Know Your Ingredients: Avoid These 6

We have learned how important it is to know what ingredients are in the food that we are purchasing for our family, and it’s important to look at every single ingredient before you purchase a product. That may sounds overboard, but remember, the food we eat has the potential to be medicine or poison—so we must choose the food we feed our family wisely.

Here are six rules to follow when reading ingredient labels and determining what to feed your family:

1.  Avoid artificial sweeteners in the ingredient list, which may be as bad or worse for our bodies than sugar. Some common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose.

2.  Avoid the unpronounceable! Whole foods are typically easy to recognize and pronounce. Chemicals, dyes, and preservatives tend to have long names that are hard to pronounce and often unrecognizable. If it takes you a couple of seconds to sound out a word or you don’t recognize what it is, most likely you should stay away from it.

3.  Limit/avoid safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, cottonseed, and mixed vegetable oils. These oils contribute to oxidation and free radical damage, processes that lead to cell damage. Unfortunately, they continue to be the main choice for restaurants and fast food because they are cheap. These oils are also high in omega-6 fats, which can lead to chronic inflammation—a root cause of most chronic disease.1 I use coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil instead.

4.  Beware of processed grains. If your family eats grains, ensure the food you purchase contains the whole grain. I recommend that you reduce your consumption of foods made with flour, even whole-wheat flour (including bread, crackers and pretzels). Both whole-wheat flour and white flour cause spikes in blood sugar that can be even higher than plain table sugar. If you choose to eat grains, try to eat them in their whole form, where the grain is intact or simply cracked into a few large pieces, such as with brown rice, quinoa, millet, and bulgur wheat.

5.  No partially hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated oils are a kind of trans-fat—formed when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats, such as margarine and shortening. Partially hydrogenated oils are used by food manufacturers to improve the texture, shelf life, and flavor stability of foods. These fats contribute to an increase in and oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease and inflammation in the arteries, and has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A good rule of thumb is to stick with the real deal, like real butter, as opposed to the imitation product.

6.  Focus on real food ingredients! Choose ingredients derived from real vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. It is important to me that I recognize the foods that are listed in the ingredients.

Now you know six easy rules to reading food labels. It may take time to build confidence in knowing what you are reading, but forming the habit of reviewing every ingredient list is a very important first step. A good general rule is: the fewer ingredients the better.