I’ve put together a list of the top 6 toxins we avoid at home by some simple DIY projects. (My wife, Erin, put together some how-to videos here if you’d like to try them out, too!) Here's our next two:
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
HFCS is a highly-refined sweetener in which corn starch is separated from the corn kernel. The corn starch is then converted into corn syrup through a process called acid hydrolysis. Any time a process with that many letters is used in food prep, I’m hesitant to keep the product as a staple in my diet.
So we’ve all heard the debate… Is it bad? Is it any worse than “regular” sugar? Who should I believe? As a general rule, all processed sugars - HFCS and white granulated sugar – are something to avoid. They are poisonous to the body, causing inflammation, triggering cancer cell growth, initiating premature aging, and increased weight gain. A packaged food containing these ingredients isn’t typically a healthy choice for this and other reasons. If you’re label looking, you might find HFCS hiding under the aliases Corn sugar, glucose/fructose (syrup), high-fructose maize syrup inulin, iso-glucose, and fruit fructose.
More negative news - the Environmental Health Journal reported that a study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (2009) found MERCURY in 9 of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. These samples were taken from 3 different manufacturers including popular brands such as Hunts, Quaker, Kraft, Smuckers, Yoplait, and Nutri-Grain. Mercury is a heavy metal and is considered a potent brain toxin. Need we say more?
Saved by DIY: This may sound vague, but nearly ANY DIY recipe you choose will rid you of HFCS. Avoiding prepared and packaged foods will decrease the presence of HFCS in your life. When you do choose a packaged item, be diligent about the label. No one regulates the term “All Natural”; seeing that on the box might just be clever marketing. Snake venom is all natural too, but that doesn’t make it good for us!
Artificial Food Coloring and Dyes are exactly what they sound like – something isn’t the color the manufacturer wants it to, they “improve” it with dyes. These dyes, originally derived from coal tar, are now made from petroleum. Artificial Food Coloring and Dye are found in most packaged foods - candy, baked goods, cereal, energy bars, puddings, jams, bread, macaroni and cheese, deli meat, frostings, condiments, ice cream, sherbet, sorbet and nearly every bottle or canned beverage.
Fast food is so full of junk – dyes, preservatives, butane, petroleum, flame retardant – that the term food should be taken lightly. (This is a lengthy rant for another blog)
Think the meat counter is safe? Think again – coloring is added to make pork, beef, and fish look “fresher”. I’d prefer if it was actually fresh, but maybe that’s just me?
Artificial food coloring is a broad category. It can be found on the label as caramel color, Red Number 3, FD&C Blue #1, Brilliant Blue FCF, Bright blue, FD&C Red No.40, Ingtotine, Royal Blue, Erythrosine, Blue # 2, Allura Red AC, Yellow 5 and 6, FD&C Green Number 3, to name a few.
Many dyes have been banned because of adverse reactions in lab animals; however, recent studies have shown that NINE dyes currently used in the US raise some serious health concerns. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) study on food dyes, “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet it is still in the food supply.” These 9 food dyes are linked to serious health issues ranging from cancer and ADHD to allergic reactions.
Fun Fact: The European Union (EU) mandated labeling regulations to inform consumers of the health risks of these 9 offenders; the US has done nothing to alter regulations…after 7 years. That makes me sick to my stomach.
Saved by DIY: Choosing fresh, natural foods automatically makes your plate more visually appealing while decreasing dyes in your life. Making your own juice and switching to water are great simple changes to make. Avoiding fast food like the plague (because that might be their “secret ingredient”) and prepping meals ahead of time for grab-and-go convenience can go a long way. You can even use natural foods to add pops of color to recipes. Try mashing up a few blueberries and raspberries for cake frosting – they don’t change the flavor, but can brighten up a white icing!
Why DIY? There are lots of reasons. My favorite? Do-It-Yourself to be sure you know what’s in it (and what isn’t) as a way to better overall health for you and your family. This is Part 2 of 3 - check back next week for Part 3 with more Toxins and Ways to Avoid them and catch up on what you missed last week below.