Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why & how to read food labels....

Today's Post: Tuesday, 4-6-2010

My email today included TheHealingMinute@DrDharma.com email from Dr Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.

His title for it was 7 Food Label lies.

He inspired me to do a similar post and include some of the better ideas and information I found in his email.

He put his best idea second. Since I think it’s his best idea, I decided to put it first.

It sounds simple; but its effects are very good and not doing it at all has comparable or worse negative effects.

The simple way to put it is, mostly eat organic produce and of that, eat mostly a wide variety of nonstarchy vegetables and some whole fresh fruit. And, mostly avoid the kinds of packaged and processed foods that have labels.

He put this idea quite well. So here is a direct quote from his email.:

“There are simple solutions to solving the label issue. The best one
is for you to know exactly what you're eating, such as:
• Eat whole foods
• Prepare your food at home
• Avoid eating packaged or processed foods

It really comes down to you choosing to eat "real" food that has been
minimally processed and tampered with.

Choosing whole foods like fresh organic produce is the way you were
born to eat, and once you start eating this way you'll feel so much
better and healthier.”

He leaves out what kinds of things you read labels to avoid before he talks about reading labels – although he clearly knows what kinds of things to avoid.

I. Refined grains make up a huge part of the diet of the average American. They are both fattening and tend to cause type 2 diabetes. They have a higher glycemic index than sugar so they tend to spike your blood sugar AND insulin—NOT good!

Whole grains are somewhat better if a food ONLY contains whole grain flour.
Even better is to mostly substitute beans, lentils, and nonstarchy vegetables and some fresh fruit for the fiber in whole grains and whole eggs for the B vitamins in their yolks and also eat very little of even whole grains.

But the ideal is to virtually never eat ANY refined grains at all.

There’s another reason to avoid baked goods not baked at home in addition to aiming for whole grains only if you have any concerns about being overweight or worse or thyroid issues.

Dr Khalsa had this;

“Another factor to keep in mind is the presence of potassium bromate,
a dough conditioner found in commercial bakery products and some
flours, which may be related to thyroid issues. This ingredient may be
used even in whole grain breads.”

If you buy a grain food intending to eat a whole grain food, if you don’t read the label you may be buying a mostly refined grain food instead. The three things to look for are either 100% whole grain or only listing whole grains as ingredients AND NOT listing ANY unbleached wheat flour, or wheat flour, or flour that aren’t listed as whole grain foods. The name or the packaging may suggest it’s whole grain; but if the label shows it’s 80 % refined grain, your body pretty much reacts as if it was 100 % refined grain.

II. The second really major thing to look for is the presence of transfats (aka trans fats) AND any hydrogenated vegetable oils. Transfats are heart attack starters as we’ve posted on before. The safe thing to do is to eat absolutely NONE. (This stuff is so bad for you “just a little bit” a few times a month totals enough to harm you after a few such months.)

So, if a food lists any amount of trans fats on the label at all—any amount more than zero, don’t buy it and never eat it voluntarily. A surprising amount of commercial baked goods, and packaged snacks and treats still contain this stuff. Some peanut butter, some bread, some ice cream, some candy bars, and even some kinds of canned chili contain it.

But a reading of zero trans fats on the label is a lie if ANY hydrogenated oils are listed as ingredients. If ANY of that is in the food, don’t buy it and never eat it voluntarily. If a food company lists as a serving size about a third of what most people actually eat on the label and the food tests as having 0.49 grams of trans fats per serving, they can legally list that it has zero transfats per serving even though what most people actually eat contains up to 1.49 grams of transfats! If ANY hydrogenated oils are in it, that’s very likely. So if that’s the case, don’t buy it and never eat it voluntarily.

Another way to avoid transfats is to avoid food that has the kind of cheap oils that are often used in hydrogenated oils such as soy, corn, and cottonseed oil. Those oils are high in omega 6 and tend to cause inflammation so are best avoided anyway. And, as a bonus, if you avoid foods that contain them, your risk of getting the partially or fully hydrogenated versions is less.

III. To the extent you possibly can avoid commercially prepared foods that contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup &/or if they list several kinds of sugar on the label.

Dr Khalsa has a great bit on this one.:

“Hello diabetes and heart disease. Even if the first ingredient listed
isn't sugar, the product may contain more sugar than anything else.
How is it possible? Just add up all the sugars that go by different
names, such as sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and white
grape juice concentrate and watch out.” Dried cane syrup, “Naturally sweetened” and honey are also on this list.

As we posted yesterday, the one to avoid most as it is the most fattening and likely to cause health problems is high-fructose corn syrup.

Even though they are less glycemic than grains, sugars – like refined grains – have no fiber and tend to spike blood sugar and insulin if you eat very much at all. Eating it more then a few times a week tends to make you fat and push you towards getting type 2 diabetes.

And, just like grains, we are descended from people who evolved over hundreds of thousands of years with virtually no intake of this stuff. Fresh and ripe whole fruit and very occasional treats of honey have nothing like the impact on your body and health to compare with several servings a day of foods and drinks containing sugars.

The thing to avoid most is to avoid ANY regular soft drinks. Because they feed you calories in a form that does NOT make you less hungry, you will wear virtually EVERY calorie of soft drinks you drink as excess fat.

Mercifully, this is not an unlimited thing. One estimate is that for every daily soft drink you drink, you’ll be only 15 pounds fatter. The good news is that if you drink 3 soft drinks a day and are something like 60 pounds of fat overweight, just stopping the soft drinks will likely help you to lose 45 pounds of that in just the first year. The bad news is that if you “only” average 1 and a half soft drinks a day, you are about 22.5 pounds or 10 kilos fatter than you should be.

IV. Serving Size is also important. Food companies often list serving sizes for snack and dessert foods that are more like a third of the amount most people tend to serve themselves.

Then if a person has a food or drink with a serving size that’s actually three times what one serving is listed to be, they’ll take in three times as many calories as are listed on the label.

Then eating or drinking this stuff daily besides, instead of taking in the 100 calories listed in a serving on the label, you’ll wind up eating or drinking 2100 calories A WEEK.

Dr. Khalsa had this:

“I'm fooled by this one often myself. For example, there are 2.5
official servings in a 20 ounce soda bottles, (which I don't drink)
meaning that 100 calories per "serving" is really 240 calories per
bottle. Be careful with other products like chips too.”

People tend to dislike wasting things. So this much of a soft drink tends to wind up being ONE serving.

If you know what to avoid, mostly eat real food instead of packaged foods, and always read the labels and edit out 100 % of the worst stuff, you’ll be far less fat and much healthier than you otherwise would have been.

In fact, one of the keys to losing fat and keeping it off permanently is to make cutting these kinds of foods to zero or near zero the centerpiece of your cutting back.

The secret is that by also eating real foods that have fewer calories and don’t harm you, you tend to take in far less calories and less harmful and fattening calories AND you aren’t any hungrier than you were before.

Your body doesn’t sabotage you as it never thinks you are in a famine and you can sustain eating real food.

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