We eat for a variety of reasons – because a particular food tastes good, as part of socializing, boredom, or just because the clock says, “Time to eat!” Occasionally, we even eat because we are actually hungry. Unfortunately, too many Americans consume foods (processed and packaged) that contain one or more of the following ingredients: enriched wheat, trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) and high-fructose corn syrup. These three ingredients are prevalent in our food supply – yet they are basically “empty calories,” lacking any nutritional value. In addition to the health benefits of avoiding these three ingredients, you can also avoid many chemicals and additives by association.
Enriched wheat: The word “enriched” actually sounds pretty healthy. The whole wheat contains the bran, germ and endosperm. The refined wheat kernel has had the bran and germ removed. The majority of the nutrients are in the bran and the germ. These include many B vitamins, healthy fats, minerals, fiber and more than 99 phytonutrients known to prevent disease. What is left is the endosperm. The endosperm is ground into flour and bleached to produce the popular white flour. Most flour is then enriched with five ingredients: niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. The enrichment of five synthetically produced nutrients from questionable sources, (thiamin mononitrate is derived from coal tar from China) does not make this enriched grain a source of superior nutrition.
Trans fats: Trans fats are clearly not superior nutrition. On the front of a food package, the manufacturer may state, “Zero trans fats.” However, when you look at the list of ingredients, you may still see the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” which is just another name for trans fat. This means even though the front of the package promises zero trans fats, the product actually contains trans fats!
High-fructose corn syrup: Most people are consuming gallons of it in their sodas, fruit juices, cakes, cookies, breads and even health food products. HFCS entered our food supply in the early 1970s. This man-made sugar is exceptionally sweet, so manufacturers can use less. It is also very cheap, so manufacturers have higher profits. HFCS metabolizes differently than sugar and may be responsible for higher triglycerides. It also does not cause the release of the hormone leptin, which makes us feel full. Therefore, a person can eat a package of cookies and several sodas and not feel full, which, of course, can contribute to obesity.
So, what can you do? Avoid all products with these three ingredients. Choose more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. Flavor them when necessary with natural sweeteners and fats that have not been created in a laboratory. Remember, if people have been eating it for hundreds of years, it is probably OK to eat, because humans are still here.