In todays world of eating there are so many foods that come into our diets that seem OK to eat until we turn to the ingredients listing and discover a growing list of contents which are hard to understand.
When clients ask me what should they really be looking at on ingredient listings, I usually respond by telling them to find foods that have small amounts of refined wheat flour (or white flour), high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial ingredients.
One thing to remember while trying to find healthy food is that ingredients are listed from the highest amount to the lowest amount. Refined grains and sugars, found mostly in white food products such as white bread, white buns, white crackers or baked cookies and cake products, add no nutritional value to your diet. They are low in fiber and usually so refined they do not fill you up. These foods will give you some short term energy, but will then result in a quick drop of blood sugar, so that you will find yourself to be hungry all over again.
The link between heart disease and obesity with trans and saturated fats is evident. As of 2006, all food labels were required to list all amounts of fats contained in a food product. A trans fat is a manmade fat. It is usually a vegetable oil that has been transformed into a harder form of fat to add to the shelf life of a food product. Trans fats increase the LDL or bad cholesterol in our blood and have also been shown to increase belly fat. Foods which contain trans fats are shortening and fried food, especially chicken nuggets, microwaved popcorn and some peanut butter and doughnuts. They used to be found in processed foods such as chips and crackers, but food manufacturers are working diligently to replace trans fats with good fats such as monounsaturated. Be aware of foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, because this means it contains trans fats. If a food product says 0 trans fats make sure to check the amount of saturated fats, which may be what is replacing the fats, which is palm kernel oil, coconut oil or animal fats such as lard.
Another ingredient to consider is the number of artificial sweeteners, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, flavor enhancers, emulsifiers and preservatives contained in various food products. A lot of these ingredients are there to help make our foods look perfect, keep them preserved and hold their taste. The Food and Drug Administration does extensive research to protect our health. My advice is avoid highly processed foods and use fewer foods with artificial sweeteners. Try a natural non-caloric sweetener like stevia which is a natural herb that is 300 times sweeter than sugar, that way only a small amount is needed.
To cut back on foods which contain the less-desired ingredients overall, stick to a nutritious diet containing foods such as fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grain starches and lean proteins such as chicken, fish and lean cuts of beef. My prediction is organic foods will be the most sought after foods of the future! Organic foods are produced naturally and contain no artificial ingredients that could be harmful to your health.