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Repurposing

Over the last year or so I have been attempting to lead a healthier lifestyle. I quit using damaging chemicals to on my hair and body, I start incorporating exercise into my daily life (walks and basic exercise whenever), and I began making healthier food choices. Let me say I am not perfect, and I do not strictly stick to a plan I just take it one step at a time. Every since I have been more aware of what I am eating I have become a label-reading fanatic. I like to know what I am eating and if I am unsure of an ingredient, I will research it.

Cochineal extract, carmine, carminic acid or better known as natural red 4 dyes is derived from cochineal insects. Cochineal insects, scientifically known as Dactylopuis coccus of the order Hemiptera, are native to South America and Mexico they live on prickly pear cacti plants. I have done a little research on hemiptera and they are usually pest to a variety of plant families; sucking the nutrients and moisture needed for the plants survival. The female cochineal is killed, sun-dried, and extracted. It takes 70,000 bugs to make one pound of red dye. At first thought this is gross but now that I really have had time to think about it we consume for worse things than bugs (we eat pigs for god sake). We consume a variety of questionable food and basically if it taste good most people will eat it.

healthy_foodMSG is used as a flavor enhancer. Alone MSG is flavorless but when combined with other flavors, it intensifies the flavor of the food. It does not make food taste better it only enriches the flavor that is already in the food. I personally think that fresh foods already have a burst of flavor and I do not see the need to “enhance” the flavor. Although whose to say my “fresh” fruits and veggies that I buy from the market are not “enhanced.”  I have learned that moderation is key -an excess of anything can cause adverse affects. This reminds me of the saying “ Too much of a good thing can be bad.” We have to monitor what we eat because if we do not look out for ourselves no one else will.

The shocking actuality is that companies are allowed to label items as 0g trans fat when foods contain 0.5 grams or less of trans fats per serving. And serving sizes can be as small or as big as they prefer.  Checking the serving size can be helpful. For instance, 1oz of a 5oz bag of chips with 0.5 grams of trans fat totals 2.5grams of trans fats; it is recommended to only have 2 or less grams of trans fats per day. The only way to know for sure if there are trans fats is to look in the ingredients section for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil it can be vegetable, soybean, coconut, or any other kind of oil. You would think that companies would care at least somewhat about their customer’s trust, enough not to deceive them with false labels just to make a profit. And everyone wonders why Americans are overweight and unhealthy because we are being lied to about what is in our food making it difficult for us to manage our own health.

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During this process I realized that there is a lot of misconception out there and everyone has an opinion. But after all the webpages and research it still remains that there is not enough studies in either direction to conclude the safety of BHT. And it is hard to take some of the claims serious if the study is done on rats because who’s to say that it will have the same impact on humans.

The conclusion I have formed is that the exact effects that BHT will have on an individual are uncertain. And it is that uncertainty that will govern my future decisions.  As you may have recognized, I am trying to eat foods with as many natural ingredients as possible. Because BHT is man made and can possibly have harmful effects I am choosing to stay away from this ingredient. Processed foods contain plenty of questionable ingredients and unfortunately experts are unable to provide definitive influences on the human body.

Even after researching HFCS I am still a little confused on whether the way the body processes HFCS and cane sugar truly effects weight gain or not. Of course there are studies on rats and there are correlations that have been put together to make assumptions about the affect of HFCS but there is no true solid evidence. I know that people may be allergic to it but that is true for many other food items as well. Furthermore, credible sources say there is insufficient evidence to prove that HFCS is less healthy than other sweeteners. Because of the lack of ample and concrete evidence corn refiners are able to say that HFCS is just as healthy as other sugars.

There is not enough information to prove that anything will benefit or harm us because we are all unique individuals and we are not going to be effected in the same way.With anything you eat, or do in life in general, pace your self; moderation is extremely important. I try to have a colorful diet and explore different types of food. Being an aware consumer is one of the best things we can do for our health because nothing we consume is ever absolutely good for us there are positives (For instance, Trans fats lengthen the shelf life of foods. It also improves the texture and taste of the foods it is added to) and negatives to everything. Not to mention companies are able to find their way around admitting the truth when it comes to controversial ingredients. And what is even more obnoxious is that laws protect these obscure and deceitful tactics used by companies. The ultimate goal is to eat fresh foods. By doing this you limit all the added ingredients in your diet. (I watched a video where a health expert said that any item with more than five ingredients is not real food.) The good thing about food is that we can (for the most part) choose what we eat.

The choice is up to you.

