Ditch the Additives, Ditch the Weight

By now it’s obvious that we believe whole, unprocessed foods to be an integral part of a healthy diet, but here’s another reason to ditch the packaged foods-even those that claim to be ‘diet’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘low in fat’: it seems that additives and food enhancers so common in these products actually are making us fat, not to mention causing a wide range of health problems. Yep, it’s true. And many of these additives, because they can be manufactured from natural products, slip right under the radar and into many ‘health’ foods that claim ‘all natural’ status. So make a list of the following names and scan the ingredients of your favorite foods for likely offenders-or better yet, skip buying anything with an ingredient list that you can’t pronounce. When it comes to food, simpler is most often better!

MSG: Ah, this one has been on the offenders list for years, primarily for giving people headaches, but this flavor enhancer, the most popular in the world, is now suspected to cause weight gain, according to scientists. Mono Sodium Glutamate has been shown to cause obesity in lab rats by damaging the appetite regulation center located in the hypothalamus area of the brain, thus causing resistance to Leptin, the hormone that tells us how much to eat. It’s a pretty good bet that if something has MSG in it, it probably is not very good for you, as MSG is typically used to make unpalatable foods more appealing-it does this by releasing more dopamine into the brain, tricking you into a sense of well-being. Besides weight gain, MSG is also thought to cause a rash of other problems including liver inflammation. Since MSG is a natural substance, it can be snuck into many foods you wouldn’t think would have it and this practice is condoned by the FDA-it pays to read the labels. Other names MSG goes by in food products- hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured whey protein, and textured soy protein, spice, and yes, even the words natural flavor.

Aspartame: This is one sugar substitute that is surprisingly still found in everything from chewing gum to diet sodas. Like MSG, Aspartame is an excitotoxin, meaning that it causes the brain’s neurons to be overexcited, causing early cellular death. It is suspected of causing weight gain by destabilizing blood sugar, making us crave sweets, and making us retain water and look bloated. Of course, that’s not all- the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a list of 61 reported adverse reactions including: chest pains,depression asthma, arthritis, migraine headaches, insomnia, seizures, tremors, and dizziness. Time to ditch the diet soda along with the full sugar versions.

Pesticides: Along with chemicals in our detergents and plastics, the pesticide residue on our fruits and vegetables-as well as on the corn used in many packaged products and in high fructose corn syrup-is now being studied and tested with the preliminary theory that it is causing the rapid weight gain seen in the last twenty years. Many pesticides end up in our liver, disrupting the function of our metabolism and endocrine system, especially our thyroids and many mimic hormones that cause the body to gain weight and/or increase appetite. While eating organic is more expensive, the health benefits are numerous-organic food contains more vitamins and minerals than conventional food.