Let’s get down to the Nitty-Gritty of what’s in our foods
Here's part 2 in my series based on my journey, it's where the rubber met the road. There have been numerous twists and turns on this path, and I've enjoyed every moment of it because it lead me here to this amazing place. Along the way I learned some unsavory information while twisting and turning jars, cans, and bags to scour labels. I’m now emphatic about knowing what we’re eating and how we’re choosing to fuel our bodies. Long-term and short-term consequences to your health are easily preventable if you make the right decisions, and you can start right now.
Let's start with Partially Hydrogenated Oil (PHO) and trans fat. First a PHO is created during a process where normal fatty acids are altered by heating oil to an extremely high temperature and then injected with hydrogen molecules. So a seemingly healthy oil is converted to a harmful one. The result of this process is a dense product that becomes a solid at room temperature. PHO was developed in the early 1900’s to replace butter or lard because it was cheaper to produce, had a longer shelf life, and improved the texture of foods - a throwback to the days of Crisco and that oh-so-flaky pie crust. Our bodies don't recognize PHO--in fact it's been likened to eating plastic. Trans fat, which you find mostly in the foods that contain PHO, is a fatty acid converted to the trans form. Here we're referring to the artificially derived trans fat.
There are foods where trans fat is naturally occurring: beef products, milk products, and vegetable oils.
Since a PHO is not processed naturally, our bodies don't recognize it as a real food, and you may find the outcome manifests itself in harmful ways leading to disease, discomfort, and other long-term health effects. Conversely, our bodies do recognize and assimilate real, whole foods like eggs, apples, broccoli, and kale all in their purest and raw state. If you’re able to resource these close to home, even better.
PHO and trans-fat are found in processed, packaged, and convenience foods like snack cakes, granola bars, crackers, snack foods, and some peanut butters. Sometimes I'm shocked by the foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil, you may be too.
Be aware: even if the label claims 0 trans-fat in the Nutrition Facts, there may still be a small amount present. At the time of this writing the FDA does not require food manufacturers to list trans-fat under nutritional information if there is less than .5g per serving.
Luckily you can identify partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients, so be sure to read your labels! Original Coffee-Mate™ is a perfect example. Many of their flavors contain partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils and many of the flavors indicate “No Trans Fat,” but the proof is on the ingredient list. Also, pay attention to the recommended serving size, most people I know use more in their coffee. Thankfully there is now an alternative from Coffee-Mate, Natural Bliss, which only contains natural ingredients so try this or the real stuff like milk, or half and half.
In 2013 conversations of new legislation to remove PHO and artificial trans-fat from our food supply transpired. This was such good news, however scientists and food companies have already started scrambling to find replacements like Fully Hydrogenated Oil (FHO). FHO has the same characteristics as PHO; it is cheap, extends the shelf life, and improves the texture of food. And some argue there are benefits, because even though the hydrogenation increases the amount of saturated fat, most of it is stearic acid which does not raise LDL the bad cholesterol. From my perspective, there is currently still not enough information about FHO. It's still a process to convert healthy oils to harmful ones. FHO still goes through a manufacturing process where the healthy, natural oils are altered to resemble a butter-like substance minus the trans-fat. Because of the consistency, they typically mix it with a PHO which is referred to as interesterification. Currently there are no regulations on interesterification.
To be clear, the less you do to my food the better. While I do appreciate science and the miracles created, please don’t alter the foods I eat. I choose to eat foods in their most natural state because I want my body to recognize them, to feel good, and stay as healthy as possible.
It would be impossible for me to list all of the foods that contain these harmful chemicals; admittedly I’m not even using the word “ingredient” to refer to a PHO. Here is a brief list of items I used to eat, but now I avoid buying them:
- Enriched packaged white bread
- Enriched white hamburger and hot dog buns
- Saltine crackers ™
- Macaroni and cheese
- My beloved pop tarts (That was a heartbreaker!)
My recommendation: Eat whole foods in their purest form - not packaged, processed, or convenience foods - just the simplest most basic form of food. When choosing what to eat daily consider balancing food groups for optimum benefit, health, and satisfaction.
For breakfast try a savory smoothie, or sourdough bread with smashed avocado, lemon, and salt & pepper. Lunch can consist of a salad with a healthy protein, olive oil, freshly squeezed lemons, and salt & pepper. You can even try putting an egg on it if your personal food choices allow. Healthy grains and roasted veggies dressed in a tahini sauce is a delicious option for dinner. There are limitless possibilities for each meal, it may take a moment to shift away from the foods you were once used to and find healthier options. Believe me, it’s totally worth it!