Do you read ingredients labels? Do you even pay attention to them?
When it comes to the food that we eat – are the ingredients even important?
Many years ago when I worked for a multi-level marketing nutrition company (please don’t hold this against me – we live and learn!), one of my mentors said that he never reads ingredients labels. In fact, he used to put those who did into a basket of sorts, calling them “label readers”.
Now I don’t like it when people slander others using labels at the best of times, but as a newbie learning about nutrition, I figured I should just trust what he was saying and deem it to be true.
However, as time marched on, it didn’t sit right. It left me with a bit of a niggling feeling that ignoring the ingredients was not a good approach to take.
That being said, if you’ve ever taken the time to read a nutrition label, you will know it can be like a minefield. Lots of numbers and hard to pronounce words you may never have even heard of.
Shouldn’t that be an alarm bell in itself?
If we don’t know what’s in something or we can’t even pronounce it – shouldn’t that trigger us to investigate further?
Considering nutrients from the food that we eat create every single cell in our body from immune cells to neurons, microbes to mitochondria … not to mention they help to facilitate every single chemical reaction in our body that quite literally keep us alive – it’s vital.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples to help explain my point.
Below are two examples of Maple Syrup.
The one on the left is 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup, which is precisely what it says when you flick over to the back and read the ingredients label – maple syrup (100%).
Just one ingredient.
The one on the right, even though it says “Sugar Free” (which is bound to lure consumers in to purchase it), when you look closely at the ingredients label on the back it contains the following in order of greatest to smallest by weight.
Water, sweeteners (sorbitol, sucralose), natural flavours (what does that even mean??), thickener (466), salt, acidity regulator (what the?!), colour (150d), preservatives (202, 211).
A big difference isn’t there?
One ingredient versus countless others.
Let’s take the time to investigate further, and look at some of these ingredients to see if they have any potential side effects that we should be aware of.
I will do so with the help of a book, website and App called The Chemical Maze.
Thickener 466 – Sodium carboxymethylcellulose
Risk Level – Safe for most people
Potential Effects – Excess can cause bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, prohibited in foods for infants.
150d – Caramel IV
Risk Level – Best avoided
Potential Effects – Asthma, gastrointestinal problems. Prohibited in foods for infants. Those with corn allergy may wish to avoid.
202 – Potassium sorbate
Risk Level – Caution advised
Potential Effects – Allergic reactions, hay fever, asthma, headache, hyperactivity, skin irritation, stomach upset. Prohibited in foods for infants.
211 – Sodium benzoate
Risk Level – Best avoided
Potential Effects – Asthma, headache, hyperactivity, may damage DNA in cells, skin irritation, stomach upset. People sensitive to aspirin may wish to avoid. Prohibited in foods for infants.
Interesting isn’t it?
So which one would you prefer to buy now?
The 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup or the “Sugar Free” version?
Yes the 100% maple syrup is going to be more expensive, but as a nutritionist I know which one I would choose because what we eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.
Remember we only get one body, and one chance to take care of it so please choose wisely.
Start paying attention to the ingredients list of everything that you’re eating. This also applies to what you put on your skin because your skin is the largest organ of your body and is porous, meaning it will absorb whatever you put onto it.
P.S: I urge you to try this yourself. Grab a couple of items from your pantry and review the ingredients list using the Chemical Maze App by Clicking Here. It’s super easy and it will be a real eye-opener I promise!