Avoid these 7 scary food ingredients, author advises
Published Monday, April 30, 2012 4:47PM EDT
When trawling the grocery store aisles on the hunt of healthy foods, most of us will turn to the Nutrition Facts panel when scanning food labels. But author Andrea Donsky says that's the wrong approach.
"We say: start with the ingredients. Because really, if there are any harmful ingredients – which we call the 'Scary Seven' – then it doesn't matter how much fat and calories a product has," Donsky tells CTV's Canada AM.
Donsky has recently released a book called "Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks" along with co-authors Randy Boyer and fellow holistic nutritionist Lisa Tsakos.
She says there are seven key ingredients that shoppers should strive to avoid in all their shopping purchases. They are:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Trans fats
- MSG (Monosodium glutamate)
- Artificial sweeteners (this includes aspartame, Splenda, Ace-K)
- Artificial colours (any type of artificial dyes such as Yellow #5, Red #1, etc.)
- Artificial flavours
These seven ingredients "wreak havoc on the immune system," says Donsky.
The first of the ‘Scary Seven' -- high-fructose corn syrup – often turns up in food we might think of as healthy, such as granola bars. It's sometimes even hidden and listed as "glucose-fructose," but it's the same ingredient.
"High-fructose corn syrup is a cheap sugar that food companies use but that comes at a high cost to our bodies and our health," Donsky says.
"We know that high-fructose corn syrup causes obesity, insulin resistance, which is the step just before Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. So these are important reasons why we want to stay away from this cheap sugar."
Trans fats, too, have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer, which is why most researchers say there is no safe limit of trans fat in our diet. But the problem, points out Donsky, is that a food that says it has zero trans fat can actually contain it anyway.
"There's a loophole in Canada that says if a product has less than 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving, they're allowed to write "zero" on its Nutrition Facts label. So this is another reason why we need to read the ingredients first," says Donsky.
"That's why shoppers need to be on the lookout for such words on the ingredient list as "partially hydrogenated,' ‘shortening,' or ‘hydrogenated.' All three of those terms mean they have trans fat in the product," she says.
Monosodium glutamate is another ingredient to avoid and another ingredient that can hide under other names, such as "autolyzed yeast extract."
"The reason why we want to stay away from MSG is that first of all, it's a flavour enhancer, so it makes us want to eat more," she says. "How often do you sit down with a bag of chips and just eat one?"
While it's nearly impossible to avoid these ingredients completely, especially if we eat out, shoppers should learn to look for these ingredients and avoid them as much as possible, Donsky advises.