Drink a diet soda and get a headache. Sip a cup of tomato soup and suddenly you feel numbness in your arms and back. You wolf down a small bag of chips and later get a stomach ache.
It is believed that since World War II more than 80,000 new man-made chemicals have been created. These chemicals are used in our cars, homes and on our jobs. But many of them appear as additions to our foods. Research has suggested that many of these food additives are making us sick.
Along with aspartame in our diet sodas, research suggests, we’re getting a carcinogen. That piping hot soup comes with a dollop of Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which causes numbness to some. That Olestra in your fat-free potato chip may be causing your severe stomach cramps.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a database listing more than 3,000 substances which are added to our foods. The organization claims they are all safe — including some of the most controversial foods such as aspartame and MSG. But with non-smoking related cancers representing 80 percent of new cancer cases many people are crying foul saying food additives are toxic to our bodies and our health.
Safe or not safe, there is evidence to suggest that food additives are making us sick. So how do we avoid them when it seems they are everywhere? Some food additives like MSG, occur naturally. But many can be avoided. Do you really need modified food starch, Still we all can’t be organic farmers and spend all day toiling in the yard. So here are some tips on minimizing your exposure to toxic foods in your everyday life.
1. Stay in the Grocery Suburbs. If you want to avoid food additives stay away from a grocery’s urban center. Stick to the suburbs – the outskirts of the center of the store. Here on the outskirts you’ll find fresh fruits and veggies and dairy foods, plus probably some frozen veggies. These foods will be less likely to contain food additives. An apple is an apple in the suburbs. But in the center aisle, an apple can become Apple Jack’s a processed food which along with wheat has high fructose corn syrup long believed to be an obesity culprit.
2. Read Labels. Everyone always says to read labels but then they never tell you what to look for. Well, you need to read your food labels and check them against a list of most commonly used food additives and their side effects. The Center for the Science in the Public Interest, also known as the food police, has a great checklist complete with icons on what additives are safe, mildly annoying, or toxic and should be avoided at all cost. Read your label and check the food’s ingredient list against the CSPI’s Food Additive’s List. (The worst offenders include Aspartame, Blue No.1 Dye, BHA, Olestra, Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Potassium Bromate, Sodium Nitrate, and Propyl Gallate .)
3. Shop Closer to Home. What? You mean your corner grocery store isn’t close enough. Nope. Most of the food in your grocery store comes from far flung places like California or even Mexico. Because it has to travel distances food is processed to last longer – hence the addition of preservatives. Many processed meats, such as hot dogs and polish sausages, have a preservative called nitrate or a form of it. This helps with the meat’s red color and preserves its flavor. But studies have linked nitrates to cancer, according to the CSPI. To avoid preservatives, buy food that isn’t meant to be stored. That means you’ll only have a couple days or so to consume them. You can do this by shopping at a butcher’s who gets his meat from inside your state. Or go to a farmer’s market to buy fresh veggies and fruits grown locally. If you want them for later you can pickle them yourself at home. We lived for centuries without preservatives; we can do without them now.
4. Don’t Swallow Your Nutrients. Vitamins became the rage in the 1970s and many people still swallow their nutrients. But vitamins can also contain unnatural substances such as Aristolochic acid, which the FDA issued a warning about. It has been associated with permanent kidney damage. Get your nutrients through real food. Experts say there is no research to prove that vitamins are helpful to your health.
5. Eat Home Cooked Meals. Most people are on the go and they say picking up that stir-fry package from the center aisle is the fastest and easiest way to prepare a meal. But eating outside your home leads to more processed foods and more processed foods leads to more toxins. But if you just follow tips like cutting up veggies in advance, using slow cookers to cook while you’re gone and buying meat and putting it into daily use bags and sticking it in the freezer, you can save time on meal preparation and eat real food without added toxins. Start slow for you busy bodies. Home cooking recipes usually contain real food. Try one day a week with nothing but real food. If it gets easy then jump to two. Pretty soon you’ll eat home cooked meals every day.
6. If You Can’t Say it or Spell it Don’t Eat it. This is a sure-fire way to avoid eating food filled with toxins. If you read the label and you can’t pronounce the ingredients chances are the food has additives.
7. Wash Your Produce. Many fresh vegetables and fruits, no matter how fresh and natural they look, often have residues of pesticides on them. Foods to be watch out for include grapes, celery, lettuce, cucumber, cabbage and green beans. Fruits like apples and pears are coated with paraffin wax to make them look shiny and delicious. Not to mention the fact that the food you are about to eat has been handled by produce clerks, shippers, pickers and other shoppers. E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella can live on fruits and vegetables whether they are organic or not. So wash them by gently rubbing them under cold running water- no soap.
You don’t have to be a raw food kook to avoid toxins. But you do have to pay a little more attention to what you’re consuming. If you follow these tips you will avoid some of the chemicals that have invaded our food space. But you’ve already taken the first step — you’ve gotten educated. Now the rest is up to you.