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BHT

So I was eating a bowl of cereal the other day and I had a sudden urge to check the ingredients list for any partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, MSG or red dye.  Then I began checking all the cereal boxes (I had four boxes of cereal, a little excessive I know but I like variety. Hahaha) and none of them contained MSG or high fructose corn syrup. And one box contained both red dye and “ less than 2% partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” All four boxes of cereal contained salt, which is weird since cereal is typically sweet. I just assumed it is used as a preservative but the last ingredient on all but one box was labeled “BHT (To preserve freshness).”  Because I already knew all the other ingredients on the box I decided to research BHT.

Butylated hydroxyl-toluene (or BHT) is a synthetic form of Vitamin E, derived form petroleum. BHT is commonly used as a preservative in foods containing fat. (Gross! There is fat in my cereal) It increases the shelf life by up to one year. BHT is also used in fuel oils, rubber and the cosmetic industry.BHT1

There is so much controversy on whether BHT has a negative impact on individuals. Depending on what article you read BHT is either a stone cold killer or a lifesaver. I have rummaged through so many webpages some that claimed that BHT cause cancer, hyperactivity in children, and even decrease the risk of cancer. I even read a comment on a blog where a person said that they were taking BHT supplements to prevent cancer (scary right?). The amounts of BHT present in foods are claimed to be insignificant to cause affects.

According to the FDA it is notable that BHT enlarges the liver, (Pause. The thought of a chemical enlarging my organs is extremely scary. A total red flag for me.) Although further research is needed for additional effects. BHT is said to have an effect on the development of fetuses in utero although most of the studies have been done on rats. As for cosmetics BHT does penetrate the skin but it stays within the layers of the skin and has not been shown to produce systemic effects.

During this process I realized that there is a lot of misconception out there and everyone has an opinion. But after all the webpages and research it still remains that there is not enough studies in either direction to conclude the safety of BHT. And it is hard to take some of the claims serious if the study is done on rats because who’s to say that it will have the same impact on humans. With all that said, the main concern still persists:

So is BHT safe?

The simple answer, it’s complicated.

The conclusion I have formed is that the exact effects that BHT will have on an individual are uncertain.  And it is that uncertainty that will govern my future decisions.  As you may have recognized, I am trying to eat foods with as many natural ingredients as possible. Because BHT is man made and can possibly have harmful effects I am choosing to stay away from this ingredient.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup

In the diet sugar is always depicted as the bad guy but the truth is we need sugar for fuel. But, of course, there is a limit and no more than 3% to 8% of our calories should be from sugar. Does it matter what kind of sugar is part of this intake?

There is a great deal of disagreement about HFCS, whether it is healthy or not. There are advertisements saying it is bad, as well as commercials suggesting that HFCS is not bad (They are not saying it is good for you they are implying that it is not bad). After searching around and reading both sides of the argument this is what I came up with; it’s complicated.  HFCS is not as bad as it was made to look but it is still bad.

High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is a sugar made from corn. When added to food HFCS enhances the flavors, preserves the texture, provides moisture, and lengthens the shelf life. Table sugar, sucrose, and HFCS have the same amount of calories per gram. HFCS is composed of nearly half glucose and half fructose. HFCS contains 5% more fructose than cane sugar.

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According to the FDA requirements for the use of the term ‘natural’ HFCS qualify as natural but my definition of natural food is food that has been produce by nature not manufactured in a refinery.

There are studies that have related weight gain with HFCS, which I think, has something to do with the structure of HFCS as compared to sucrose. Most sources say that the human body processes HFCS similarly to cane sugar.hfcs2

There is a debate of whether HFCS is a source of mercury in the diet (an issue of which I was unaware). And there are sources stating that there are not quantifiable levels of mercury in HFCS. This issue of “quantifiable” levels of mercury in HFCS is a dilemma similar to the trans fat issue of what is an allowable amount of a substance. Less than 5 ppb (parts per billion) of mercury is considered not significant but it is still present therefore to dismiss it and deny its existence is deceitful.

Even after researching HFCS I am still a little confused on whether the way the body processes HFCS and cane sugar truly effects weight gain or not. Of course there are studies on rats and there are correlations that have been put together to make assumptions about the affect of HFCS but there is no true solid evidence. Furthermore, credible sources say there is insufficient evidence to prove that HFCS is less healthy than other sweeteners. Because of the lack of ample and concrete evidence corn refiners are able to say that HFCS is just as healthy as other sugars.

With all this said it is already hard enough to stay healthy and in shape that I am choosing to cutback or eliminate (if possible) as many unnatural ingredients as possible in the foods I consume.  The fact that HFCS contains mercury and 5% more fructose than other sugars is enough for me to avoid it. HFCS is obviously just slightly unhealthier than other sweeteners and until there is more reassurance I am choosing to stay away from it.

