Excerpted from Staying Healthy Shopper' Guide: Feed Your Family Safely by Elson M. Haas, MD
For decades now, the food industry has continually created new chemicals to manipulate, preserve, and transform our food. With the use of chemicals, scientists are able to mimic natural flavors, color foods to make them look more natural or fresh, preserve foods for longer and longer periods of time, and create altered versions of many commonly used foods. Now there are even foods that are made entirely from chemicals. Coffee creamers, sugar substitutes, and candies consist almost completely of artificial ingredients. Such manipulation of our food can have a profound effect on our body's unique biochemical balance.
There are generally five main reasons why chemicals must be added to our foods:
- To improve shelf life or storage time.
- To make food convenient and easy to prepare.
- To increase the nutritional value.
- To improve the flavor of foods.
- To enhance the attractiveness of food products and improve consumer acceptance.
Avoiding toxins in your diet is an important initial step toward enhancing your health and lowering your risk of disease. Those with immediate effects may cause headaches or alter your energy level, or they may affect your mental concentration, behavior, or immune response. Those with long-term effects could increase your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other degenerative conditions.
12 Key Additives to Avoid and Their Health Risks:
- Hydrogenated Fats - cardiovascular disease, obesity
- Artificial Food Colors - allergies, asthma, hyperactivity; possible carcinogen
- Nitrites and Nitrates - these substances can develop into nitrosamines in body, which can be carcinogenic
- Sulfites (sulfur dioxide, metabisulfites, and others) - allergic and asthmatic reactions
- Sugar and Sweeteners - obesity, dental cavities, diabetes and hypoglycemia, increased triglycerides (blood fats) or candida (yeast)
- Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K and Saccharin) - behavioral problems, hyperactivity, allergies, and possibly carcinogenic. The government cautions against the use of any artificial sweetener by children and pregnant women. Anyone with PKU (phenylketonuria - a problem of phenylalanine, an amino acid, metabolism) should not use aspartame (Nutrasweet).
- MSG (monosodium glutamate) - common allergic and behavioral reactions, including headaches, dizziness, chest pains, depression and mood swings; also a possible neurotoxin
- Preservatives (BHA, BHT, EDTA, etc.) - allergic reactions, hyperactivity, possibly cancer-causing; BHT may be toxic to the nervous system and the liver
- Artificial Flavors - allergic or behavioral reactions
- Refined Flour - low-nutrient calories, carbohydrate imbalances, altered insulin production
- Salt (excessive) - fluid retention and blood pressure increases
- Olestra (an artificial fat) - diarrhea and digestive disturbances
- Food Waxes (protective coating of produce, as in cucumbers, peppers, and apples) - may trigger allergies, can contain pesticides, fungicide sprays or animal byproducts.
- Plastic packaging - Carcinogenic (vinyl chloride); immune reactions, lung shock
Dr. Elson M. Haas, MD is the Director of Preventive Medical Center, an integrated health care facility located in San Rafael California. Books he has authored are The Detox Diet, Staying Healthy With Nutrition, and Staying Healthy Shopper's Guide: Feed Your Family Safely.