Clean Eating

(Photo by Natalie Baugh)

Clean Eating: Hidden Ingredients That Make All The Difference

By: Natalie Baugh

Clean eating: is it really possible? With so many diet fads circling, it’s so hard to know what to believe. Unfortunately, one of the reasons why most dieting programs do not work in the long run, is because they are filled with ingredients that are actually harmful to the body. Marketers these days know how to do their jobs. They package foods in browns and greens, and include words such as “natural” and “fresh” on the labels to make consumers believe their products are healthy. Many clients come to me and say, “But look, this is healthy right?! The product says so!” While most are bought by the front packaging of the product, not many read the most important labeling of all – the ingredients label. I do not care about any other label on the product besides the ingredients label because only there am I able to actually see what the product is made out of. Even the Nutrition Facts label on the back also fools many.

While it may possibly provide insightful information to the product, it most often confuses the consumer and gives misleading information. On the other hand, the ingredients list spells out what the product is made of and lists the ingredients that have the most weight first. When reading ingredients labels, it is important to pay most attention to the first five, as those are the ingredients that hold the most weight in the product. But how are we to know which ingredients are to look out for, and which are deemed safe? Here is a list of ten ingredients that you do not want to be seeing too much of on your ingredients label.

1. Hydrogenated Oils

It is estimated that some type of hydrogenated oils occur in about 4,340 of the most popular branded foods sold in the United States. Researchers, as well as the American Heart Association, attribute partially hydrogenated oils to drastically heightening the cardiovascular disease risk. Hydrogenated Oils are the main source of where American’s consume their trans fat intake. It is most commonly found in processed foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even deems hydrogenated oils as “generally not recognized as safe” (GRAS). This should be a huge red flag to consumers, and thus, this ingredient should be avoided as much as possible.

2. Sodium (Bicarbonate, Glutamate, Caseinate, etc.)

The most worrisome attribute to an overconsumption of salt is the fact that it has been linked to increasing one’s blood pressure risk. While not all people are salt sensitive, an over consumption of salt can have severe detrimental effects on one’s health. An increase in blood pressure is shown to lead to more severe health consequences, such as heart disease and stroke. The majority of American’s salt intake typically derives from processed and fast foods. Distributers often hide salt ingredients in packaged foods by giving them more scientific names. A key way to know if the ingredient is actually salt is if it has or starts with the word sodium. Assuring that you do not have a continual overconsumption of salt is critical in maintaining optimal health.

3. High Fructose Corn Syrup

For quite a while, marketers tried to market that high fructose corn syrup was not harmful by saying it to be “natural.” Do not be fooled by these un-factual ads. High fructose corn syrup was first brought into the market place in 1970. Since then, consumers have increased their intake of fructose by 124%. An over consumption of fructose is seen to be detrimental as it is shown to create an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. High fructose corn syrup in particular creates high spikes in glucose sugar levels, which can also be extremely dangerous for diabetic individuals.

4. Enriched White Flour

White flour is a less desirable ingredient as it has been shown to cause increased blood sugar. In order to make white flour, the flour must first be processed to separate out the fiber, which also means that other vitamins and minerals are separated out and discarded. The refined flour is then left stripped of its vitamins, minerals and fiber, yet is more desirable to consumers due to its sweeter taste. While enriched white flour does have some vitamins added back in (specifically B vitamins), the absorption rate tends to be lower, and the refined grain still causes an increase in blood sugar. If refined grains are the primary carbohydrate source one intakes over a long period of time, one will be at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. When shopping, you want to look out for ingredients that say whole grain, or whole wheat. Other unrefined grains are beneficial as well, such as Quinoa, Bran and Sorghum. Whole grains are the most beneficial to ones health, as they are still filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

5. Anything Ending in OSE (Dextrose, Maltose, Sucrose, etc.)

Added sugars have long been known to contribute to the increase in blood sugar and, if consumed continually overtime, type 2 diabetes. However, new research is arising that also suggest its effect in contributing to the increase of blood pressure and heart disease. The usual blamed culprit of both diseases is salt. However, while salt does play into effect, added sugars are found to play a larger role in increasing both nutritional risks. A better alternative ingredient to look out for is even organic cane sugar. This is because raw sugar will still be metabolized correctly and will promote insulin secretion, which creates healthy metabolism of sugar.

6. Dried Milk Powder

While milk powder is often included to give added protein, it has also seen to possibly cause damaging effects. Milk powder is known to oxidize quickly, leaving the product rancid. Rancidity causes inflammation to our small intestinal tract (our gut). Continual inflammation to the gut has been known to lead to a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and leaky gut syndrome.

