in pregnant women and children. Couples trying to conceive are encouraged to explore the negative effect of BPA in all foods, due to research that suggests up to 20 percent of unexplained infertility may be linked to BPA exposure.
Do not be fooled by BPA-free cans, which were created when the dangers of BPA began being widely discussed. Companies who answered the call of consumers requesting they stop using BPA, simply replaced it with BPS, or bisphenol-S, essentially trading one evil for another. Alas the switch was enough to satiate many consumers who did not further investigate and are misled by BPA-free labels. BPS is associated with the same health risks as BPA. Purchase only tomatoes in glass jars or Tetra Pak boxes to be safe. The superior alternative is to begin using fresh tomatoes in recipes where you normally would have used canned.
5.White Bread and Its Relatives
Jettisoning refined flour is a common-sense component to carving a path to better eating. Saying white bread is bad for you is hardly a revolutionary statement, however, ditching the cheap loaves of white bread found in every market in America is not the only facet of avoiding refined flour, making it worthy of a mention. Most dinner rolls, pizza crust, bagels and baguettes are major sources of refined flour as well.
What makes refined flour so bad for us? Refined grains are lower in fiber and protein because the outermost and innermost layers of the grain are removed. A reduction in fiber and protein leads to a rapid absorption and digestion of white breads. The result of this increase is a spike in blood sugar. The implications of rapid blood sugar elevation are many, with the first being how many deal with the inevitable crash that comes shortly after eating refined flour. They seek a pick-me-up, thereby extending the negative ramifications of the initial poor food choice.
Even more serious is the excess insulin that is released into the bloodstream to push sugar into the cell when sugar levels rise rapidly. If this happens regularly, cells become more resistant to insulin, making it more difficult to control sugar levels. Bodies shielded from refined grains have a lessened risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
6.Sunshine in a Glass
While we are on the topic of the perils of increased blood sugar levels, let’s take a look at a breakfast table staple: orange juice. All concentrated juices, even those labeled 100 percent juice, are misunderstood as being beneficial to the body, but starting the day with any juice creates a spike in blood sugar, due to the high fructose level. And we’ve just learned the effects of spiked glucose levels. When you drink juice, you are consuming excess sugar, which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Juice in any form, even freshly squeezed, is not as beneficial as consuming intact fruit, which is rich in vitamins and fiber.
However, this is not the only area in which store-bought juices’ merits are in question. When raw juice is heated, it is robbed of flavor-rich oils and volatile compounds and is often stored for months. This causes the natural flavor and aroma to be depleted. The response to this is for juice companies to use the same sort of flavor packs used in perfumes. Companies are legally allowed to omit flavor packs as added ingredients because they are derived from orange essence and oil, but contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate. This is allowed by the FDA, but the cause for concern is that we are paying for a product using synthetic flavors, but being told we are being sold natural juice, when in fact, the labeling is misleading. With little nutritional value among commercial fresh or concentrated juice, there is no point in drinking anything other than freshly squeezed, but eating actual fruit is clearly the shrewdest choice here.
No, you cannot have your cake and eat it too, if it’s topped with what is nothing more than a chemical mixture of ingredients one needs a degree in chemistry to define. This is what the canned frosting we all grew up eating at birthday parties is. One does not find real dairy products or organic sugars in frosting. Instead, it is created using chemical ingredients. Let’s take a look at ingredients in Betty Crocker’s Rich and Creamy White Frosting: sugar, palm oil, high maltose corn syrup, water, corn starch and canola oil. It also contains 2% or less of: salt, distilled monoglycerides, polysorbate 60, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, natural and artificial flavor and citric acid. Freshness is preserved with potassium sorbate.
No big surprise that it boasts a long shelf life! Overconsumption of the food preservative potassium sorbate can cause nausea, allergic reactions, diarrhea and nutrient loss in food. Making a frosting from scratch eliminates the consumption of that laundry list of chemicals and bad sugars. The next time you are planning a frosted dessert, make the most of quickly whipping up your own using a few simple ingredients. Ironically, some of the most treasured DIY frosting recipes became kitchen staples, courtesy of the Betty Crocker cookbook’s earliest editions.
8.Butter’s Illegitimate Cousin
Margarine is high in trans fatty acids, which are proven to increase one’s risk of a heart attack. The more we have learned about trans fats, the worse we see they are for our heart health. So bad, in fact, the FDA has announced that by 2018, all companies must stop using partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, including margarine.
This is a welcome addition to FDA guidelines, but it’s impossible not to wonder why they dragged their feet on this for so long. It also supports the theory that you must be an advocate for your own health choices, especially in the area of food consumption. Some items on store shelves are downright controversial and not good for us at all. With widespread studies warning us against the additives in our food, hopefully more FDA bans are down the pike. Until then, research at length before trusting all companies to have your best interests at heart in all areas.