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Processed Foods Hit List *

…eh’hem. This is the hit list. If you are an ingredient on this list, get ready to be taken out, removed from the shelves, and kicked out of the market. Here we go…

We’ve created over 75,000 synthetic chemicals since 1940. Here are the top 10 to avoid….drum roll…

Top 10 Contenders:
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS):
Known as the King of artificial sweeteners, this highly-refined corn-based syrup is found in almost all processed foods (breads, yogurts, salad dressings, cereals). Although not labeled as such it is understood to quickly increase your weight and your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. And, it’s no wonder, really, that this unhealthy ingredient has become the #1 source of calories in America as it is cheap to make and has a long shelf life (it’s about the dollar, not your health). Meanwhile, by consuming it (especially in excess) you increase your chances of obesity and diabetes. Prefer natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey.

2. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG):
MSG is a glorified “flavor enhancer” found in frozen entrees, soups, chips, and many restaurant foods. We have yet to discover how harmful MSG may be long term, but high levels of free glutamates have already been proven to overexcite cells to the point of damage or death. In experimental research MSG is used to make mice fat as the chemical of MSG excites the brain, activates the body’s fat programs leading to weight gain. Research shows that a diet high in MSG may result in adverse effects such as eye damage, fatigue, depression, and obesity. Prefer natural flavorings such as sea salt, cumin, and fresh herbs.

3. BHA and BHT:
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are two potentially cancer-causing preservatives that have been deemed safe by the FDA. They are meant to prevent spoilage and food poisoning, but have been shown to adversely affect the neurological and endocrine systems. They are found in hundreds of foods (potato chips, enriched rice, candy, jello, gum, cereal) as well as in food packaging and cosmetics. Prefer foods that are fresh over anything that’s been sitting in a package for months, maybe years.

4. Potassium Bromate and Sodium Benzoate:
Preservatives sometimes added to soda and breads to prevent mod from growing. However, benzene is a known carcinogen with links to thyroid damage. Potatssium bromate is known to cause cancer in animals. Select fresh foods or bake your own bread to avoid these potentially harmful preservatives.

5. Sulfur Dioxide (E220):
This toxic additive is prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on raw fruit and vegetables. Animal studies have found it causes severe damage to the airways and lungs when it comes into contact with the nasal cavity and death in high doses. In humans, adverse reactions include: bronchial problems particularly for those prone to asthma, hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and is there prohibited for use with these foods by the FDA. It is not recommended for consumption by children. The International Labour Organization says to avoid this preservative if you suffer from bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease. Read labels for use of this preservative especially for use in beer, wine, soft drinks, vinegar, and dried fruit.

6. Artificial Sweeteners:
In the category of “sugar free” or “diet” foods are some chemically-produced sweeteners that are masquerading as innocent additives. Asparatame, also recognized as Nutrasweet or Equal, is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse food reactions than all other food additives combined. Aspartame is a neurotoxin that may cause frontal lobe inflammation, migraines, cognitive problems, mental confusion, migraines, seizures, and vision damage. What’s more is that while the marketing tells you that by drinking diet soda you’ll be sexy and thin, the truth is it actually increases your carbohydrate cravings (and subsequently leads to weight gain). According to the Yale Journal of Biology, “Research studies suggest that artificial sweeteners contribute to weight gain”. Keep it natural and choose sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup.

7. Trans Fat:
Used to extend the shelf life of food, trans fat has been extensively vilified for its role in causing a range of health issues including cancer, strokes, and birth defects. A study done at Wake Forest University showed that trans fats also contribute to dangerous belly fat. Many other studies show that trans fats increase the risk for heart disease by increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and decreasing “good” HDL cholesterol. Do your best to avoid foods containing trans fats such as: margarine, fast foods, chips, and crackers.

8. White flour:
One of the biggest addictions in the Western World, white flour, is both highly refined and nutritionally barren. To make white flour we strip it of the bran and germ and therefore all of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber as well. While this process increases shelf life and ease of digestion it also sends your blood sugar and insulin levels skyrocketing. Try substituting processed grains with whole grains such as whole wheat flour, barley, quinoa, and wild rice.

9. Common Food Dyes:
While food dyes can be fun for kids, the behavorial problems associated with them and the reduction in IQ is not so funny. According to Andrew Adesma, a developmental and behavioral pediatrics expert says “there is this body of literature that does suggest that food colorings are not as benign as people have been led to believe”. Certain animal studies have linked food colorings to cancer.

Stay clear of these in particular: Blue #1 and Blue #2 (Banned in Norway, Finland and France. May cause chromosomal damage), Red #3 and Red #40 (Proven to cause thyroid cancer and though banned it is still available on the market until supplies run out), and Yellow #6 (banned in Norway and Sweden. Shown to increase the number of kidney tumors in laboratory animals and may cause chromosomal damage). Use natural dyes or make your own from beets and turmeric.

10. Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites:
Two commonly used preservatives found in processed meats like lunch meat, bacon, and hot dogs. Highly carcinogenic once it enters the digestive system, they are believed to cause colon cancer and metabolic syndrome, the precursor to diabetes. In the 1970s attempts were made to ban these toxic ingredients but they were not successful as the food manufacturers complained they had no viable alternative to preserve packaged meats. What makes it so valuable to them? It makes old, lifeless meat look bright red, fresh, and vibrant. If you eat meat, always choose organic and fresh options.

* Note – not all processed foods are “bad” for you, they just may not be “great” for you and are almost always “best” in moderation. By definition processed foods are convenience, or commercially prepared foods designed for ease of consumption. That said, they are usually prepared in ways that are shelf-stable, ready-to-eat dishes that require minimal preparation. Be diligent and read labels- often the less ingredients = the better for you. Try to stick to 3 or less ingredients on a label.

If you’re running super short on time here are a few quick-fix snacks I recommend based on dosha-

Vata: Sunflower seed butter on a banana
Pitta: Green Drink with kale, celery, apple, and parsley
Kapha: spiced chickpeas

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