The Treat is a Trick

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Health - justin­nego @gmail.com

Hal­loween may be over but the real hor­ror is here to stay — in our pantry and gro­cery shelves. A lot of com­mon house­hold and gro­cery items may seem un­sus­pect­ing but these are ac­tu­ally the hor­rors we deal with ev­ery day. And while we get to think that it’s fine to treat our­selves some­times, those seem­ingly pristine­and friendly-pack­aged food and bev­er­age items are wolves in sheep’s cloth­ing. So, don’t let the pack­ag­ing and false la­bels fool you. Choose your treats wisely. You wouldn’t want to end up in a health scare, would you?

There are cer­tainly banes and boons to this tech­no­log­i­cal age, prob­a­bly more banes, in terms of the ul­tra-pro­cess­ing of food. The main goals food man­u­fac­tur­ers have been work­ing on for decades are the ex­ten­sion of food shelf life, re­ten­tion and even the en­hance­ment of food palata­bil­ity, to the point of for­mu­lat­ing fla­vor pro­files that pro­mote ad­dic­tion, so con­sumers would con­tin­u­ally buy their prod­ucts. Of course, busi­ness is busi­ness. Yes, I’m not kid­ding. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what does.

To­day, let me share just a few of the com­mon in­gre­di­ents in our food that can send us into a health night­mare if we don’t take enough no­tice to limit our con­sump­tion:

1. The Hor­rific Sug­ars: HFCS and Ar­ti­fi­cial Sweet­en­ers

Af­ter fat has been in the dark light for the past sev­eral decades, the truth about su­gar be­ing the main cul­prit has fi­nally come into the spot­light as di­a­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases sky­rock­eted to be­come among the top killers glob­ally de­spite the “low-fat move­ment.”

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern has been high fruc­tose corn syrup (HFCS). This is a type of su­gar pro­cessed from corn starch. Com­pared to ta­ble su­gar, it con­tains more fruc­tose — ei­ther 42% or 55% — and is in a form that is more quickly ab­sorbed into the blood­stream and can over­whelm the liver.

Al­though fur­ther stud­ies are still needed to be done

on the long-term ef­fects of this type of su­gar, there have been ev­i­dences that this par­tic­u­lar type of su­gar seems to be more harm­ful than reg­u­lar ta­ble su­gar due to its fruc­tose con­tent, which can pos­si­bly pro­mote fatty liver if taken in ex­cess.

And for some­one who eats a lot of pro­cessed prod­ucts, an ex­ces­sive in­take of this type of su­gar is not un­likely as it is found in most pro­cessed prod­ucts such as can­dies, break­fast ce­re­als, en­ergy drinks, store-bought dress­ings, canned fruits, sauce and condi­ments, in­stant cof­fee, and most pop­u­larly in soft­drinks. Stud­ies have not yet con­cluded whether there really is a dif­fer­ence in the ef­fect of ta­ble su­gar ver­sus HFCS to our car­dio­vas­cu­lar health, but they do con­sis­tently say that added sug­ars are ma­jor fac­tors in to­day’s obe­sity epi­demic.

Ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers are an­other hor­ror story. Even with FDA ap­proval, these non­nu­tri­tive (mean­ing, calo­rie-less) sweet­en­ers can ac­tu­ally make di­a­betes and obe­sity worse by pro­mot­ing crav­ings and even headaches and mood swings. If you have to use sweet­en­ers, raw honey is the best choice, along with green leaf ste­via, co­conut su­gar, grade B maple syrup, black­strap mo­lasses, and dates. How­ever, since these are still sug­ars, ob­serve a mod­er­ate in­take at all times.

2. Fear­some Fats: Trans Fats and Re­fined Vegetable Oils

We may still be us­ing the same in­gre­di­ents as our ances­tors, but the way these are be­ing pro­cessed in our mod­ern age is the is­sue now. The worst pro­cess­ing method be­ing done on sup­pos­edly healthy fats from plant sources is the hy­dro­gena­tion of vegetable oils.

Hy­dro­gen is added to these oils to so­lid­ify them and are then treated with ex­tremely high heat, rang­ing from 500 to 1,000 de­grees Cel­sius; all for the sake of shelf sta­bil­ity and un­for­tu­nately, at the ex­pense of our heart and meta­bolic health.

Trans fats are ar­ti­fi­cial fats that lower good choles­terol (HDL) and in­crease bad choles­terol (LDL) and have been re­spon­si­ble for up to 50,000 pre­ma­ture heart at­tach deaths in a year. So, be­fore be­liev­ing a la­bel that says “zero trans fat,” al­ways check the in­gre­di­ents list for hy­dro­genated or par­tially hy­dro­genated oil.

3. Men­ac­ing Meat Glue ( Trans­g­lu­tam­i­nase)

Eat­ing too much meat can cause in­di­ges­tion, but it may also be the kind of meat you’re eat­ing. Think chicken nuggets, syn­thetic crab meat sticks (kani), fast­food chicken fil­lets, fast­food fish fil­lets, burger steaks, fish balls.

Com­mer­cially pro­cessed meat are of­ten cre­ated with the use of a “meat glue” called trans­g­lu­tam­i­nase, which is a spe­cial enzyme that holds pro­teins to­gether, hence the lay name. It serves to put to­gether smaller cuts of meat into larger serv­ings.

A “young” food ad­di­tive, hav­ing been ap­proved by FDA only in 1998, this food ad­di­tive is known to trig­ger leaky gut and a host of di­ges­tion is­sues. So, you might want to think twice next time you think of hav­ing that Cal­i­for­nia maki or chicken nugget.

The les­son here is really to avoid ar­ti­fi­cial and added sug­ars, choose more whole, real, un­pro­cessed food as much as pos­si­ble, and to dou­ble- check la­bels by read­ing the in­gre­di­ents list at all times. Re­mem­ber, the longer the shelf life, the shorter your life. Don’t be tricked by the “treat.”

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