By Joy McCarthy
As a mom and a holistic nutritionist, I’m an avid label reader because there are thousands of packaged food brands laden with refined sugar, artificial flavours, artificial colours, harmful food additives and preservatives.
Due to their convenient nature, the average person is eating a lot of them. However, luckily there are brands like Love Child Organics that make healthy packaged foods with high quality organic ingredients.
While it’s not impossible to find packaged foods that offer a wealth of nutritional properties, what it comes down to is becoming a master label reader and knowing what ingredients to look for in packaged foods and what ingredients to avoid, such as the five I’m going to share with you!
1. Artificial Colours
It’s not often that we question what gives the food we eat the colour it is. Have you ever wondered what gives smoked salmon its perfect pink colour? Or blueberry yogurt it’s blue colour? (Hint: More often than not, it’s not actually blueberries!). These artificial colours have been added to increase the appeal of foods that offer little nutritional value.
But these artificial colours or FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetics) colours, including petroleum-based (coal tar dyes) Red No. 40 Allura Red and Yellow No.5 Tartrazine have been associated with allergies, hyperactivity or the inability to concentrate with kids and have even posed the risk of cancer. Along with their physical negative side effects, coal tar dyes are also made from non-renewable, environmentally unfriendly petrochemicals that don’t support the health of our body or the planet.
2. Artificial Flavours
You might think Artificial Flavours are harmless, but the reality is that they too come with a string of negative side effects from headaches, nausea, brain damage, seizures and more.
These side effects may sound a bit exaggerated for something as simple as an Artificial Flavour, but the truth is, one Artificial Flavour can contain anywhere from 50 to 100 ingredients that don’t have to be specified in the actual ingredient list; most of which, aren’t actually real food ingredients. Instead, you might find genetically engineered crops or synthetic chemicals such as the solvent propylene glycol or the preservative, BHA.
Aside from the health risks Artificial Flavours pose, they can also cause havoc on our taste buds. Since they’re engineered to make you crave more of that specific flavour, it causes people to gravitate and eventually prefer the Artificial Flavour over the real whole food, such as an apple.
3. Artificial Sweeteners
A lot of people assume Artificial Sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, Ace-K and cyclamate, are harmless because they don’t contain any calories. But in actuality, they come with more setbacks than you might think. When you taste something sweet, your brain and body get excited because they’re expecting incoming calories, as sweet-tasting things are often calorie-dense. But since Artificial Sweeteners don’t provide any calories, your body encourages you to continue eating until you get the calories it was expecting. As a result, you end up eating more, and ingesting more calories, than if you had just ate the food that contained sugar.
Not to mention, Artificial Sweeteners are a chemical cocktail of man-made ingredients, contain known carcinogens and can really interfere with your blood sugar levels.
It’s almost guaranteed that you will find a string of preservatives in packaged foods, given that their role is to prevent food spoilage, changes in colour, flavour or texture. Some of the most common ones include citric acid, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, BHA and BHT. There are some preservatives that have been deemed safe but some have been linked to developmental effects, hormone disruptors and being possibly carcinogenic.
It’s reassuring for me as a mom to know that Love Child Organics doesn’t use any preservatives or fillers in any of their products.
5. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were introduced in the 1990s and can now be found in more than three-quarters of processed foods in North American supermarkets. Some of the most common genetically modified ingredients in packaged foods include corn, soy, sugar and vegetable (canola) oil.
The problem with GMOs is that it has led to a drastic increase in chemical herbicides, including synthetic chemicals like glyphosate which has been linked to health problems such as brain tumours, birth defects and ADHD in children.
It’s mind-blowing that although the Canadian government requires strict safety studies before drugs or health food supplements reach the market, there are no mandated safety studies for GMOs. That means GMOs haven’t been tested for their potential cancer-causing effects or potential to cause long-term harm to animals or humans.
The best way to avoid GMOs in packaged foods is to purchase certified organic foods or foods that contain the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal. The number 9 at the start of the PLU code on fresh produce also indicates that it’s organic as GMOs are strictly prohibited in organic farming.
There you have it, five ingredients to avoid in packaged foods. If this topic interests you and you want to stay up to date, there are two resources that I use to stay in the know: Environmental Working Group and Environmental Defence Canada. I hope this helps you make informed decisions for your family.