Living and Thriving Gluten Free

Healthy & Whole Food Eating

Categories: Food & Diet Research    

When you're looking to improve your diet and you haven't thought about it much before, you may not be used to reading food labels. It's a good habit to get into.

Be Sure to Read the Ingredients:

There's a particular part of the label that isn't given much attention. That's the actual ingredients.

So much focus is put on the calories and sugar and fat and the larger charts and other parts of the label. But what is completely not accounted for in those sections is the food additives, and the actual quality of the food itself.

Virtually none of the food additives will make much impact on the chart parts. And some of the quality of the food can be determined from the ingredients, but doesn't have any impact on the chart parts.

Small Amounts of Additives Have a Big Impact:

The quantity of food additives is very, very small for a lot of them. But the impact can be massive, including the impact on how it affects people.

You can think of food additives as drugs. They're made in the same way, by many of the same companies, or sister companies of pharmaceutical companies. Drugs work in very tiny amounts also. Food additives may do different things than drugs. But they're made with much of the same philosophy: pack the biggest punch possible into the smallest amount possible.

They're made usually with one single purpose in mind, and they only extract the substances that do that one thing, and they discard the rest (or send the rest off to extract something else or add to various powders, pastes, etc.). They have to be processed so they have no other properties.

If it's a coloring agent, it can't have any flavor. If it's a thickening agent, it can't have any sweetness. If it's a preservative, it can't have any coloring effect. Etc.

Ingredients That Seem Like Food But Really Aren't:

Some of the quality of ingredients can be determined from the actual ingredient list.

An example would be a pack of cheese product. It has skim milk, milk, milk protein concentrate, whey, whey protein concentrate, lactic acid, milkfat (and more non dairy ingredients). These are all milk products. But most of them are not pure milk. Cheese should be made with 1 exact type of milk and / or cream, the main difference will be the fat % of the milk / cream. But this cheese product is using a weird combination of milk products.

If you read all the charts on the ingredient label and the fat and sugar content, etc., there's no way to tell the difference between this product, and a true cheese with just milk (or cream), bacterial culture and salt.

Practice Spotting "Not Really Food" Ingredients:

That's why it's important to get used to reading the actual ingredients. You'll begin to see so many (most) food products are loaded with tons of non food ingredients, and manipulated food ingredients.

If you're new to labels, you'll see lots of things that sort of sound like food, such as milkfat. Milk has fat in it, so it sort of sounds ok. But stop and think about it. How does milk come out of a cow? It comes out as milk. Not milk fat.

Obviously if things are chemicals, you know they're chemicals, like monosodium glutamate (msg).

But there's lots of sneaky additives that are sort of hidden with fancy food like names, like milk fat.

Here's few with a very short description of the reason they're added (and it's not good).

  • Yeast extract - another name for msg (not the yeast found in bread)
  • Celery extract - another name for msg
  • Sucralose - sounds like sucrose (sugar) but is actually an artificial sweetener
  • Vanillin - sounds like vanilla, but it is 100% artificial, and not made from vanilla
  • Vitamin E - sounds like a vitamin, but when used in food products, it's a preservative and is most likely an artificial form, and there is controversy over whether we can digest / use the artificial form, and whether the artificial form is cancer causing

Start reading labels and noticing things that at first look like food, but really are some sort of extract from a food.

You can look a few up in a search engine and check them out, both looking for the good and the bad about them. You won't be able to look them all up, since there's over 10,000 approved chemicals and food like substances. But you'll get the idea that things aren't always as nice as they may seem at first glance.

Finding Replacements for Regular Packaged Foods:

When you're ready to start cutting down on prepackaged food, start looking for recipes for homemade versions. There's a homemade version of almost everything. With practice and some time, you can make almost everything you love.

You'll also find a few packaged items that really are made with real food. They'll usually be small companies, or even local manufacturers. There's a true gold mine in some small local companies. For many of them you can visit their plants, or be able to meet them in person. There's still a sense of pride when you find these kinds of companies.

When you're ready to try out some homemade food, be sure to check out our Recipe section, and you'll find something you and your family will enjoy.

If you want to dig a bit more into the Big Food topic, check out these 2 articles, Corruption at the Core of Our Food System and Chemicals Are Safe... Until They're Not.

Learn, eat and enjoy!

Thora Toft

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