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Partially Hydrogenated Oils

0-trans-fat-8710600I always hear conversations where people are saying how trans fats are bad and they should be limited or eliminated from your diet. And when I am in the grocery store I see a whole bunch of green, red or yellow print with “0 Trans Fat” on the labeling of various food items, typically with a picture of a heart somewhere nearby. And sometimes I will opt for an item that is labeled “0 trans fats” or “low trans fat” just because its “bad.” I do not go out of my way to avoid trans fats but if I buy something that has a 0 or low trans fat label I usually feel good about it. The truth is I knew nothing about trans fats except it was the worst fat of all the fats that you could have in your diet. Furthermore I made decisions based on hearsay.

Partially hydrogenated oils, also called trans fats, are man made fats. Trans fats are made through a process called hydrogenation where vegetable oils have hydrogen’s added to them. The word trans is referring to the arrangement of the carbon atoms across double bonds. The cis form of fat is natural. In the trans formation the chains of carbon atoms are on opposite sides of the double bond forming in a straight chain.

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The straight chains are able to condense into a solid at human body temperature this can effect the nutrient flow of our cells causing plaque build up (because if it is solid it will not leave your body as fast as a liquid) which can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Additionally the bonds of trans fats are unable to be broken down by the enzymes that usually breakdown fats in our body. Also because our cell walls are made of phospholipids trans fats are soluble and are able to be integrated into cell walls. When fats are incorporated into the cell wall the flexibility is compromised.

Trans fats lengthen the shelf life of foods. It also improves the texture and taste of the foods it is added to. And trans fats are inexpensive to produce.

The shocking news is that companies are allowed to label items as 0g trans fat when foods contain 0.5 grams or less of trans fats per serving.DrOzTransFatLabel And serving sizes can be as small or as big as they prefer.  Checking the serving size can be helpful. For instance, 1oz of a 5oz bag of chips with 0.5 grams of trans fat totals 2.5grams of trans fats; it is recommended to only have 2 or less grams of trans fats per day. The only way to know for sure if there are trans fats is to look in the ingredients section for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil it can be vegetable, soybean, coconut, or any other kind of oil. You would think that companies would care at least somewhat about their customer’s trust, enough not to deceive them with false labels just to make a profit.

(Meet the Trans fat HERE)

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MSG

So, I always hear how MSG is bad for you, we should avoid it and that it is in Chinese food. Honestly I did not even know what MSG was until now.  I was interested in finding out what was the big issue with MSG, so here goes.

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Monosodium Glutamate, also known as MSG, is an amino acid. Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and when it comes right down to it we are pretty much composed out of proteins. Our muscles are made almost entirely of protein.  Glutamate is one of the twenty essential amino acids, produced in humans.

The way I see it MSG basically is one of the good guy turned badly. MSG, or manufactured “free” glutamate, has a different structure as compared to the natural form of glutamate. Therefore the body will have a harder time processing it. Also man made glutamate comes with impurities. I kept seeing this word “impurities” and was a little confused at what the meaning was, after looking it up it was obvious–imperfections within the compound that differ from the original structure. MSG always comes with impurities, or contaminants.

MSG is used as a flavor enhancer. Alone MSG is flavorless but when combined with other flavors, it intensifies the flavor of the food. It does not make food taste better it only enriches the flavor that is already in the food. I personally think that fresh foods already have a burst of flavor and I do not see the need to “enhance” the flavor. Although whose to say my “fresh” fruits and veggies that I buy from the market are not “enhanced”.  I have learned that moderation is key -an excess of anything can cause adverse affects. This reminds me of the saying “ Too much of a good thing can be bad.”

The most thought-provoking idea that I learned is that MSG stimulates the pancreas. The pancreas releases more insulin and your blood sugar drops. Once your blood sugar drops you become hunger again. MSG deceives your body into feeling temporarily full, which may lead to an excess of food intake. The taste buds are able to detected free glutamic acid (MSG without sodium attached) as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food; free glutamate is act as a neurotransmitter.

This is really scary especially since two-thirds of Americans are already overweight. I am at the border of a healthy weight and being overweight myself, so to find out that a food additive can cause overeating is horrifying. I would rather my food not contain flavor enhancers. If I don t like the taste of the food I will just stop eating it, plain and simple.

http-::gcnaturalfamilyhealth.com:wp-content:uploads:2011:04:msgNot to mention the effects of the sodium aspect of the compound is having on the body, right? Surprisingly MSG is low in sodium as compared to table salt (sodium chloride) with only one-third the amount of sodium. I was really shocked to discover this because typically the food that contains MSG has a lot of sodium.