The premise behind eating clean is pretty simple: you buy real food and stay away from processed food. You shouldn’t have to worry about food additives, right?
But the theory and the practice are two different things.
I learned this a few weeks ago when I made a salad for dinner and made my own ranch dressing.
Turns out that the ranch dressing mix and the mayonnaise I used were not considered clean. The mayo had sugar and calcium disodium in it. More about that later.
Now, I thought making my own dressing was earning me points, so to speak. After all, I didn’t buy a bottle of already prepared dressing; I made it myself.
And sure, I used a jar of mayo. Who expects anybody to make their own? Plus you have a whole other set of issues there because making your own mayonnaise means using raw eggs.
Plus, if you know me, I’m all about living in the real world.
I’m perfectly willing to eat as clean as I possibly can, but I’m not Martha and I’m not my great-grandmother.
I’m probably a lot like you: I don’t have the time or interest in making certain things from scratch. I don’t make my own soap or sew my own clothes; I’m not about to start making mayonnaise from scratch.
There has to be a reasonable solution, right? Something that allows us to eat clean food without raising chickens and milking cows to do it.
It turns out that you can find clean mayonnaise brands out there, and, I’m sure, other similar products. The clean alternatives to things like salad dressings and spaghetti sauce that we may not be willing to make ourselves.
The catch is that most of them come with a price.
I found a couple of clean mayos on the market (just doing a quick search), but the price was around $9.00 – 10.00 for one jar. Wow.
When you see a price like that, you might be willing to make some compromises. One ingredient or two might not be such a big deal.
After all, we can live with a little sugar in our mayo. But remember, there was also calcium disodium in there. That’s a preservative and not considered clean. But after doing some research, this is one ingredient I’m OK with.
Now I didn’t mean to write a whole article about mayo; what I wanted to emphasize are the food additives that are present in many processed foods and other places you might not expect.
Many of them don’t necessarily look or sound scary, and food manufacturers have found ways to make them sound more acceptable so that we’ll buy them.
And Some Definite Nos
Consider this recent label I saw on a jar of spaghetti sauce: tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt, basil, BHT (added for freshness).
Now in the past, I would have accepted that and purchased the sauce with no worries.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Nothing but good stuff in there, besides the BHT.
And we don’t know what it is, but it helps keep things fresh, so that’s good, right?
Well “added for freshness” is code for “preservative”, like calcium disodium. That was one that I decided I could live with.
But not BHT.
BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene. It’s a chemical that’s made in a lab.
It preserves food, keeping it “fresh” longer.
It is also used to treat genital herpes.
I can never eat anything with BHT in it again. That fact is seared into my brain.
The List Continues
BHA is often used along with BHT, because both are preservatives.
BHA tends to be used in foods with fats or oils in them, such as margarine, microwave popcorn, potato chips, and similar snacks, some cereals, processed meats, and even beer. (I have no explanation as to why it would be added to beer, other than the fact that it is a preservative.)
BHA acts primarily on oils, keeping them from going rancid.
According to the site Livestrong, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows food manufacturers to add BHA to food within certain amounts.
However, the Department of Health and Human Services says that we should not consume it. Makes you wonder.
BHA is considered a carcinogen, can inhibit blood clotting, and has been banned in a number of countries.
Potassium Bromate ( or just bromate) is often found in baked goods because it helps the flour to rise. However, it is also a known carcinogen and has similarly been banned in numerous countries.
You know, all of our grandmothers made bread from scratch. It rose just as it was supposed to, and not a bit of potassium bromate was used.
The grandmother test is a good one. If your grandma wouldn’t recognize something as an ingredient, it’s probably best to avoid it.
Apparently, the most common use of bromate is in hamburger and hot dog buns, but you can find it in bread as well.
Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, can be found in many soft drinks, especially citrus flavored ones. It is used to keep the ingredients from separating.
Consuming large amounts of these drinks that contain BVO can cause headaches, memory loss, fatigue, and even loss of muscle coordination.
Talk about scary ingredients! A soft drink that could cause you to lose muscle coordination?
Another food additive that has been banned in numerous countries.
So Many Questions
I could go on with this list, but I’m sure you get the idea.
On the other hand, if you would like a more comprehensive look at food additives, leave a comment below.
The majority of food additives in processed food just aren’t good for you. They are added to make something last longer than it should, and when we put that into our body, we are causing harm.
I read an article recently about a man who had kept a Twinkie, in it’s wrapper, for years.
On the outside, it looked the same, but once he cut it open, it looked nasty. The cream filling had turned brown and was sort of dried up.
He ate it anyway.
And he got sick. No surprise there.
Now, I don’t blame the manufacturer of Twinkies. Sure, their product is filled with food additives, but even fresh, clean food isn’t meant to be consumed years later. You’d likely get just as sick.
As I was writing this article, I happened to think about a common food often served in hospitals and nursing homes: Jello – or – to be fair – flavored gelatin.
There is nothing good about flavored gelatin. The ingredients are sugar (or artificial sweeteners), artificial color and flavor, and gelatin.
Gelatin, by the way, is made from the skin, bones, and connective tissue of animals. You may think of collagen when you hear that, but gelatin does nothing to increase the collagen in your body.
When you think about processed foods in general, there is very little to recommend them, healthwise.
You Don’t Need Processed Foods for a Quick Meal
The very first processed foods were advertised as a way for a homemaker to get a quick meal on the table for her family. Time and convenience were valued over nutrition and real home cooking.
With tools like microwaves, Instant Pots, and others, getting a healthy meal on the table isn’t that time consuming anymore.
And with a little forethought and advance preparation, feeding yourself and/or your family doesn’t have to be the chore that it once was.
Last week I made beef stroganoff in my Instant Pot in about 40 minutes. That’s using stew beef and adding the noodles.
It came out perfectly, and it’s so nice to be able to throw everything in one pot and go do something else while it cooks. 40 minutes to do what you want while dinner cooks itself.
You can’t ask for more convenience than that.
I have to be honest here and tell you that I’m not sure about a couple of the ingredients I used: the beef base and the noodles.
I have checked the beef base (which has way more flavor than beef broth or bouillon) and there are a couple of questionable ones there. The noodles were fresh and gluten-free, but other than that, I’m not sure.
This is still a learning experience for me.
I hope you will join me in trying our best to ditch food additives and Frankenfood, and stick to clean eating. It’s a healthy thing to do.
Note: you might want to check my About page; I have some interesting health updates.
Don’t forget to comment and let me know if you’d like more information on food additives!0