7. Artificial Coloring

Artificial coloring is starting to get flack, as more and more people are connecting consumption of artificial coloring to disorders in children. As neurological disorders, such as ADHD and Autism continue to increase in children, the public are turning their thoughts to common products that are mass-produced. While research is still underway, many journals are concluding that the artificial food coloring can be harmful for children.

8. Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Safflower Oil, Sunflower Oil, Soybean Oil

An easy way to remember these three oils is by the three C’s and the three S’s. The old scientific way of thinking deemed all saturated oils as “bad” and all unsaturated oils as “good.” While there is some logic to this thought process, new research is surfacing showing beneficial attributes to saturated fats, and undesirable attributes to some unsaturated fats. These oils specifically happen to be the most genetically modified organism (GMO) oils currently in the market. Aside from being high in GMOs, these oils have also been shown to oxidize quickly, leading to rancidity, as well as being high in omega 6 fatty acids, which has been shown to also cause inflammation in the gut. However, these are the most common oils found in any type of chips, due to their high smoke point. Besides chips, better oils to look for in ingredient labels, or even to use in your every day cooking, are extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, and avocado oil.

9. Palm Oil

Palm oil, although liquid by nature, is high in saturated fatty acids and low in polyunsaturated fatty acids. While the nature of palm oil is not as harmful as hydrogenated oils, overconsumption still poses a threat to increased risk for heart disease and increased triglyceride levels. Palm oil is commonly included in nut butters to increase the smoothness of the butters and help hold the oils together. It is thus important to be on the look out for all natural nut butters that do not include palm oil.

10. Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oils are usually polyunsaturated and contain a mixture of oils, such as canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil. As stated prior, vegetable oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which can lead to increased inflammation in the gut. Over time, the increased inflammation can have detrimental effects to one’s health.

I typically advise people to reconsider their product selection if two or more of the above ingredients are listed in the first five ingredients on the product label. This message needs to be coupled with an understanding of how to eat in moderation.

While an overconsumption of the above products may pose a threat to your health, a fear of them may also pose a threat to your psyche. It is important to not create a phobia of the above ingredients, but rather to know that it is okay to eat them every now and again. Healthy living is all about knowing how to make the wisest selection of food possible for your individual health. No two people are made the same, and thus no one specific diet is best for all people. It is up to each individual person to investigate which food products align best with their bodies.

By regularly looking at the ingredients label, you will soon become accustomed to recognizing which products contain healthier ingredients, and which ones do not. Then will you be able to decide what are the wisest products for you to consume, and how much you should eat of each. This method is one of the most key ingredients to healthy living. It is easy to know of the common sayings, such as eat more veggies, eat whole grains, and mostly lean meats, but many are unaware of the long list of unhealthy ingredients that are underlining most mass-produced products. Having a thorough understanding of how to correctly read ingredient labels will give you a key advantage in creating a healthy lifestyle.

Works Cited:

Added Sugars in Processed Foods (1992) The Times (London England) ISSN: 0140-0460

Batada, A., Jacobson, M. (2016) Prevalence of Artificial food colors in grocery store products marketed to children. Clinical Pediatrics.

Christensen, L.J.; Decker, C.W.; Ashworth, U.S. (1951) The keeping quality of whole milk powder. I. The effect of preheat temperature of the milk on the development of rancid, oxidized and stale flavors with different storage conditions. Journal of Dairy Sicence. 32: 383-390

Clapp, J., Curtis, C., Middleton, A. & Goldstein, G. (2014) Prevalence of partially hydrogenated oils in US packaged foods, 2012. Preventing Chronic Disease. Doi: 10.5888/pcdl11.140161

Fattore, E., Bosetti, C., Brighenti, F., Agostoni, C., Fattore, G. (2014) Palm oil and blood lipid related markers of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta analysis of dietary intervention trials. Amercan Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 99(6), p. 1331(20)

Liles, S. (2011) The effect of fructose consumption on A1C in type 2 diabetic and nondiabetic adult males. California State University Long Beach.

Serqueira, D., Fernandes, D., Cunha, R., Squissato, A., Santos, D., Richter, E., Munoz, R. (2014) Influence of blending soybean, sunflower, colza, corn, cottonseed and residual cooking oil methyl biodiesels on the oxidation stability. Sicence Direct.

Voelker, R. (2015) Partially Hydrogenated Oils Are Out. American Medical Association Current. Volume 279 Issue 1

Where’s the sodium? (2012) Vital Signs CDC . CS229194B.