De-Code those Food Labels


It is all very confusing when you are faced with advertising and food labeling, advocating ‘Natural’, “Organic”, “wholefood”, “fat-free” and more colorful words to make you more interested. All these labels have most people throwing their arms in the air in frustration.

In my opinion there are not many packaged foods that are healthy. Most have had any nutriment cooked or heated out of them. ultimately the most healthiest food is the least processed. Basically anything that is not pulled fresh from the garden, home-grown meat, like chickens and cows etc is not Naturally and automatically healthy because it says so.

The word natural is totally misleading, it can be derived from a plant or animal but be assured it has been altered in some form or another.
The Governing food police in any country will assure you that any food coloring or additives approved by them will be safe. Safe yes but healthy? Probably not. I think there is a big difference.

The words that are usually displayed on packaged goods in big colorful letters like “fat-free” or “Sugar Free” usually will contain artificial sweeteners that are actually harmful. Aspartame is one, which is also known as 951 or sold commercially as nutrisweet. Aspartame has been linked with many health problems like asthma seizures, memory loss gradual weight gain, dizziness, insomnia multiple sclerosis and depression (The chemical maze by Bill Statham).

The interesting thing is the advertising on the packaging is always colorful, large print and on pretty pictures, but when it comes to reading what is exactly in the product, it is often, hard to find the ingredients list and the print is so small if you don’t have your glasses it is impossible to read. I sometimes have to ask someone in the store to read it to me as usually I don’t have my glasses with me. My Moto is if I can not read the ingredients because the print is not clear or big enough, I will not buy it because they do that for a reason I am sure. By law they must tell you what is in the product but I guess the law does not require them to print the information in large print or a color that is readable.

Most of us are not aware of the meanings of a lot of the nutritional labels and jargon, so here is a list of some of them and their meaning.

BIODYNAMIC – This is a very interesting and unusual farming alternative. Biodynamic farming improves soil fertility using compost, mineral fertilisers, cover crops and organic materials.

FREE-RANGE – This does not guarantee the nutritional value, but is a practice whereby animals that provide meat, or eggs are allowed the follow their natural behaviour as much as is possible.

GLUTEN-FREE – Eliminating such ingredients as wheat, barley, rye and oats; the real benefit is to those sensitive or allergic to gluten.

GLYCAEMIC INDEX (GI) – Measures the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Favourable lower GI indicates slower rate of digestion and release of glucose.

GMO – “GMO – Free” indicates no genetically modified organisms are present. It is considered important to stay away from these type of foods if possible.

ORGANIC – Organic farming produces hight-quality foods without the use of artificial fertilisers or synthetic chemicals. Based on improving the health of the soil where the produce is grown.

PASTEURISATION– Commonly refers to the heating of milk to remove pathogenic bacteria and prevent souring. It is argued that raw milk is the healthier option, although legally it is not allowed to be sold for consumption in most countries. My children always drank raw milk as young children, I believe it to be the best and seems they have strong bone and muscle structure so did them no harm. It’s all a matter of choice.

PROBIOTICS – Commonly found in foods like yoghurt, probiotic are good bacteria for your gut that ultimately strengthen your immune system.

PROCESSED – It is food that has been altered from its natural state for reasons of safety and convenience by canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing (which keeps food sterile).

WHOLEFOODS – Foods made with non-processed “whole” ingredients, such as egg as opposed to egg extracts.

Here are some of the fine print ingredients that are definitely not what I call very healthy but you will find in many products if you can read the labels

ANTI-CAKING AGENTS – Prevents clumping in powdered or granulated products. Vegetarians need to look out for bone phosphate (code 542) which is made from degreased extracts from animal bones.

ANTIOXIDENTS – “Friendly” antioxidants help soak up cancer-causing free radicals in the body. Less-friendly antioxidants used to prevent oils in food going rancid have numerous downfalls. For example, butylated hydoxyanisole (BHA or 320) can cause headaches, DNA damage, asthma, insomnia liver stress and chronic urticaria (hives). It has been identified as a possible human carcinogen. According to bill statham, antioxidants 310, 311, 312, 319, and 321 may have similar adverse effects.

COLORING – Synthetic colors are often presented in confectionaries, drinks and jams, but Statham, warns against colors 102, 110, 122, 123 and 127, which have side effects including neurotoxicity, skin irritation, asthma and hyperactivity. Vegetarians, take note; the red coloring carmine (also known as cochineal or 120) is commonly made from insects. According to Statham, its possible side effects include nausea and itching.

EMULSIFIERS AND STABILISERS; – Often found in low-fat spreads, sweet and savoury foods. Ingredients that normally separate are mixed together with emulsifiers, most commonly gelatin, which is derived from animal tissue. stabilizers are then used to prevent ingredients from separating again.

FLAVOR ENHANCERS – Monosodium Glutamate (MSG or flavor enhancer 621) has long been the subject of major debate. Lola Berry Australian nutritionist describes MSG as a “Man made mix of different amino acids, which is not natural and crosses our blood brain barrier”. Statham warns potential adverse effects could include heart palpitations, irritability, dizziness headache, urticaria (hives) nausea, tingling and numbness and bronchospasm in asthmatics.

GELLING AGENTS AND THICKNERS – Used to give body to food, pectin (concentrated in the peel and pulp of citrus) is the most common gelling agent. Karaya gum (E416) is a thickener commonly added to foods such as spreads, custard and ice-creams (hairspray, hand lotions and tooth paste!) which Lola Berry advises may cause gastric irritations.

There is two apps you can get to put on your iPhone one is called “Food additive maze” and the other is “Chemical maze”. Two handy apps I believe when you are shopping and not sure of what some of the ingredients are.

HEALTHY EATING

SOURCE: Nature and Health magazine

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  1. Read It Before You Eat It How to Decode Food Labels

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