Processed foods came about for our convenience and seemed like such a blessing. The brands that were most convenient to us, we would buy. Is it possible that manufacturers would not hesitate to put unhealthy items in our food to offer this convenience (shelf life, no-stir, pre-made, etc)? The answer certainly is yes for most of them! If one company sells a product that perishes in one week, and another company sells one that will stay “fresh” for months, which will we buy? It became a matter of staying in business for these companies because we, the consumers, decided convenience was important. The problem was that we didn’t understand the health ramifications of it and many still do not. No one educated us on the price of convenience.

This article will highlight 3 ingredients to watch out for. Awareness of these will begin to allow you to take more control of your health and food choices. Until we get educated and make better choices, we will continue to buy what is convenient and continue getting fat and sick.

One ingredient to highlight is partially hydrogenated (trans fats). Anything in your ingredient list that has partially hydrogenated basically means that it has a shelf-life that perhaps could outlive you. This is a tricky one because manufacturers are allowed to call it different things today so we cannot recognize it. Look for mono- and di-glycerides as well. The oil processing that takes place takes out the odor of the substance. If it didn’t, it would smell worse than rancid butter. As a general rule, if a food has a long shelf life it probably isn’t good for you. In fact, you may be increasing your risk of heart disease, higher cholesterol, blood clotting, inflammation and stroke to name a few.

The second ingredient I wanted to mention is monosodium glutamate (MSG) known to be slowly poisoning America. And here again, manufacturers are starting to call it something else to fool us. One common name is Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein but there are many others. MSG not only helps to preserve the food, but can be very harmful to your health. It is a flavor enhancer and some people think it causes a type of addiction which makes us crave the food and you guessed it, gain weight (proven to gain weight in studies with rats). “Betcha can’t eat just one” takes on a whole new meaning. No wonder I stopped craving broccoli and cauliflower. Some common foods in your pantry containing MSG may be: Campbells and Progresso soup, crackers, cereal, junk food, etc.). When you are feeding your family today, try to avoid this silent killer.

In addition to shelf-life convenience, another competitive aspect for businesses is taste and cost. If a company put more sugar in their products, it would likely taste better. Do you ever remember growing up and having sugar in your Jiffy or Skippy peanut butter? It’s in there now! (unless you’re like me and choose natural). But it’s gotten even worse. For cost reasons, companies will put in high fructose corn syrup in place of sugar. This little ingredient happens to add inflammation in our bodies which causes all kinds of disease. If you start to look at the ingredients on products, you may even notice that they put sugar AND high fructose corn syrup in the same product. Now I cannot read the minds of manufacturers, but my guess is that they separate sugar substances into two ingredients to avoid one of the two ending up as the first ingredient on the list (meaning the highest volume in the product). I wonder if that employee got a bonus from this brilliant idea. My main concern is that our children’s bodies are growing up with a dependence on this sugary substance. My advice is to avoid sugar type ingredients as much as possible. Some natural alternatives includes: stevia, agave (both from plants) and honey.

We as consumers are the only ones that can change what sells, and force manufacturers to sell healthier items. Sounds like a lot of work to read ingredients and educate yourself about all the ingredient names and keep up with what manufacturers are calling these items. Here is a simple solution. Bottom line, buy more products that don’t have ingredients. This means buying non-processed foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc. Or, buy products with few ingredients that you recognize and are healthy for you. Less convenient? Absolutely. But if we don’t take care of our bodies, where will we live?

Future articles will address other convenience items that we use today like microwaves, anti-perspirant, sudsing shampoo, etc. that may also be contributors to disease in America. Until then, remember that convenience isn’t always in our best interest regarding our health. Back to basics is a good rule to live by.

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