Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WANTED: highly processed foods!

After reading my most recent entry about items to buy at the grocery store, Mr. PT and I had 2 interesting discussions.  The first revolving around sale items at Kroger (yellow tag  = sale, therefore, buy it, right?), and the second focusing on the world of processed foods.  Our conversation included the concepts of partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup.  This led to a scouring of our kitchen for items containing any or all of these three digestive conundrums.  To my horror, I found several items we eat on a weekly, if not daily, basis!  I immediately felt guilty for supporting these products and putting their harmful additives into my body.

But wait, is the jury out on this stuff?  Just WHAT is so bad about these things?  High fructose corn syrup just sounds like sugar to me.  And trans fats...that's one of the good fats, right?

Luckily, Mr. PT does his research because I want answers.  I strive to make healthy dishes and buy healthy products, and yet I could still be getting duped by the FDA.

Here's the scoop.  High fructose corn syrup is an artificially altered sweetener that has slightly more fructose than regular table sugar (not a huge amount, but some).  It's cheaper, sweeter, and more stable in foods compared to regular sugar.  Why do people complain?  Well, as the usage of high fructose corn syrup goes up, so does obesity!  Does correlation equal causation?  No one knows, exactly.  But if you see high fructose corn syrup on a label, it means the food has been plumped, not only with more sugar, but highly processed sugar.

Trans fats are the same as partially hydrogenated oils, and they are in a similar situation.  They are artificially altered unsaturated fats that are cheap, increase shelf life, and improve the texture of food.  Why are they bad? These fats have actually been found to increase the risk for coronary heart disease, for the molecules inside them have a new shape that is harder for the body to break down, resulting in clogged arteries.  Here's the real kicker, partially hydrogenated oils HAVE NO NUTRITIONAL BENEFIT.  The National Academy of Scientists recommend 0% of trans fats in your diets.  In other words, don't eat them!

Hold the phone! If these nasty molecules are so bad, how do food manufacturers get away with putting them in so many foods?  I unfortunately do not have the answer to that question (I'm guessing it has to do with politics and money), but knowledge is power, so from this day forward, I am reading labels!

WANTED: Partially hydrogenated oils!

 WANTED: high fructose corn syrup!

On a more positive note, there were some winners.

 Relatively unprocessed grains

 Dairy without weird fats or sugars

Other relatively natural foods

I think it goes without saying that fresh produce is usually a safe option as well.

I know this was a long post, but I felt it was necessary.  In order to better my eating habits, I have to learn along the way.  This can become overwhelming sometimes, and I don't want to turn into an obsessive compulsive shopper.  But I will think twice now about grocery shopping, and I will do my best to substitute my more processed foods with some better options. 

Reduce, don't eliminate...that is the key.

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