I went to the grocery store today, determined to be a label sleuth, and bring home healthier food for my family. I have to say, it was a lesson in near-futility. In my quest to limit foods with unpronounceable ingredients and/or high fructose corn syrup, corn or soy as a primary ingredient I made sure to wear my glasses so I could read the fine print. What I learned from this experience is...unless we plan to completely stop eating, there is just no way to entirely cut these things from our diet. I was forced to put a lid on my "all or nothing" mentality, and vow simply to choose items with the least amount of unpronounceable or unhealthy ingredients.
Generic vs. Name Brand?
I did learn something fairly interesting; I was shopping at our local grocery store, and, after comparing labels diligently on peanut butter and mayonnaise, found that the store brand of both items contained substantially less of the "bad" stuff than my old standbys, Jif and Hellman's. Sad, but true. Those particular generics were also significantly cheaper, but I can't give the final thumbs up until I've tasted them. I'm wondering if all the stuff we "shouldn't" be eating is what makes things taste good! Anyhow, I've shifted my expectations a bit, and am now going to simply read labels and try to make the best choices available while edging away from highly processed anything.
Fructose vs. Sucrose
I'm kicking around the idea of making a personal commitment to completely do away with high fructose corn syrup in my own diet for a whole month, but haven't quit waffling about it. I'm sure everybody's seen the commercials (sponsored by the corn industry, of course) where one person says they don't want to eat the popsicle because it contains high fructose corn syrup, and the other one claims it's identical to "real" sugar-this is not strictly the truth. Food and beverage manufacturers began the switch to HFCS in the 1970's after discovering processed fructose was not only cheaper to make, but nearly 20 times cheaper than table sugar. This switch has drastically changed the way Americans eat, and today the number one source of calories in the U.S. is high fructose corn syrup. Half the participants in a study group were given soft drinks containing HFCS showed greatly elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Even though HFCS is chemically similar to table sugar (sucrose) the difference occurs in the way HFCS is processed, causing it to metabolize to fat in your body much more quickly than any other sugar. Because most HFCS is consumed in liquid form, the negative metabolic effects are magnified. High fructose corn syrup has been definitively linked to diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. When you consider the large percentage of America's population who are overweight, you have to wonder if the HFCS products have something to do with that. The more vocal critics of HFCS argue it contributes to weight gain by affecting the normal appetite functions and that it may be a source of mercury, a known neurotoxin, while proponents continue to tout its safety.
The Jury is Still Out
As a further insult, the corn from which HFCS are made is most all genetically modified, which, of course, brings its own set of health concerns. Sodas are the primary source of HFCS; since I'm not much of a soda drinker, that's not a big concession for me, however lots of other products contain this potentially harmful stuff as well. (bread, cereal, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurt and soup, to name a few) Consider this quote from Mike Adams, and you, like me, will likely be filled with dismay.
"Diabetes is caused by the consumption of soft drinks, high fructose corn syrup, refined white sugars, refined white flour, processed grains, processed carbohydrates and other processed foods. Subsequently, if you teach people to stop eating these foods, you in essence destroy the diabetes industry. And yes, it is a hugely profitable industry, just like the cancer industry." Mike Adams,The Seven Laws of Nutrition
Kathryn Griffin is a partner in J.T. Liberty Solar and has written extensively on solar as well as environmental and sustainability issues. If you'd like further information on turning your home into a model of self-sufficiency, check out http://www.thesolarpowerinstallers.com. If you are interested in reading about how to survive the coming hard times, take a look at http://www.surviving-hard-times.com.