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What To Look For On Your Food Labels

Do you know everything that you’re eating, and what to even look for on your food labels? What might be its impact on your health? In my podcast episode on 6 Super Easy Steps To Mindful Eating, Tip #1 was that you first needed to Learn to Read Nutrition Labels…or kick labels entirely by eating more whole foods. 

What’s in this bar of chocolate? Is it cacao mass that’s fairtrade and organic? Is it riddled with sugar and dairy products, leading you to want more sugar the minute you eat a piece? Or perhaps you’re eating a piece of divine chocolate from the gods who want you to feel the rush of bliss from that cacao bean? ha! Can you tell I love chocolate? Well, I needed to learn what to look for on my food labels, to know the quality of chocolate I’m eating.

In this post, I’m not only breaking down what to look for on your food label, but also the toxic ingredients in your nutrition labels. This information will help you manage your own personal health & wellness, as well as that of your family. If you’re not already looking at packaging,  this is a good place to trim down the ingredients of foods coming from a factory. 

I will be the first to admit that there is a lot to learn about nutrition and what’s good or bad for you. But the ingredients that make their way into our crops – from the seed, its cultivation methods, as well as into the factories – all play a role in the quality of produce we purchase.  

What To Look For On Your Food Labels

Food Toxicity

When it comes to toxic ingredients, you can’t assume our government will be the first responders to include it on a food label. Because we live in times where an industrial food model is predominant, Trans-National Corporations hold a lot of power over what’s offered to us. Take milk in the US for example. Bovine Growth Hormone is allowed into the dairy system. Such is not the case in Canadian Dairy Products.

In the end, these large corporations get to dictate what’s sold in stores and also what is/isn’t labelled. The government is not mandated to label all products. There is proof that GMOs are known to create long-term illnesses, yet the government won’t label their products. Yes, GMOs are one of my top 10 cancer-causing agents. 

Before I reveal what to look for on your food labels, and all the depressing news of what’s in our food system, let me share some good news with you:

1.  You’re reading this, which means you care enough about your body, your health and the health of those you care for.

2.  Now that you reading this, you get to decide if you’re going to consume that harmful product or not. There’s power in choice!

The bad news is, people often don’t know what’s in their food. They also don’t know how to interpret the labels. Let’s get down to business.

Here is a list of 10 toxic food ingredients:

1. Sodium Nitrites – cancer-causing preservative found in most processed meats such as bacon, sausages, sandwich meat, hot dogs, and ham. Research has linked nitrites to a risk of colon cancer. To be sure sodium nitrite does not end up in your system, be sure to opt for nitrite-free, uncured meat products from organic, grass-fed sources.

2. Aspartame – Artificial sweetener with no nutritional value and  even depletes your body from the nutrients of other foods and linked to brain cancer

3. Hydrogenated oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, and corn oil. These compounds are chemically extracted and modified to improve their taste, smell, and consistency. Also high in unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids and are known to cause heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes. These same hydrogenated oils are now coming from genetically modified plants.

4. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) –  a refined sugar that’s in almost all candy (halloween too!), and causes significant insulin spikes and feeds the growth of cancer cells.

HFCS is said to be one of the biggest cancer-causing food ingredients on the market and  promotes diabetes and obesity, along with cancers. Keep it out of your body & your kids too!

5. Genetically modified Organisms – The topic of my graduate research, and great controversy with farmers all over the world. These GMOs have invaded our food supply and damaged the biodiversity that most of us are unaware of its extent. These foods have shown increased risk as well as cause to many life-threatening diseases, cancer included. GMOs come from soy, canola, sugarcane, cotton, as well as corn. The corn is modified with cancer-causing toxins INSIDE the corn kernel itself so that further chemicals don’t need to be sprayed on the corn. YUK!

6. Glyphosate-containing herbicides – these are sold and promoted by Monsanto for usage with its GM crops. However, glyphosate herbicides are also sprayed on non-GMO crops such as wheat, oats, and barley. FYI: Even if you’re reading your labels and see the GMO-Free Project label on the box, it could be a wheat or oat-based product that’s been sprayed with glyphosates. 

7. Acesulfame K – Much like the artificial sweetener aspartame (seen in many low-calorie soda drinks), Acesulfame K is a modified sweetener known to wreak havoc on your nervous system, your digestive system, and also linked to cancer.

8. Artificial colorings – These food dies are often made from petroleum byproducts and hold no nutritional value, and they also contributed to allergies and hyperactivity in children & increased the risk for cancer. It’s a good idea to search for natural ways to colour foods like using dark vegetables with little taste.

