The majority of processed foods at the grocery store have several secret ingredients and mysterious additives that we can’t even pronounce. Have you ever spent time reading them? For example Twinkies, so popular in US and similar to a doughnut, has 39 ingredients – a little cake filled with additives.

Did you know that the quantity of food dyes increased from 10 mg per person in 1955 to 60 mg per person by 2009?

Processed foods make up 75% of our national diet so, on average, we are consuming 8-10 pounds of additives on a yearly basis. Although it’s the FDA’s responsibility to check these ingredients, due to lack of staff, this does not currently occur.

There are four groups of ingredients we should be aware of when reading labels on food products.

The artificial sweeteners, including acesulfame K, aspartame and saccharine. Acesulfame K is used in sweets, chewing gum, desserts, sodas and it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar. Some studies with rats have shown that this chemical can cause cancer.

Aspartame, 200 times sweeter than sugar, decreases the acid levels in urine, making individuals more prone to urinary infections. Meanwhile saccharine, 350 times sweeter than sugar has also shown cancer predisposition in rats.

The second group, which includes the dyes and colorings, can make us wonder what we’re consuming, especially when our teeth and tongue change color. In this group we find the caramel coloring, found in various products and producing toxicity in studies with animals. The yellow 5 and 6 dyes can produce allergies and hyperactivity in children; same as with blue dye, which is found in sweets, drinks, animal food.

The third group, preservatives and additives is quite diverse. The partially hydrogenated oils are starting to fade away although they have been used quite a lot by modifying liquid oils to solids and increasing shelf life. These increase trans fats in our body, which is related to heart problems.

We should also be aware of the quantity of sodium nitrates and nitrites in hot dogs, hamburgers, ham, that help maintain color and flavor in these products.

Last but not least, MSG or monosodium glutamate, found in meats, condiments, soups and baked goods can bring about allergies or asthma in some individuals.

Start to read your ingredients when purchasing food products at the store – the more knowledge you have, the better choices you can make to maintain your family healthy.

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