The 1 Change To Your Diet That You Have To Make

I'll admit that I'm not obsessed with food - I'm not someone that counts calories or obsesses over whether or not to have a biscuit with my tea. However, I am someone that doesn't want to die early because of what they eat, and I don't think I'm alone in that. I believe in eating healthily, and there's a single step that you have to take if you want to do that, which is fairly easy and doesn't even involve depriving yourself of treats or anything that you enjoy, and that's cutting down the additives that you eat.

I've never been a fan of processed food - my parents always cooked fresh food when I lived at home, and it just tastes better. Whenever I eat a ready-meal now I feel slightly sick because I'm just not used to the amount of salt that they put in them. However, when starting to research some of the additives they put in food for this post, I realised that salt is fairly low down on the list of issues with ready-meals and additives in bread and sweets. I'll list some of the most common additives and their effects further down.

Luckily, there's a fairly easy way to cut down the additives that you eat, and really just involves an element of common sense and maybe spending a little extra time cooking. Just eat fresh food - the only thing in a potato is a potato, the only thing in a fresh chicken breast should be a fresh chicken breast. If you pick up a pack of cheese, and you get a list of 20 ingredients there's clearly something wrong here - it doesn't take 20 ingredients to make! If there are more than 3 ingredients in something that I don't understand (or can't pronounce), it goes back in the shelf (especially if they're near the top of the list, meaning there's more of them). Using fresh ingredients does mean that I have to spend a little more time cooking, but it isn't much - it very rarely takes me more than 30-45 minutes to make dinner, and I don't have to stand watch over it the whole time. Trading that vs. ingesting carcinogens every dinner time, I know that I choose.

Here's a list of some fairly scary additives and their effects on your body:
  • FD&C Blue: Previously banned in a lot of EU countries (who later lifted the ban), this colorant causes cancer in rats and further studies have found it to be a skin and eye irritant and allergen.
  • FD&C Red Dye: Derived from coal tar, researchers reported hat this additive may interfere with transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. In 1996, researchers conduected studies that found that even low doses of this additive caused cancerous changes in human cell cultures.
  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole): used in cereals, crisps and chewing gum as a preservative, this additive accumulates in the body fat and is thought to disrupt the body's hormone balance. It's also been shown to cause cancer in mice, rats and hamsters, and it's considered a carcinogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Sodium Benzoate, Benzoic Acid: this additive is added to fruit juices which also contain ascorbis acid, which react to create small amounts of benzene, a chemical that causes leukemia. A 2006 law suit forced Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other companies to reformulate affected drinks - that means you've probably drunk the original (harmful) recipe at some point. 
  • Nonyl Alcohol: in experimental animals, this additive caused central nervous system and liver damage.
  • Polysorbate 80: used in a dairy products and various medical products, this additive causes changes to the womb lining, hormonal changes, ovary deformities and degenerative follicles in mice.
  • Trans Fats and Hydrogenated Fats: These raise the bad 'LDL' cholesterol levels, which increases the rish of coronary heart disease. There is no 'safe' intake level determined.
  • Other colourants such as Tartrazine E102, Quinoline yellow E104, E110, E122, E124, E129 (and plenty of other E numbers) have been linked to hyperactivity and mood disorders in children.
  • Acesulfame K: has been shown to stimulate dose-dependent insulin secretion in rats, and may be carcinogenic. 
There are quite a few more, but I'm sure that gives you a decent idea of the consequences - they don't just make you put on weight; some could potentially cause serious diseases (and have). A large problem with additive testing is that it's often done in isolation, so they will test the effect of that single additive...but that's not how we eat them. They're coupled with dozens of others in ready meals, in sweets and will be eaten again and again throughout the day.

If buying fresh ingredients and making food from scratch will reduce your intake of carcinogens, fats that increase your risk of heart disease and other additives that could accumulate and react to cause various cancers, surely it's worth the extra 10 minutes a day?


Since I've been researching nutrition and diets for this post and others that are still scheduled (such as 'Eating: You're Doing it Backwards' - published on 8th April) I've realised that my diet could do with a bit of an overhaul. As such, both I and Sensei Jim are going to be doing a Food Challenge, starting next week and lasting a month (possibly more). We're going to be:

  •  Eating more protein in the mornings, and ensuring that we have roughly equal amounts of protein in each meal
  • Eating more frequently - 5 times a day instead of 2-3
  • Decreasing carb intake, particularly in the evenings
  • Having a meat-free day each week
  • Allowing ourselves a 'cheat day' on Sundays
  • Cutting down on sugar
  • Cutting out additives/preservatives
At the end of the month, I'll let you know how easy it is, let you know if we feel any better/lose any weight and I'll even give you the best and easiest recipes to try out for yourselves. If you'd like the news and info in your inbox, just subscribe to this blog using the box at the top right of this page, or join our facebook page.

Image courtesy of Joe Pitz

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