9. Chemical preservatives – nitrates, nitrites, and benzoates are added to processed and fast foods to prolong shelf life. They’re known to be highly toxic chemicals and accumulate in the body, causing further damage to our cells and tissues. Once that process occurs, you’re at higher risk of several types of cancer.

10. Hexane-extracted soy protein – Non-organic soy protein is often extracted with hexane, which is a neurotoxic and explosive byproduct of gasoline refinement.

Reading your food labels

As you can see, these top 10 cancer-causing agents are found when you read the labels across in the grocery ails. The thing is, some of these are in our foods whether they’re a packaged product or not. The fact is, we don’t know the specifics of how the red pepper or carrot was produced. We don’t know what product went into the soil or the seed. And we don’t know how the product was attended to on its way to our market shelves. Farmer’s Markets are popping-up all around the world to offer us healthy choices, but you must ask that farmer if they’re using GMO seeds.

The Non-GMO Project

The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply. You’ll find their labels on many food products  in the retail sector. Having this “Non-GMO Project Verified” label is a meaningful and achievable way for brands and retailers to show their commitment to providing consumers transparent choice in the marketplace. Their verification process is rigorous and allows me to shop with a little more ease when I need to purchase nacho chips, or a loaf of bread, for instance.

Thus far there are 14,352 Registered Retailers and counting!

Food Preparation & COVID-19

“According to The Hartman Group, more people are cooking at home for the majority of their meals, and there is more opportunity to examine food, ingredients and food labels as they shop. When wearing a mask in store, shoppers and staff alike are reminded that their health is linked to the health of others. They’re also reminded that paying a decent price for high quality food respects the family farmers and workers who are growing it during these challenging times. It’s a win-win-win: Consumers eat better, farmers get paid better, and everyone is healthier, while growing a more sustainable future for agriculture” (source: https://www.nongmoproject.org/blog/hundreds-of-retailers-support-fairtrade-and-non-gmo-month-this-october/)

Although you might have great memories of eating a plate of corn on the cob as a young child, that same corn is no longer coming from the same clean kernel you once indulged in. 

Food Democracy

Many years ago, while working on my graduate thesis on Food Democracy and The Construction Of Risk In The Canadian & UK Media, I was visiting my parents in British Columbia. They live in an area with a lot of fresh produce and farmer stands. Just prior to buying some corn, I asked the corn grower if he was using GMO seeds. He said with great pride “YES!”. My response was “no thanks”. I can honestly say, my gut was thanking me for that. Sure, the farmer had a sense of pride that he was able to yield a crop, but he did so by planting toxic seeds.

In the case where you’re purchasing a product from the grocery store, look for the non-GMO Project label. This will help you avoid harmful GMOs like soy, canola and corn. More and more, the GMO-Free Project label is popping-up in our grocery ails – on cereal boxes, breads, pastas and items that include the main GMOs of soy, canola and corn. 

As well, sites like healthranger.com are doing great work at helping people stay informed on matters related to feeding our families. Health Supplements share a similar concern, as I reference in a recent podcast episode as well.

Public Perception

The public perception of cooking with these foods varies across many cultures. Sociologist Ulrich Beck speaks of the idea that new technologies will continue to be developed and subsequently introduced into society.If you’re interested in finding out more about how to think about science as it relates to food, CBC Radio has a series called, How To Think About Science. Ulrich Beck’s work fuelled much of my graduate research on the public’s understanding of science. 

Here there’s a 10-part series that interviews some of the top people in the field such as Brian Wynne, Simon Schaffer, Margaret Lock, Ulrich Beck, and Bruno Latour. 

 

Alternate Ways To View Food

Two topics that hold great passion for people are food and religion. They’re considered taboo to discuss, and for that reason, we can miss-out on great public dialogue. Food sustains us, and also provides us with great pleasure. Even if you will indulge in a great piece of cured meats and a glass of delicious red wine (both include sodium nitrites), just know what it means to your health.  Try not let that interfere with some of the joys that food offers us – personally and culturally. It’s good to explore alternatives – as there are many!

Having a personal check-in with your family members on what is in our foods, and what the products do to enhance/hinder our health, is a great way to create more moments of mindfulness.

Why do you buy the foods you buy?

Do you care that some of these ingredients have the potential to cause a risk to your health?

Does it matter that some of these food items hold toxic elements that interfere with the body’s function?

 

In Summary

Now that I’ve broken-down down the ins & outs of looking for toxic ingredients on your food labels, you are one step closer to having some personal control over your own personal health & wellness, as well as that of your family.

If you’re not already looking at packaging, today is a good day!  By trimming down the ingredients of foods coming from a factory, you’re enhancing your body’s ability to break down the food waste and not work so hard for you. This way, your sleep and recovery time can be more restorative. 

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