How about if I very cleverly package it with the word “Organic” on it? “Vegan”? “Gluten-Free”? “Reduces Appetite”? “No Sugar Added”? Oh oh, I know… “Fat-Free”!
We are all taught, from a young age, that heroin–no matter where you buy it, how much it costs, and how cleverly it is packaged–is garbage. When it comes to what we eat, we have a harder time distinguishing between what is healthy, and what is garbage.
As a general rule, if you would be extremely concerned if your dog got into it, and ate it, then you probably shouldn’t be feeding it to your kids either. It might also be a good idea for you to pass on it too. All jokes aside, thanks to brilliant marketing, it is getting harder and harder to know how to properly read a food label, and then accurately assess if it’s nutritious, or toxic.
For the most part, real food is not preserved in a package, which eliminates the space to write these tricky little labels, or a list of ingredients. Real foods (healthy foods), have a short shelf life; are one ingredient long; can’t be stored in a cardboard box in your pantry for months; and are unrefined, whole-foods. Thus, if you are reading a label, then that is a good sign, that it does not qualify as healthy.
That said, in this day, packaged foods are so popular for a reason. They are convenient, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even I have some packaged foods in my cupboard at this very moment. When I buy these foods, I read the labels, and do my best to determine which of the options, in my opinion, is less toxic to my body. Words like “natural” or “calories” have little to do with my decision. To me, it’s all about the quality and quantity of the actual ingredients. This post, which is #5 out of 5 Simple Ideas That Completely Changed the Way I Eat, is meant to help make reading these labels, a little less deceiving.
Each food in it’s natural unrefined state, contains in that food, all the nutrients needed to properly metabolize it. For example, raw sugar cane, before separated into two parts–refined white sugar and blackstrap molasses–can actually be considered healthy. Our body recognizes it; can metabolize it; and readily obtain nutrients from it. White sugar is devoid of it’s nutrients, so in order to digest it, it must steal from your body all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids required to metabolize it. Furthermore, refined sugar is robbed of it’s fibre. Fibre is good because it slows down the rate at which a food is digested. This is important because it reduces the likelihood that the sugar will be released rapidly into your bloodstream–causing a spike in blood sugar and insulin (the fat storing, stress hormone) release. My top three choices for added sweeteners are, dates (a whole food), maple syrup (often not raw) and honey (not vegan), simply because consuming these doesn’t mean my body has to be pillaged of it’s own nutrients in order to digest it.
Then there is also the “5 ingredients or less” rule. The rule is…don’t buy anything that contains more than five ingredients. Again, 5 ingredients or less doesn’t classify it as healthy, but I do think it’s a good idea to avoid most products that have more than 5 ingredients in it. Greater number of ingredients can mean more processing, and greater toxic load. Especially, if it sounds like one or more of those said ingredients were made in a laboratory.One of these things just doesn’t belong here. Can you guess what it is?
A-is for Apple
B-is for Brazil Nut
C-is for Calcium CaseinateAnd what about here?
Let’s start giving ourselves more credit… Identifying healthy, is this easy. Go with your gut, not a fancy label. While it’s true, when buying produce organic is often a better choice, that doesn’t apply to everything. Don’t be a sucker for marketing, fancy brown paper bags, and expensive price tags. A creative campaign never trumps the extraordinary intelligence of Mother Nature.
Sending love from Sydney,