If you grew up in India or England, you probably read a lot of Enid Blyton! The Famous FIve, The Five Find-Outers...I didn't pick a magic number, but found all this information online, and it turned out to be 5 ingredients! I was writing/gathering this data for a friend. A friend, who, like me, needs real science (or atleast significant empirical data) to feel compelled to follow something. Plus, I put this together for my kiddo, who, much like me, will not follow a rule unless he knows why.
Eating healthy can become a habit. My husband's great at it, and I have high standards for my kiddo. And for myself, I am getting there.
In general, each ingredient should be a whole food that isn’t processed. That said it can still be a bit daunting.
Below, I’ve listed five typical ingredients that you should avoid at all costs. And if they are listed first, second or third on the ingredient list of a packaged product, you definitely want to take a pass and opt for something else.
1. Sugar: Refined sugars should be avoided for several reasons:
* They raise your insulin levels and as a result, can depress the immune system, weakening your ability to fight disease.
* Further, they cause weight gain and promote storage of fat.
* The sudden rise (and consequent plummet) in sugar levels in blood could, over time, increase risk for diabetes.
* Lastly, refined sugars provide you with no vitamins or minerals, so in order for them to be metabolized, they draw on the body’s reserves of vitamins and minerals, depleting your body’s nutrients.
Solution: Look for foods that are naturally sweetened (fruit or honey). If you must have sugar, opt for pure cane sugar that has not been refined. That's sold as Sucanat and is called jaggery/vellam/gudd in India.
The general goal is to understand what glycemic index means, and to try and eat foods low in glycemix index.
The information is fairly easy to find. But as a general rule, certain things that're "white" (white rice, white sugar, white flours i.e. maida, and white bread) are really important to make RARELY consumed foods). We've successfully replaced white rice with brown basmati rice (sugam brand) int he past 7 eyars. We love the taste of this brown rice now. White rice still feels great to eat on rare occasions (but I don't miss it anymore, amazingly!!). Idli/dosas are still an issue to be solved! My son and I have that 2-3 days a month...We've also added on other fun grains - cracked wheat, oat bran, quinoa, wild rice, himalayan rice, bulgur wheat, etc. For rotis, we buy the 100% whole wheat tortilla made by Margarita's, at the whole foods market. We freeze and toast when needed. 100% whole wheat spaghetti and pastas of various brands, are easily available everywhere now. These, are a bit unpalatable unless you really hide the wheatiness using tomato paste, masalas etc! For bread, we buy various multi-whole-grain high fiber breads.
2. Bleached White Flour: Unbleached flour is a somewhat acceptable ingredient. However, if the product has bleached flour, stay away. The bleaching process takes a lot of the nutrients and fiber out of the flour. As a result, the product ends up having mostly empty calories, providing little to no nutritional value to your diet. As soon as bleached flour hits the blood, it turns into sugar (with all the side effects resulting from consuming white refined sugar).
Solution: If choosing a wheat or grain based product, consume those that have 100% whole grains.
3. Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil / Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: Hydrogenated soybean oils are created because they have a higher melting point, which makes them attractive for baking and extends their shelf-life. Unfortunately, they aren’t attractive to you or your waist-line. These fats can cause coronary disease and may be linked to cancer. The gig is up with the partially hydrogenated ingredients!
Solution: Don’t consume products with these ingredients. Opt for those that have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead.
4. High Fructose Corn Syrup: In short, high-fructose corn syrup is an unnatural product that is a very, very sweet, highly processed and refined cornstarch. This manufactured substance is sweeter than and digested differently than sugar.
* The body processes it directly through the liver and is then stored as fat.
* Further, there is once again, no nutritional value, giving you only empty calories to digest.
* Lastly, this sweetener may be linked to several diseases including type 2 Diabetes.
Solution: Opt for only natural sweeteners, foods that are naturally sweet (fruit or honey) or natural herbs, such as stevia. My choice is Sucanat.
5. Aspartame/Saccharin/Sucralose/Phenylalkaline: Any artificial sweetener is bad for you. They are unnatural and are processed derivatives of food and/or chemicals that aren’t natural for us to digest. They can cause havoc on your metabolism and your energy levels. Further, there is strong evidence that these are toxic and may cause cancer, as well as other diseases.
Solution: Opt for only natural sweeteners or stevia, a natural sweet herb. My choice is sucanat (vellam cleaned, powdered and sold in packages).
Notice, these five ingredients are all either fat or sugar related. In general, the more you can avoid bad fats and refines sugars, the better off you are. When possible, always look for natural and whole foods. If a food is packaged, there is a good chance that there might be unwanted added preservatives or ingredients that you want to avoid. Ingredients are labelled in misleading ways sometimes, and "whole wheat flour" is not as good as "100% whole wheat flour".
An example of a highly misleading product advertisement that's fooled generations, is this drink called Horlicks, that's extreemely popular. It's loaded with all sorts of unhealthy junk, and is unsuitable for everyone, particularly someone who is sick. Yet, it's hugely marketed to the sick.
Shopping at whole foods, is an easy way to avoid artificial colors and flavors and preservatives used in foods like milk, ketchup etc, as well. They just don't sell anything with those things, in the entire store. Milk is a whole entire other article (antibiotics fed pro-phylactically (i.e. preventively!!) to cows makes it to non-organic milk! Anyone who has nursed, knows that medicines you take go into milk. It's no different with cows' milk. Cows are also injected with a milk producing hormone, RBST, all over the world now. So, unless you buy organic milk, you're consuming this as well.