Health Advice Paula Owens

If your goal is to lose weight, look and feel your best and live a healthy, vibrant life, be aware of the damaging additives and synthetic chemicals in the foods you buy and eat. Seventy-five percent of the average American diet is from processed and packaged foods, which equates to approximately 10 pounds of additives eaten annually.

The majority of packaged and processed foods contain ingredients that are harmful and cause adverse health conditions and complaints. Become an avid label reader and get into the habit of reading the list of ingredients. Familiarize yourself with following ingredients.

1 High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the No. 1 source of calories for most Americans. Aside from weight gain, HFCS has been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Type 2 diabetes, inflammation and several other diseases. In addition, products with HFCS contain high levels of mercury. You’ll find HFCS in processed and fast foods, fruit drinks, sodas, syrupy coffee drinks, chewing gum, baked goods, and in hundreds of other food items.

2 Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are found in thousands of packaged and processed foods (breakfast cereals, cookies, chips, crackers). Trans fats are proven to cause heart disease and contribute to obesity. Restaurant food, especially from fast food chains, often serve food loaded with trans fats. Consequences of a diet high in trans fats include decreased IQ, increased inflammation, immune dysfunction, neurological damages, obesity, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

3 Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a chemical food additive that has been associated with seizures, rashes and hives, depression and panic attacks, migraines, permanent damage to the endocrine system, linked to obesity and other serious disorders. It is linked to reproductive disorders and infertility.

Especially harmful to developing fetuses, children and the elderly, MSG is an excitotoxin that overexcites brain cells to the point of death. MSG is found in frozen meals, soups, chips, and numerous packaged food items. MSG is used in many foods as a taste enhancer and has over 50 different names that are used to disguise it on food labels.

4 Processed soy. Before you mix up a soy protein shake, snack on a soy protein bar or pour yourself a glass of soy milk consider this: processed soy inhibits the thyroid, is deficient in amino acids, is estrogenic, is toxic to infants, and shrinks the brain. There are some redeeming qualities to soy, however, these are found primarily in fermented soy products only. If you want to reap some of the health benefits from soy, stick to natto, miso, tempeh, soybean sprouts and pass on ALL processed soy milk, tofu, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy protein and other soy junk foods that are disguised as health foods. In addition avoid any product containing soybean oil and soy-based ingredients. Over 90 percent of all soy in the U.S. is genetically engineered.

5 Sugar is more addictive than cocaine, altering brain, behavior and psychological function. Sugar is pro-flammatory, damages skin collagen and promotes wrinkles, increases cravings and appetite, causes vitamin B and other nutrient deficiencies, joint degeneration, Type 2 diabetes, ADHD and other behavior disorders, stimulates cholesterol synthesis and weight gain.

Avoid items that end with –ose (a sugar), evaporated cane juice, barley malt and brown rice syrup.

6 Sodium chloride (commercial table salt) is highly processed and contains aluminum, chemicals and additives, which are toxic and cause neurological disorders. Opt for a healthier version such as unprocessed sea salt.

7 Artificial sweeteners (Aspartame, Splenda, Sucralose, Saccharine, Acesulfame-K, Sweet ‘N Low and Equal) Sucralose is a combination of sugar and chlorine. Aspartame, an excitotoxin and neurotoxin, is an artificial chemical sweetener consisting of 50 percent phenylalanine, 40 percent aspartic acid and 10 percent methanol.

You’ll find artificial sweeteners in thousands of items including desserts, gelatins, low calorie foods, fruit drinks, breath mints, sugar-free gum, energy and sports drinks, wine coolers, flavored bottled waters, cereals, cold remedies, medications, some vitamins and protein powders and of course, diet sodas.

Aspartame comes with a laundry list of side effects resulting in digestive dysfunction, increased appetite, depression, Type 2 diabetes, ADD, brain seizures and tumors, rashes, hives, migraines and cancer.

Healthier sweeteners include: stevia, coconut nectar, raw organic honey

8 Genetically modified (GMO) foods are derived from a process in a lab where genes are taken from one species and inserted into another in an attempt to obtain a desired characteristic or trait. Often referred to as “Frankenfoods,” GMOs alter and disrupt DNA. Children, newborns and pregnant women face the greatest potential hazards from GM food. Side effects include infertility, immune dysfunction, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, autism, arthritis, increased food allergies, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

The United States does not require labeling of GM foods, but Europe does. The most common GM crops are corn, soy, sugar beets, cottonseed and canola. All processed food items contain at least one or more genetically modified ingredient.

9 Artificial colors (Blue 1, 2; Red 3, 40; Green 3; Yellow 5, 6) have been linked to cancer, contribute to hyperactivity disorders and behavioral problems in children, lower IQ, alter brain chemistry, increase risk of and contribute to depression, hormonal dysfunction, allergies and migraines.

Artificial colors are found in soda, energy and sports drinks, candy, cereals, pastries and baked goods, pet food, sausage, canned items, cough syrup, vitamins and pharmaceutical drugs.

Avoid any item that includes a color, plus a number listed on the ingredients.

10 Refined wheat, grains and gluten cause a reaction in the intestines that sets off adverse symptoms. The ultimate effect of this hidden wear and tear is the slow destruction of the lining of the small intestine causing gut permeability, leaky gut syndrome, nutrient deficiencies and autoimmune responses. Processed, refined grains are void of nutrients, disrupt insulin levels, are highly allergenic for many individuals and come with a laundry list of adverse health effects for approximately 80 percent of the population.

11 Sodium nitrate is a preservative, coloring, and flavoring commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish and corned beef. Studies have linked it to various types of cancer.

12 Potassium bromate, bromated vegetable oil, BHA and BHT. Potassium bromate is a chemical food additive and known carcinogen found in baked goods, breads and tortillas.

Bromated vegetable oil (BVO) is a synthetic chemical derived from soy or corn that is found in Mountain Dew, citrus sodas and some Gatorade products. BVO contains bromine, a flame retardant for plastics that has been banned in foods throughout Europe and Japan. BVO accumulates in fatty tissue causing behavioral, reproductive and organ damage, neurological disorders, early puberty and heart problems. Bromine, is a halogen that displaces iodine, which may depress thyroid function.

BHA and BHT, made from petroleum and coal tar, are chemical preservatives (carcinogens) that are toxic to the liver and kidneys. You’ll find BHA and BHT in processed and packaged foods including cereals, chewing gum, chips, processed meats, vegetable oils, margarine and baked goods.

Become an avid label reader. Value the health of yourself, children and loved ones and avoid toxic, harmful ingredients.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, is a nutritionist and fitness and fat loss expert with more than 25 years of experience. Visit Paula at

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