Holiday Family Feasts: 10 Toxic Food Ingredients to Avoid

It is the time of the year for food!  More important it is a week of family, friends and people gathering and sharing a meal together.  All year round parents attempt to guide their kids and teens to healthy habits, however during this week (actually the entire holiday season) it can be a struggle.

Childhood obesity is still a major concern for parents, children and teens.  It is also a very serious concern that we need to take seriously.

We all love food, but what happens when our food turns against us? How much do we really know about the substances we eat every day? New research has showed that we may not know nearly as much as we thought about what we eat and that some of our favorite ingredients may be slowly eating us alive.

Here are the top 10 toxic food ingredients you want to avoid:

  1. Sodium Nitrate: Sodium nitrate is the ingredient used as a preservative in meats that can have severe cardiovascular effects if ingested in large quantities. Sodium Nitrate is thought to cause blood vessel walls to narrow and harden. This damage to blood vessels changes the way the heart pumps blood and can lead to severe heart problems. Monitoring the amount of meat you eat or ensuring that meats are preservative free can help you to avoid the side effects of Sodium Nitrate toxicity. Your heart will thank you later.
  2. Hydrogenated Oils: Hydrogenated oils, like margarine and Crisco, are animal or plant oils that have been infused with hydrogen at high pressures. This is done to prolong the shelf life of these items. Ironically, items like margarine were once touted for their health benefits in addition to their resistance to spoilage. Now, most countries recognize that these oils contain high levels of trans fat and can lead to atherosclerosis, diabetes and obesity. Avoiding deep fried foods and checking packaging for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils as ingredients can help you maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart.
  3. Excitotoxins: What are excitotoxins? Excitotoxins are reactive forms of amino acids found in the body and are present in things like Aspartame and MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). While the fact that these amino acids normally exist in the body may make you think they are perfectly safe, but the reality is that the forms ingested are highly reactive and can interfere with normal neurological signaling, causing migraines, seizures and other neurological problems if ingested in very high doses. Avoiding foods that contain these taste enhancers will help you to avoid these problems, but beware that they exist in many more foods than you might think. Always check the packaging and know what you’re eating.
  4. Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG): Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor enhancer which can cause severe headaches and neurological problems in certain individuals. As an excitotoxin, MSG is a derivative of a common human amino acid, but if ingested in large quantities this amino acid can interfere with normal neurochemistry. MSG is particularly found in canned foods and Asian food, but its use in the US has become a subject of controversy. While the FDA lists the ingredient as safe, it may be a good bet to avoid MSG because it does nothing but enhance flavor.
  5. Olestra: Olestra has been hailed as a miracle ingredient. It is a fat substitute that allows savory foods like potato chips to retain their delicious flavor without the added fat of their natural predecessors. While the critical acclaim has been pouring in, Olestra has recently come under attack. It has been shown to cause severe gastrointestinal problems, including loose stool and cramping. Perhaps more importantly, it has been shown to deplete carotenoids from the blood. Carotenoids are essential in the prevention of cancer and their depletion has been linked to increased risks of development of certain types of cancer. While the FDA has yet to act in restricting the use of Olestra, it might be a good idea to avoid this ingredient until it is better understood.
  6. Caffeine: Humans have been ingesting caffeine for centuries, but only recently have some of caffeine’s negative health effects come to light. If you rely on a cup of coffee or tea to provide you with energy and focus, there is an underlying biochemical problem that you are not addressing. Are you getting enough sleep or exercise? Caffeine can become a problem when people develop a tolerance to its energizing effects and require more and more of the liquid that contains it, ingesting more and more calories in the process. And if you try to cut back on your caffeine intake cold turkey, you will experience some potentially severe withdrawal symptoms that can make your life temporarily miserable. Monitoring your caffeine intake closely will help avoid dependency and prevent withdrawal, but beware how much you depend on coffee in the morning to wake up. It may be a sign of another more serious problem.
  7. Trans Fat: Trans fats are created when partially hydrogenated oil is used in the preparation of fried foods. The effects of trans fats have been shown to be absolutely devastating, and America appears to finally be taking action to curb the debilitating health effects of excess trans fat intake. Americans love fried food, but the trans fat in our favorite fried treats can lead to high LDL cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease or stroke. Many restaurants are now flaunting their 0 trans fat foods, but always check packaging to be sure you’re not eating too much of this potentially deadly additive.
  8. BPA: BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical building block in polycarbonate plastics. BPA can be found in just about anything that is plastic, but it is particularly common in reusable plastic containers like drinking bottles and baby bottles. The health effects of BPA are controversial. Some evidence shows that intake of small amounts of BPA over time may lead to sexual side effects, like nonviable semen in men and depleted ovary function in women. These studies are not conclusive, and other studies have shown that the doses of BPA humans ingest from plastic drinking bottles and the like are so low that the compound plays no role in physiology. So what should you do? Do your own research and decide how you feel about BPA.
  9. Diacetyl : Diacetyl is a compound found most commonly in microwave popcorn. Recent studies have shown that inhalation of this powder like substance can cause severe lung problems. So do we need a gas mask before firing up our popcorn in the microwave? It turns out that manufacturers of microwave popcorn are the ones who are really suffering the tragic health effects of this ingredient, but it’s not a bad idea to avoid breathing in the fumes from freshly popped popcorn or other hot butter substitutes.
  10. High Fructose Corn Syrup: This sweetener is in more foods than you would ever imagine and has been linked to severe health problems, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. High fructose corn syrup is difficult to avoid, but a careful check of a product’s packaging and a general preference for organic foods will help you to avoid this common and dangerously common sweetener.

Contributor: Anna Miller, Online Degree

Last year in Broward County, Our First Lady, Michelle Obama has championed the campaign to Let’s Move and visited our local students in Weston at Falcon Cove Middle School.  This exciting and educational visit inspired the students to get out and get moving and create an active lifestyle.

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier and safer teens!

Read more.