Discovering the ingredients of our food – By April

One of the most valuable things I learned while working at the women’s gym years ago was about nutrition and the way our bodies process our food.  I never really thought much about what went into the food I was eating.  Cheese could come in powder form within a dulled silver bag and I would eagerly dump that package of happiness into my already melted combination of milk and butter.  I would slowly stir my sauce and watch the electric orange color of the cheese slowly fade into a golden and buttery sunset over the ebony darkness of the pan.  Oh Kraft, you’ll always hold a special place in my heart.  Literally, because I bet a few of my overweight pounds are thanks to my adoration of Macaroni and Cheese.

My nutritionist taught me the art of reading labels and how our bodies respond best to products with the LEAST ingredients.  As in applesauce that is made of apples or peanut butter that is made from peanuts.

For example,  here are the ingredients of a popular peanut butter brand: ROASTED PEANUTS, SUGAR, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (COTTONSEED, SOYBEAN AND RAPESEED) TO PREVENT SEPARATION, SALT.

The same company that makes that particular peanut butter also makes a “natural” version that lacks the funky hydrogenated oils but still has added sugar and palm oils.  If you spend some extra time checking out the other brands, you’ll probably find a peanut butter than only consists of peanuts.  It might cost more but it could end up helping your health which to me, is very worth the extra $1.

Once I learned to cut out the products in my life that had ingredients like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, my health dramatically increased.  I suffer from heartburn and on the days I manage to go without anything that has either of these food additives, I don’t get heartburn.    Plus, once I lost weight the heartburn was one of the quickest things to go as well.

I also discovered that products made with aspartame and other sugar substitutes seemed to have a direct correlation to these weird headaches I would get.  They were very particular and unlike any other headache I had before.  I noticed this problem when I was drinking a light lemonade every day for four days in a row.  While I do get headaches often, this just seemed wrong. I finally figured out it was because of the lemonade I was drinking and the artificial sweetener that was replacing the sugar.  There has been times when I had eaten baked goods or even broccoli salad unknowingly that this particular sugar substitute was included and would end up with a raging headache soon afterwards.

Learning about the ingredients in my food opened up a whole new world of obsession for me.  I would say knowing what I am eating is one of my top priorities in life not only because it greatly affects my health but because the direction the American food system is heading just plain FREAKS ME OUT…

::For the sake of not writing 1,000 words right now I am biting my tongue on everything I could say on genetically modified food::

With the help of amazing books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and the education I have gotten from my nutritionist and sustainable agriculture classes, I have a very deep passion for learning about our food.  My passion is so strong that I plan on volunteering next summer to do some WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) around Europe so I can further learn about our food. For those of you who don’t know, I am working towards a degree in environmental studies and sustainable agriculture so I look forward to being able to take my passion even further.

I tend to go off on this topic as you can plainly see so I would like to start writing some separate blogs about a few of the things I mentioned like high fructose corn syrup and the genetically modified foods.  My environmental studies courses expose me to a lot of worthy information that people just aren’t being told and I would love the opportunity to share that with all of you.

Have you ever had any health experiences when it comes to the foods you put into your body?  Does anyone else get heartburn from high fructose corn syrup products?  How about headaches from artificial sweeteners?

I’d love to know!

Peace and Monkeys,