How do you know when foods are unsafe for your health?

Foods on our plates may contain sawdust and we do not know. How?

 food labels

image from: Feeding My Kid


Mark Hyman, MD, director of Center for Functional Medicine of Cleveland Clinic, explained how this could happen without us knowing it.


Low-carb diet is in and it is a booming “business.”  And do you know the connection between a wood pulp and low carbs?

Cellulose is an indigestible fiber starch is one of the major ingredients in processed low-carb meals. And here is the catch – the other term for cellulose of sawdust! Cellulose provides us with low-carbs that food manufacturers  would mention on labels. Take note, cellulose contains no nutrition – and there are times when it has plenty of gas. Remember, termites have the capability to digest wood but human beings cannot.

And that how food industry applies trick in their marketing methods to confuse and draw us to believe that we are eating and doing the right things for us and our health. The motivate us to buy their new”healthy food” products which can actually harm our health.

Labels can confuse us with those unsafe chemically-altered fats that they add in almost each processed food that can cause severe health problems like heart diseases, obesity, diabetes,, cancer, and even dementia. Trans fats are unsafe for human and therefore, should not be in our plates. Do you know that food manufacturers you can now buy junks with “zero” trans fats but the labels would mention “hydrogenated fats” – in fine prints. And well, unless you know chemistry, you would know that “hydrogenated fats”  are actually trans fats!

Is it a false advertising method? Hmmm… not exactly. There is a law that food manufacturers can cite that their food products are without trans fats when they contain only less than 0.5 grams of trans fats for every serving or one-half cup. But notice that most people eat the entire box or food packs and they are not usually one serving. Most of the food packs contain between two and four servings which are, of course, never disclosed. Consequently, you are eating plenty of more trans fats for each snack or meal – unknowingly.

Here is what you can do: if the label list any ingredients that you do not know or recognize, do not get it.

Another fishy thing in our laws for food labeling permits food manufacturers to store huge volume of printed labels even if they do not cite the amount of trans fats in their food products. This only mean that these food companies may have printed labels worth of one year production (where they can use on foods with plenty of trans fats for one whole year and we do not know it). While this is what is actually happening, we believe that we are eating “zero” trans fats but we are taking loads of trans fats.

 food labels

image from: Natural Knowledge 24/7

Remember that time of low-fat craze where Americans fell for it? We eat boxes of high-sugar but are “fat free” Snack Well cookies but were certified as “heart healthy” by the American Heart Association or AHA because labels said they are “fat-free.” Even that can of cola could be legally certified as “heart-healthy” by AHA because labels cited that it is “fat-free.” And we thought these government agencies can completely protect us. Some advocates believe that government protects food industry instead of ordinary consumers.

We are made to think that if we buy processed foods or packaged foods with labels “low-carbs,” trans fats free,” or “low fat,” we are doing the right thing. But the harmful ingredients contained in processed foods come in many ways and forms.

The best way to buy and eat foods is easy. We need to learn how to “read-between-the-lines” on the food labels that they put.

Be a sharp reader of labels. Label have ingredients and particular (take note – not all) nutrition details and if the label cites any ingredient that you do not know or recognize, do not get it. Here are some helpful guides to become smart on reading labels.

Be smarter than advertisers.  The front label is the food marketing at its best. It is designed to attract consumers into an emotional purchase. Most of these advertisements have exaggerated claims.

Look into the order of ingredients. The most abundant ingredients are listed first, while other ingredients are in descending order by its weight. If the real food is placed at the end of the label, and salt or sugar are placed in the beginning of the list – be on your guard.


Check for quality ingredients. These days, organic quality whole foods are available in boxes, packages, and cans, and see what is NOT contained on the food label. See if it contains additives that are considered harmful. If the food product is high in fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, stay away from it. The amount of trans fats can be deceiving, and therefore we have to see the actual ingredients.

Check for any ingredient that do not agree with you or you have allergic to. Identify those ingredients that you are sensitive or react to like eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, gluten, and the like. Be wise because these ingredients are usually hidden in the foods that we least suspect.

See if there is any “functional food ingredient” added to the food products. This may include active cultures that are added to high-sugar, vitamins and minerals (added to gumballs?), and high-fat yogurt.

Research ingredients that are not familiar. You may research online or ask credible professionals regarding those ingredients that are uncommon and you do not know. These may be Quorn, carmine, diacylglycerol, and the like. Go to credible and reliable online sources. Usually these are government or educational websites that end in “.gov”, or “.edu”, instead of “.com”

Then, ask yourself if your great grandmom would have served you this kind of food. They would have served only real foods. In understanding better nutrition labels, learn labels like low GL and high PL. GL or Glycemic Load refers to the measure of how fast a food enters your bloodstream. The lower the GL, the better will be your health. Phytonutrient Index (PI) is the amount of colorful plant pigments and substances in foods that aid in preventing diseases and promote good health. In other words, get low GH and high PI.

Let us learn about the link between this GL and PI.with these questions formulated by Dr. Hyman as we read nutrition labels:

“Is this a typical serving?”

A cereal label may have nutritional profile of a ¾-cup serving when your normal portion is actually 1-½ cups. To make it worse, the label may claim that it has two or more servings, when most of the consumers eat the whole amount in the bottle or container. Just think about those five people sharing one pint of Hagen Daaz ice cream?

“Are carbohydrates high GL or low GL?”

Just take note that the total amount of carbs is less significant than where these carbs come from. If they are contained in foods with low GL and high PI, then they may have different effect on your appetite and weight, compared to foods that are absorbed quickly, but contains less nutrients and fiber.

“Where’s the fiber?”

A very significant element that can determine GL and its presence in the foods will provide you with a hint about the PI of the foods. Most of the packaged foods have no fiber. Some healthy ingredients like spices, oils, and herbs have no fiber. For convenience foods like smacks, entrees, or soups contain no fiber, return them on the shelf.

“What are the total carbs?”

The kind of carbs is very significant. When carbs come from whole plant foods rich in fiber (low GL), their effects will be very different from foods without fiber. The same amount of carbs from one can of beans and from one can of cola can affect the body in many different ways.

“Where are the good fats?”

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and Monounsaturated fats should prevail. It should contain less amounts of saturated fats and zero trans fats, which are present on food labels starting 2006 and following.

Here’s the catch. Omega-3 fats are seldom listed separately on food labels but listed as part of polyunsaturated fat category. Other polyunsaturated fats such as safflower oil and corn oil are less healthy but may display in this section of the label.

Well, rules may sound complicated but when we start reading-between-the-lines, we can learn to analyze food labels and the companies that they come from. We will be able to get that feel for what is healthy and what is not. The kind of mind and body we will have in the years to come, say ten years from now, will show what types of foods we take.

Remember the harmful ingredients in processed foods come in many forms – sometimes in very attractive forms.

Are foods not safe anymore to eat? Of course they can still be safe. Whenever you can, and I hope most often, prepare foods with whole and real foods rather than processed foods.

Enjoy meals with the people you love!


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