How many times have you been told to read your nutritional labels? Right–too many times to count. But here’s the deal, you read the label, come across these hard to pronounce & have no idea kind-of-words and say to yourself #WTH is that??!!! lol!
Been there!….we understand.
Throughout our journey of creating a healthier lifestyle, we have been reading labels & tracking. As lifestyle coaches & speakers, we’ve been teaching clients & anyone who will listen about the importance of reading labels & ingredients. What we know for sure is reading this information is one thing. Understanding what you are reading is something very, very different. In our efforts to empower you to make BetterChoices, it’s important that you understand what you are reading. We spent some time looking at different items and paying closer attention to those words you just can’t damn pronounce! We all know the healthier the product, the less complicated it is to understand what it is and what’s in it. It’s those processed foods (frozen foods, crackers, cookies, snacks) and certain beverages that have added ingredients that read like you need a degree just to pronounce.
What we wanted to do for you is help you become more empowered about what you are actually consuming. Once you are empowered with the knowledge & understanding, only then can you make a BetterChoice.
Here are just 7 ingredients found on the nutritional labels of some of your favorite processed foods:
• Sodium Nitrates: Nitrates and nitrites are chemical compounds commonly used in curing, which is a broad category of techniques for preserving foods, mainly meat and fish, that involves the use of salt, sugar, or some form of dehydration. There are two reasons for adding these chemicals to processed meats: They preserve the color of the meat & helps reduce the risk of the foodborne illness botulism, but studies suggest, it also forms potentially cancer-causing nitrosamines in your body.
It’s important to note, sodium nitrate is a naturally occurring mineral. It’s present in all kinds of vegetables (root veggies like carrots as well as leafy greens like celery and spinach) along with all sorts of fruits and grains. Basically, anything that grows from the ground draws sodium nitrate out of the soil. Remember that the word nitrate refers to a compound made of nitrogen.
• Enriched Flour: is flour with specific nutrients returned to it that have been lost while being prepared. These restored nutrients include iron and B vitamins (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine). Calcium may also be supplemented. The purpose of enriching flour is to replenish the nutrients in the flour to match the nutritional status of the unrefined product. It’s worth noting, enriched flour is not absorbed by the body as wheat or a grain, in which case your body could use the energy slowly and effectively, but as a starch. That is because the wheat germ has been stripped from the flour; the FDA states that enriched flour cannot have more than 5% wheat germ.
Try replacing enriched flour with whole wheat, oat flour, rye flour, almond meal, brown rice flour, or millet flour. Pasta and bread are the foods that most commonly contain white flour, but pay attention as many processed and frozen foods contain enriched flour.
• Maltodextrin/Dextrose: Maltodextrin comes from treated grain starch, primarily corn or rice starch. It is made up of glucose, a simple sugar that the body uses for fuel. In and of itself, maltodextrin has no other nutritional value than the glucose it contains, so when it is added to food, it is only supplying additional sugar. Though maltodextrin is technically a complex carbohydrate because of it’s sugar content, it’s high glycemic index means it goes through the digestive system super fast. There are 2 instances where this is a good thing: After a hard workout or during a long workout (aka marathons), maltodextrin’s quick absorption by the body and low osmolality (It doesn’t absorb much water) make it a good candidate to give energy while not dehydrating you.
Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible and eat a diet rich in whole foods, especially plants.
• Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Monosodium glutamate is a food additive, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines as anything added to food during its production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is classified as a flavor enhancer; it draws out the flavor of food without adding a distinctive flavor itself. MSG is sodium derived from glutamic acid, according to the European Food Information Council. Monosodium glutamate is usually added to enhance savory foods, both prepared and processed, as well as to spice mixes, frozen foods, soups, salad dressing or any foods that use meat or fish as a base. MSG is also traditionally used in Chinese food. MSG is still one ingredient on the ingredient label to keep an eye on if you’re trying to reduce your overall sodium intake.
• Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is NOT derived from milk as the name would suggest. It is the acid ingredient of sour dairy products, fermented fruits and vegetables and sausages, as well as, salads & salad dressings, confectionery, dairy, baked goods, & beverages. Lactic acid in food products usually serves as either as a pH regulator or as a preservative. It is also used as a flavoring agent.
• Disodium Phosphate: Also found or identified as “sodium salt of phosphoric acid,” it is a common food additive used to enhance a food’s texture, increase shelf life, or to keep a dry mixture uniform during storage. This ingredient is often found in products like jell-o, cooking spray, some meats & canned goods. Understand, phosphates are necessary for good health. They occur naturally in animal-based foods and legumes, and are used in the body along with calcium to add structure & strength to our bones and teeth.
Excess phosphates in the body are removed by the kidneys; however, if unusually high levels of phosphorous accumulate in the body and exceed calcium levels, our bodies begin to consume the calcium stored in our bones. This can lead to brittle bones (osteoporosis). The key, as with most foods, is moderation & balance to healthy living/lifestyle.
• Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6): Peridoxine is a vitamin. It can be found in certain foods such as cereals, beans, vegetables, liver, meat, and eggs. It can also be produced in the lab. Pyridoxine hydrochloride is also known as vitamin B6. It is a water-soluble vitamin. This vitamin is found in high quantities in foods such as bananas, sardines, chicken spinach and avocados.
Pyridoxine hydrochloride is necessary for proper nerve function and for metabolizing nutrients. The essential fatty acid linoleic acid requires this vitamin in order to be digested and assimilated, and release of glycogen from the liver occurs with the help of vitamin B6. Pyridoxine Hydrochloride induces the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats. It occurs naturally in food or it is added as a dietary supplement.
QUICK TIP: Don’t get intimidated when reading your nutritional labels. If there is a word you can’t pronounce, then step one, look it up. Step two, review the product and decide if the good nutrients outweigh the bad ones. If so, go with it. If not, find a healthier or more natural alternative.
As always, thank you for time, love & support. We hope what we have shared has helped you. Be sure to share this info with family & friends.
-Eric & Maleka Beal
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Eric and Maleka Beal are health coaches and co-founders of BetterChoices, a health & wellness company and social community focused on educating, advocating, and promoting better health and wellness through lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness education.