Stupid Easy Ways to Stop Poisoning Yourself with Processed Food
You know what they say, folks. You are what you eat. And, unfortunately, many Americans eat like crap. I worked with a guy who consumed 4 hot-dogs a day for lunch and dinner. That guy is literally made of hot-dogs.
When you put food in your mouth, are you considering what it will do to your body? For the first 21 years of my life, I ate like crap and felt like crap. I never even thought about what I was eating. I had grown up on a steady diet of pop-tarts, top ramen, mac and cheese, dehydrated potatoes, and a bunch of other processed garbage. I was depressed, anxious, and constantly tired. I just ate whatever tasted good and was affordable.
In 2011, I met my fiancé. His mother runs a health food store in Spokane and he was well-equipped with knowledge about the food industry. It completely opened my eyes to the effects my food was having on my body. I thought I was being healthy before, when I bought low-fat saltines instead of regular. It turned out to be a big, and kind of painful transition, when we moved in together. At first, I was really frustrated because I didn't know how to pick out food that passed his inspection, and was angry to give up my comfort foods like velveeta and hamburger helper. Over time, I noticed myself feeling better, having more energy, and being able to completely leave my anxiety medication behind. A few years later, I'm a straight-up evangelist for healthier eating and avoiding processed foods and chemical additives.
So, how can you avoid lying labels and dangerous foods that are going to make you sick, especially when they make up the bulk of the grocery store?
1. Grow your own food! I've had so much fun starting a fruit and vegetable garden and its extremely satisfying to eat something that you grew from the ground yourself. Its fresher and you can be sure that its grown organically and without chemicals. Fresh, organic produce isn't engineered to be as pretty, but it's tastier and more vitamin dense.
2. If you don't want to grow your own food, shop at farmers markets, health food stores, and co-ops. They often provide healthy and local options, which is good news for your community and your body.
3. Go perimeter shopping. It's a pretty simple concept. Only shop around the outside perimeter of the store for the simple, unprocessed basics. The middle of the store is where they keep all the processed stuff. So, just pretend that the bulk of the store is a poison temptation zone and do your best to avoid it.
4. Read Labels. When you do venture into the middle of the store, look for whole, natural ingredients. If it sounds like it was created in a lab, google it and make sure its something you want in your body. If you look into it, Mountain Dew contains a poison and the antidote for this poison, all in one can. Once you start reading labels, food manufacturers will still try to trick you. Here are some basic things to avoid to feel better after you eat.
I know it says "Diet" on the soda can, but artificial sweeteners can be much worse for you than sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be addictive, detrimental to your brain, and actually cause you to crave more sweet stuff. This makes you drink more cans of diet soda, perpetuating the cycle, and getting sicker and fatter. These bad boys are hiding out in all kinds of food, from baked goods and candy to dairy products and powdered drink mixes. Often times, they will be hidden under the words "Zero Calories, No Sugar, and Sugar Free" These words all translate to POISON.
The worst artificial sweeteners are aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. They can cause headaches, depression, cancer, increased appetite and weight gain.
If you really want to enjoy sweet things and preserve your health, turn to natural sweeteners like honey and agave nectar. Honey is incredibly good for you, and if you buy local honey it can help to fight your allergies. Agave nectar has a very low glycemic index and can help to regulate blood sugar. Even plain old sugar is fine if you don't consume too much of it. The rule with any sweetener, artificial or no, is to regulate how much of if you consume. Sugar was pretty hard to find in nature back when we were hairy tree-men, and we aren't meant to consume a ton of it.
Monosodium Glutamate or MSG
Growing up, I probably consumed dangerous levels of MSG. My stepdad put seasoning salt (which is basically pure MSG) onto most of our meat, which was the main staple of all our dinners. His pork chops were legendary, and it probably came down to the MSG. It makes meat taste meatier and more savory, which excites your animal brain into eating lots of this tasty salty stuff. It basically tricks your brain into thinking your food is better tasting than it really is. If you consume more than a teaspoon of this stuff, you can experience depression, increased appetite, headaches, nausea, dizziness, numbness, sleepiness, and a bunch of other uncomfortable side effects. Some people are more sensitive than others, but its best to just run the other direction if you suspect there is MSG in your food. You can find it hiding in canned stuff, soups, salad dressing, processed meats, and frozen food. Unfortunately, food companies are on to us. They know we don't want to eat MSG, so they hide it under a bunch of different names. Keep an eye out for Autolyzed Yeast, Calcium Caseinate, Gelatin, Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, Hydrolyzed Protein, Monopotassium Glutamate, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Yeast Extract, Yeast Food, and Yeast Nutrient. If your food contains any of these words, you can be reasonably sure there is some MSG hiding in your food. The terms "natural flavors" and "protein fortified" often mean that there is some MSG lurking in that packaged good, as well.
Corn Syrup and GMO Corn Products
The final sneaky bastard in your food is GMO corn, which is in EVERYTHING. Thanks to genetic engineering, which has not been proven safe for consumption, its really cheap and easy to produce corn in America. We process it in every way possible, including turning it into High Fructose Corn Syrup. Pick up any brightly colored children's drink, and it's probably the second ingredient. It's not hard to imagine why obesity is skyrocketing these days. Now, you look at corn and you think, "Hey! That's a vegetable stupid!" Well, you know what? You're stupid, stupid! Corn can be tough to digest (Check yo poop, dude. You know what I'm talking about) and doesn't' provide a ton of nutritional value after it's been processed. Its a really cheap and easy filler to sell to low-income families who have a lot of mouths to feed. But 88% of the corn products produced in 2012 were genetically modified. There's a big debate on the whole GMO thing, but several studies have shown that it's dangerous and it certainly hasn't been proven safe. Hell, if we send GMO products to China, they send it back! If China doesn't think its citizens should be consuming this stuff, doesn't that make you raise an eyebrow? GMOs are straight up banned in most of Europe, but we stuff as much down our throats as possible. Bad! Avoid it!
The moral of this story is, do your best to fully understand what you are putting in and on your body (this includes lotions, soaps, and make-up). If you don't know what an ingredient is, research it. Food companies do not have your health in mind, they are out to make money. The medical and pharmaceutical industries stand to benefit from your illness as well. Take action and responsibility, and stop being taken advantage of. Live a healthier life and good luck to you!