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(BeWellBuzz) In the Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”, the author shares a revelation he garnered from the famous matriarch of today’s food revolution, Joan Gussow, stating: “Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses.”
What are foods that lie?
Just as a woman paints her lips red to enhance the impression of fertility, so food factories use unnatural ingredients and processes to make their product appealing to us.
But let’s be real. Not every red lipped vixen is good for you; not every guy in a shiny Corvette is Mr. Wonderful; and all that glitters is not gold.
Eating by the numbers
We can’t always rely on the color, texture or even smell of a food, attributes that once were paramount for survival. Now, we absolutely must read the fine print, and we’ve got to check the stats on the label.
Foods that lie seem desirable but present unnecessary health risks. White bread is light, fluffy and cheap. TV dinners and prepackaged chicken nuggets are so convenient and “perfect” for the kids…right? Cute little cupcakes, crunchy doodles, sprinkles on ice cream look so dainty and fun, but these may contain ingredients that add no nutritional value, and can actually harm us.
1. Refined Flour and Other Grains
Eliminate white flour as much as possible. Let’s not get religious. If more than half of the grains in your diet are whole grains, your body will be able to handle a taste of French bread dipped in olive oil with your salad. But don’t be fooled. The modern process of making wheat to white flour renders it nutritionally empty, with a fraction of a fraction of its life force remaining.
White bread along with other refined grains such rice, converts rapidly to sugar in the body, spiking insulin levels, and can leave you crashed and hungry soon after. Further, manufacturers actually add small amounts of toxic chemicals by bleaching it with chlorine gas, benzoyl peroxide or potassium bromate.
Along comes alloxan, a byproduct of the chemical processing. You should know that alloxan is used in research labs to induce diabetes in healthy mice.
Eating lots of white flour and refined grain products is associated with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, the development of gluten intolerance and vitamin deficiencies. Some bread makers color white bread brown by adding molasses or other colorants, so check the numbers and read the ingredients.
2. “Health” Foods & Snacks
Always check the label. In this wild world we live in, there is such a thing as healthy food imposters. This is what Gussow was talking about. The package looks so earthy and appealing, but the fine print confesses: it’s a food that lies.
Consider cereals advertised as a good source of fiber and enriched with vitamins and minerals. With all that healthy-hype, most of us take it at face value and bite. But look past the façade to the label and you may find that it’s a great source of fiber, refined sugar, sucralose, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch and BHT, too.
Be careful of so-called nutritional snack bars. These are the candy bars in the nutrition aisle claiming to be high in protein, make-you-full-faster-longer, packed with vitamins and minerals, and the like. Some of them are great. Some popular bars are packed with chemical additives, artificial flavors, unhealthy fats, and weird chemical compounds. I don’t want us to be overly crabby, just wise. Know what you are and aren’t looking to put in your beautiful body, and check the labels.
3. Processed or Deli Meats
“Avoid.” If the meat’s been smoked, salted, cured or contains any other preservatives, it’s a processed meat. That includes deli meats like ham and bologna; hot dogs; and bacon. According to the AICR, “Research shows that any amount of processed meat is linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer.” The AICR recommends that we “avoid” ALL processed meat. The website gives food suggestions to replace processed meats. 
4. Artificial Coloring
Eliminate. Studies have shown a linkage between children with ADHD and artificial food coloring. Most agree that there are other factors, with some more vehemently demanding further studies, believing that food dyes have more impact than we yet understand. Research has shown a decline in ADHD symptoms when children switched to a diet free of artificial colors.
Encyclopedia Brittanica weighs in on the discussion about dyes, which “became the focus of controversy in the 1950s because the excessive use of certain dyes produced illness.” Since then the FDA has “disallowed” at least 9 artificial colors due to proven toxicity, and more are under review. Red 3, for instance, has been proven a thyroid carcinogen and is banned from cosmetics, but is permitted in internal drugs as well as foods. Red 40 may be causing immune-system tumors in mice. Yellow 6 has caused adrenal tumors in animals. It seems this is an unnecessary risk in the food supply, don’t you think?
Rather than trying to negotiate how much toxicity we can handle in our bodies, it’s probably best to avoid potential hazards. While scientists and manufacturers hash out whether a health risk is substantial enough to warrant banning, you and I can just put down the skittles and have a little crystallized ginger or a steaming cup of green tea. The less we “demand” these dicey comestibles, the less manufacturers will supply them. The fact is, this is a choice we the people have to make, and then we’ll see things change.
 Environ Health Perspect. 2012 January; 120(1): 1-5.
Published online 2011 September 16. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1103827
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