The title of today’s blog is a quote you’ve heard many times and is certainly true. The recommended nutritional guidelines as just been updated by the Federal Government, which in theory is a step in the right direction, however what they have neglected to speak about are all the things added to our foods, which make them so unhealthy. The list of these additives is huge and it can seem daunting to try to start eating in a healthier manner. Lets slowly look at this issue and see if. (Those with Fibromyalgia need to read this carefully!)
1 We can make sense of it.
2 We can start modifying our eating behaviors.
3 We can become a more informed and savvy shopper.
Why are our foods so full of chemicals, preservatives and other things that are just not good for us?
Preservatives are used in foods to simply keep them from going bad. We live in a different world as compared to 100 years ago. At that time, food was grown and eaten more locally. We were used to eating certain foods which “were in season”, meaning that different fruits, vegetables grains etc grow at different times of the year. (I grew up on the east coast. Tangerines were for the winter, peaches, plums were summer fruits, apples were for the autumn etc.) As our modern society evolved to it’s present state, we began to demand all types of fruits and vegetables on a year round basis. Yes, we want that white Asparagus in the winter and those tangerines in the summer. The only way to accomplish this was to start using preservatives in the food so they could reach us (across the country), from other climates without spoiling. (Called longer shelf life).
You see, food goes bad over time due to bacteria, yeast and mold. You all know what happens if you leave bread out for too long. Even in the refrigerator, and freezer, food can go bad. The lower temperatures just slow the spoiling process. (Our grandparents used to shop daily so the food was fresh).
We’ve also started to demand food that looks “pretty”. We want our apples to be bright red as we want our steaks. We want fruits not to be bruised..on and on. I remember going into a butcher shop in the mid 70’s to buy two steaks. I noticed that the meat was brown and I immediately questioned the quality. The Butcher had to explain to me that meat is Brown, not red and the coloring is artificial. I never forgot that and it made me start to think and yes the brown steak was delicious.
Preservatives of some kind or other can be found in almost any and every type of food or drink. They can thus be very hard to avoid. There are many natural preservatives, such as salt, vinegar, and sugar, but most of the preservatives in our foods are synthetic. Most preservatives are toxic and some are cancer-causing. Most impact the nervous system, changing behavior. Some have an impact on reproductive health or weaken the immune system.
First, lets go to school and name some of the common preservatives and their dangers. Once we get this out of the way, we can speak about solutions and changes, so please have patience.
Nitrates add flavor, maintain color in meats, prevent botulism in canned foods, and are also used in cheeses. They are carcinogenic, but restrictions in place by the FDA ensure they do not form in hazardous quantities in our food. The restrictions are not enough as eating large quantities of these foods negate the restrictions, and many people do eat large quantities. Children may have severe adverse reactions to nitrates. Some people experience headache and a flushed face after consuming sodium nitrate, often found in hot dogs and lunch meats. Infants are very susceptible to nitrate toxicity.
Nitrates may convert to nitrites in the digestive tract, then combine with hemoglobin to form a substance that makes it harder for one’s blood to carry oxygen.therefore Nitrates should be avoided!
Sulphur Dioxide and Sulfites are bleaches and antioxidants used to stop browning. They are found in alcoholic, fruit, and soft drinks, as well as dried fruits and vegetables. All wines contain sulfites. Sulfites destroy vitamin B1, are linked to hyperactivity, and can cause severe reactions–especially in asthmatics. Sulfites can cause headaches. In 1986, too much sulfites were being used at salad bars, and dozens of people died from anaphylactic shock. The FDA thus banned sulfite use on salad bars. Sulphur Dioxide is derived from coal tar.
Benzoic Acid and Sodium Benzoate are used in fish and oyster sauce, ketchup, fruit juices, margarine, salads, confections, baked goods, cheeses, jams, and pickled products. They are linked to hyperactivity, like most synthetic chemicals used in our foods. Benzoic acid can cause skin and eye irritation.They may be carcinogenic. Benzoic Acid is also used as an active ingredient in cough syrup and ointments. It may cause neurological disorders and react with sulphites.
BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Hydroxytoluene) are used in fats and oils, so they are found in snacks, cereals, instant spuds, soft drinks and margarine. Their characteristics make them carcinogenic, and they can cause tumors. In lab studies they caused stomach cancer. Some have difficulty metabolizing them, and this can cause changes in their health and behavior. Adverse reactions to BHA are common and include hyperactivity, asthma attack, and allergies. It can also increase cholesterol. Higher quantities can cause stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, as well as confusion and dizziness. These two chemicals may interfere with, mimic, or block our hormones such as estrogen, too. BHT is banned in Japan, Romania, Sweden, and Australia. do they know something we don’t? and yes, they come from petroleum!
Sodium Citrate is used in meat and baby food but also in personal care products. Large amounts can cause bladder tumors.
Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) are added to fats, oils and margarine, so they are often found in snacks like chips. It can cause nausea and delirium. It is petroleum based. (Mmmm!) Not much information is available about this preservative, so we should be wary of it. It has been referred to as the “mystery preservative.”
Salt, vinegar, and sugar are much safer than synthetic chemicals, as they are natural. However, salt and sugar are so overused that the quantities we are consuming can indeed be detrimental to our health. Chose products with these in them over products with synthetic chemicals, but limit your overall intake of salt and sugar.
There are thousands more, (one estimate is 80,000) but these are preservatives you see almost all the time. In summary, they all should be avoided!
Remember, for those with Fibromyalgia: all chemicals in the foods you eat need to be detoxified by the liver. Therefore these cause added stress on the body and we all know that stress can make Fibromyalgia worse.
Next: So What is the GI system and how does it work? In layman’s terms please! What these chemicals can do to our bodies!