Navigating the isles, ingredients to avoid

by Jada-Virginia Surpin

Choosing the right food in supermarkets is a tricky task these days, especially on a budget. However, knowing which foods to avoid will often help you make the distinction between healthy food with good quality ingredients and unhealthy food with poor quality ingredients.

It is only natural that certain companies compromise the quality of their ingredients to decrease production costs and supply cheap products in bulk. However, in food production, this should not be the case. Our health should not be at the mercy of greedy individuals leading Big Food companies. Unfortunately, the laws currently in place clearly have not prevented us from living in an age where products pumped full of artificial degraded ingredients are more accessible than good quality fruits and vegetables. This is the clearest indication that the food industry has gone too far. This needs to stop! Fortunately, once you have discovered which ingredients not to buy, you will have greater peace of mind that the food you buy is safe to eat. In this blog I discuss the most common culprits as well as explaining why they are detrimental to our health and how they can be recognised.

How sweet?

Processed sugar is one of the most common additives used by food companies to disguise the taste of poor ingredients and keep us addicted to their products. Now, whenever we are hungry for lunch, many of us are conditioned to expect a sugar spike. Even though a healthy diet with a moderate amount of simple sugars would ideally maintain our blood sugar at a relatively constant level. High levels of sugar can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes, feed cancer cells and contribute to poor gut health (dysbiosis). Sugar is a nice treat, but is not a necessity in our diet. We can run just as well on fat as carbohydrates! Yet, knowing this, food companies continue to supply our sugar addictions for their own personal gain.

The cost of convenience

Most packaged or “ready to go” foods are processed to some degree, especially if they are produced on an industrial level. Like the chemical industry, the mainstream food industry This means any food that is produced on an industrial scale is no exception. Even some biscuits, crackers or cereal bars, which claim to be healthy on the packaging contain high percentages of processed fat and sugar. I would recommend eating fruits, vegetables or nuts after your meal instead. The omega fatty acids and protein found in almonds are a great way to supplement your diet, a handful a day could go a long way to improving your wellbeing and fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring vitamins, iron and fibres which are all easier to absorb in their natural forms and will energise you throughout your day.

Sweet and deadly

Artificial sweetener is an ingredient which I avoid at all costs. All of the people I have asked about this say it is addictive. Even worse is that all of the four most common artificial sweeteners have been under suspicion of being carcinogenic and insufficient research has been done to investigate these claims. This is a cause for concern. What incentive could food companies possibly have to investigate the safety of a cheap sugar substitute which can be more aggressively addictive than real sugar and that is used in almost every sweet product sold? Sucralose, Aspartame, Acesulfame K and Saccharin are all common examples of artificial sugar which can be easily spotted in the ingredients of food products. Be especially careful of these because they are snuck into even the most innocent looking fruit juices and cakes.

I would like to end this blog with a reminder that constant research is vital in ensuring the safety and quality of the food you buy, this is the only way that you can be entirely certain of buying the right things. The examples I have outlined are just that, they are examples. Knowing the most common additives should keep you safe in most cases, however, it is my hope that you will go on to discover more that you didn’t know of.

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