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Remember the castaway approach whenever you are unsure as to whether a particular food would be applicable to your diet. It is the simplest way to avoid processed foods and make choices in keeping with what human beings should eat and have eaten for the past several hundred thousand years. Ask yourself the following;
“If I was alone on an island (a beautiful tropical island, of course) or somewhere in nature- would this food be available to me?”
Think about the food, where it comes from and how it is made, and if the answer is no, then don’t buy it, it really is that simple!
When you go grocery shopping always take time to read the nutrition labels. Compare nutrients and calories in one food to those in another as this is an important task and is the only way you can make sure that you aren’t bringing home foods high in sodium, trans fats, harmful chemical additives, saturated fat and cholesterol!
How To Read Labels
Most foods are required to carry nutrition labels to provide, but despite being regulated by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food manufacturers can, and do, get away with adding misleading information to the labels, often with the specific intention of making you think the food is better for you than it actually is. Claims like “low cholesterol”, “organic’ and “fat free” are not always helpful as they are often take away your focus from the harmful ingredients they may contain.
Understanding Ingredient Listings
Food labels list ingredients in descending order with the most prevalent ingredient first and the least, last. Keep in mind, however, that ingredients that make up less than 2 percent can be listed in any order after the heading "contains less than 2% of the following."
‘Free From ...’ The FDA allows food manufacturers to round to zero any ingredient that accounts for less than ½ a gram per serving. So while a product may claim to be "trans fat free" it can legally contain up to 0.5 grams per serving. While this may seem like an insignificant amount, consider that ingredients are listed based on serving sizes and are usually unrealistically small so as to stay within these parameters. Many food products that claim to have no dangerous trans fats list partially hydrogenated oil in their ingredients label. Partially hydrogenated oil creates trans fats, so these labels may be taking advantage of the rounding to zero option. So if you see it in the ingredient list, don’t buy it. As little as 1 gram of trans fat has been cited as being potentially harmful.
Understanding Serving Sizes
Many processed foods that are packaged as a single serving actually contain two or more servings and are often unrealistic. . According to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990, a food item in a relatively small container may be labeled as a single serving if the entire contents can "reasonably be expected to be consumed in a single-eating occasion." However, we all know this to be often false, as the smaller serving size allows manufacturers to claim lower levels of sodium, fats, calories, carbohydrates and harmful ingredients, so take the time to picture mentally the serving size, as it is very much relevant.
All Natural or Organic- Is This Always A Good Thing?
Food products that claim to be all natural may in fact include unnatural ingredients. The term ‘all-natural’ actually has no nutritional meaning whatsoever and is not regulated by the FDA. As for ‘organic’, think about what that really means. Potassium cyanide, derived from the most natural and wild growing nightshade plant, could be labeled ‘organic’, so could marijuana or hand rolled cigarettes. Bottom line is that ‘organic’ does not mean that it is good for you, so do not drop your guard. However, there are exceptions, organic corn is a better choice than Genetically Modified Corn (which, is corn bio-engineered to be able to take more insecticide that regular corn- not a great thing at all).
What These Terms Mean?
Food manufacturers are known to hide ingredients they know consumers would rather not have in their foods under names they won't recognize. For example, Monosodium Glutamate, which is a big no-no on your diet, is not always that easy to spot, since they change the names so often. So you need to look for all of the following terms, as they all contain MSG:
Misleading Ingredient Claims
Sometimes, foods that claim to include healthy ingredients actually don't contain them, as an example many foods that claim to be whole wheat and whole grain, but are made primarily of white flour with only minuscule amounts of whole wheat. Truly whole wheat products are not at all like what you ordinarily find in the supermarket, but again, wheat and gluten are not great choices for your diet to begin with.
Information contained in this article is not meant to treat, diagnose illness, nor substitute for medical counsel and is intended for purposes of information and education only. Consult your physician before modifying your diet or starting any exercise program. Copyright 2009 by Kevin Richardson, Naturally Intense NYC Personal Trainer.
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