When you grocery shop for processed foods, are you constantly looking at ingredient labels before you add items to your cart? If your answer is “no,” this post is an especially important one for you!
First, the most important question: Why are toxins in processed foods…toxic?
This article by psr.org (Physicians for Social Responsibility) puts it best: “Preservatives are added to many processed foods including breads, cereals, and meat. Studies have found additives are a source of headaches, nausea, weakness and difficulty
breathing. New research has shown that they may damage human nerve cells. We do not fully understand all of the long-term effects that additives could have on our health because synthetic additives are a relatively new invention.”
We are not conditioned–in an evolutionary sense–to handle the bombardment of additives that our bodies confront on a day-to-day basis in this age of processed food. Personally, I would rather not function as a human guinea pig while we all sit around and wait for the more conclusive evidence to surface, re: the effects of toxins (like the preservatives found in most processed foods) on our bodies. If there are healthier alternatives available–and there are!–I’d much rather eat those.
Even though the most conclusive evidence is still not readily available, there is still noteworthy research surfacing, such as this study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: “How food preservatives may disrupt human hormones and promote obesity“
To be clear, I am not recommending the avoidance of all processed foods. Living in 2018, that would be a crazy suggestion! Rather, I am advocating the purchase of the most pure processed foods. Though slightly more difficult to find, they do exist!
Which harmful toxins should I avoid when purchasing processed foods?
I’m so glad you asked!
First of all, many foods contain highly processed vegetable oils like canola oil. Steer clear of those oils and purchase foods containing only the following fruit oils: olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. (Be sure to see my previous post–linked in the text above–for a full explanation as to why these oils are harmful to our bodies.)
If you put any processed foods containing vegetable oils back on the supermarket shelves, you’ll already clean up your diet in a major way. However, there are still other toxins to avoid.
An article on mindbodygreen.com details preservatives you can easily avoid by simply reading ingredient labels:
- BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) & BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
- Sodium Aluminum Sulphate and Potassium Aluminum Sulphate
- Sodium Nitrite/Nitrate
- Artificial Food Coloring/Dyes
(Also, in the same article, see additional toxins you can avoid by eating organic foods, avoiding fried and canned foods, etc.!)
And now for the still unanswered question: Does it really matter if I eat some toxins here and there?
Are toxins okay here and there? Hopefully! I still enjoy my free bag of Blues Terra Chips on my JetBlue flights, and those contain “canola oil and/or safflower oil and/or sunflower oil.”
Do I stock my cupboards at home with Terra Chips? No. Though I used to buy bags of this brand regularly because I deemed them to be “healthy,” I no longer purchase Terra Chips. When I (rarely) eat them, they are a guilt-free “treat”; I do not allow them to become the norm.
Instead, I opt for a brand like Jackson’s Honest that makes a wholesome sweet potato chip containing only non-GMO Sweet Potatoes, organic coconut oil, and sea salt.
Another great example is hummus. Check the ingredient labels next time you’re buying hummus and you’ll be shocked and disappointed. Consider the ingredients in Sabra’s “Classic” Hummus: cooked chickpeas, water, tahini (ground sesame), non-GMO soybean oil, garlic, salt, non-GMO citric acid, and potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness. As a new-and-improved label reader, can you identify the toxins in the popular Sabra hummus? (If you guessed soybean oil and potassium sorbate…you’re correct!)
Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients in Abraham’s All-natural “Traditional Style” Hummos: chickpeas, filtered water, sesame tahini, apple cider vinegar, garlic, roasted garlic, sea salt, citric acid, and spices. Can you identify any toxins in that ingredient list? I sure can’t!
Shopping for toxin-free foods can feel overwhelming at first, but it’s actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. As you’re starting out, look for all-natural alternatives to your favorite food on this website: www.toxinless.com.
Frustrated by the poor selection of toxin-free processed foods in your local grocery store? Consider purchasing a membership at www.thrivemarket.com. For a flat annual fee, you can buy all sorts of highly discounted, high-quality products from reputable brands like Primal Kitchen, Jackson’s Honest, and EPIC. (More good news: shipping is free once you reach a minimum dollar amount, and if you enter the code http://thrv.me/biohackingwithbrooke when you sign up, you’ll save a percentage on your first order!)
When you find toxin-free versions of your favorite processed foods, first of all…CONGRATULATIONS! This is not an easy feat! After giving yourself a pat on the back, please share your findings in the comments.
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!