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Foods and Their Contents?
As A Nurse I have Many Questions about Our Food Industry
Food for Thought
As a nurse for many years I have many questions on my mind, and I believe that all my questions even though different can tie into together, creating a common denominator about America's obesity problem, antibiotics, additives, preservatives and packaging of our food supply.
- Why are America's children and adults in an obesity crisis?
- Why are our young children growing so tall, and big (not necessarily obese) to where a first grader resembles a sixth grader or a 4-year old look as though he is a first grader?
- Why are our valuable antibiotics becoming less effective?
- Allergies and breathing illnesses such as asthma, sinusitis, and COPD are on the rise
Pinch an Inch or 30-Pounds over an Ideal Weight Range is Called Obesity
Why is America in an Obesity Crisis?
There has never before been an illness, that has had so many causes attached. This illness, called obesity has affected 90-percent of America's populace, but according to the person who is diagnosed as obese, there are any number of causes. Granted, some of these causes are legiminate, while others are far-reaching.
I have heard people blame their obesity on thyroid, diabetes, fast food, fast lifestyle, increased technology, medicine side effects, their spouse, their children, their aged parents, drinking too much water, not drinking enough water, drugs, alcohol ,no money to buy the right foods except for snack foods, and I have even had people tell me that they believed their computers were to blame for their obesity problem. Obesity is blamed for a wide range of unlimited proportions.
I do not think that it is a fair assumption to say that everyone in America who is at least 30-pounds over their ideal weight range is irresponsible with their consumption of food and how it is prepared. I also think that it is a cop-out to blame some other reason for a child or adult for being overweight, such as, low thyroid, depression, stress, genetics, low immunity, high immunity, diabetes and any number of other excuses.
Why are Children Growing So Large (not necessarily obese)?
Many grandparents can remember buying clothing for their children using the rule of thumb for sizes. If the child was two years of age the child wore a size two, when a child was seven they wore a size seven. When my children were young up to somewhere in junior high school, this is the rule of thumb that always worked for me and it made cloths shopping easier. I believe that years ago children's ages matched their clothing sizes.
Has anyone taken the time lately to take a good look at our children? I have to pick up my granddaughter from school on occasion and she is in second grade this year. Some of my granddaughter's classmates, my granddaughter included, seem to be older than they really are in physical and mental stature.
My granddaughter is not obese or over her ideal weight range, for her height. However, she has always been off the pediatric growth chart. In the second grade, she is now two inches shorter than I am. Granted, I am short at 5'1", but this second grader is two inches shorter than her grandma. In my opinion a second grader should not be this tall. This gal wears a ladies size six shoe and she wears a girls size 16-18 slacks and dresses. She can also wear a ladies size 3-4 slacks or dress.
Many of her friends are as tall (not obese). Some of her cousins appear as big. Her brother, my grandson is only 4-years of age and he is wearing a children's size six pant and shirt and a size 8-9 boy's shoe. This little boy looks as if he could be in first grade. He will not start kindergarten for two more years! The father of these two children is 6' 3" tall and their mother, my daughter is 5' 5" tall.
So how in the world do we figure this rapid growth of our young people? In the same breath we could also ask what is causing America's obesity problem when many of these children are not obese just big for their age?
Antibiotics are becoming Less Effective
Why are Valuable Antibiotics Becoming Less Effective?
Adults from the old school of life believe in antibiotics and the healing properties of antibiotics. However, doctors are being monitored for the number of antibiotics they prescribe to their patients. It is believed that the reason antibiotics are becoming less effective against bacteria and germs is because of society taking too many antibiotics in their lifetime and their doctors ordering too many antibiotics. Many people are said to have built up an immunity to many of the more important antibiotics to the point that when the person becomes seriously ill needing the antibiotic it will not help them overcome the illness.
In my opinion, I just cannot believe that this is all the doctors' fault. I believe that there are other equations that need to be considered, aside from doctors ordering antibiotics too often.
Why are More People are suffering from Allergies, COPD, Asthma, Sinusitis, Emphysema, Rashes, Skin Conditions?
Allergies, skin conditions and breathing illnesses such as asthma, sinusitis, and COPD are on the rise but does anyone have any answers? Many people blame the environment, pollution, and the greenhouse effect. Could there be any other reason?
What do these four questions have in common? Everyone suffering from obesity to allergies, in my opinion has two things in common. All of these people, whether suffering obesity or just sinusitis are doing one common thing that I believe can be causing the problem. They are eating and drinking. Many people reading this will feel that this idea is far reaching and not likely possible.
A Surprising Look at an Allergic Reaction
For five years, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I worked at Mercy Hospital as a staff nurse in the pediatric unit. During this time I learned a lot from the children admitted to the hospital their parents, other nurses and the doctors. There are certain things we learn in life that we never forget and one of the things I learned was to read food and beverage labels, and take nothing for granted that I put in my mouth and the following scenario is why.
One day, shortly after Easter, I had a little fellow about seven years of age admitted to the pediatric unit. This little boy had a lobster red face (no fever) and he had a lobster red, raised hive rash over his entire body. He was miserable with itching, and was admitted to the hospital to find out what happened. Our doctor allergist was called in to interview the mother, dad and the little boy.
The doctor asked me to be present for the interview and take some notes. I was so grateful to that doctor for asking me to help. Because of this doctor I was educated and never forgot what I learned that day.
The doctor asked the parents if the boy had eaten anything different over the last few days, had taken any kind of medications, traveled, drank strange water, stayed overnight anywhere, or had any allergies to any kind foods, or beverages or medications.
The parents answered, "No", to all the doctor's questions. All of a sudden the mother spoke up and said that the child was allergic to aspirin, but he had taken no aspirin for this reason.
The doctor became very thoughtful and finally asked if the boy received an Easter basket with candy. The parents said the boy had an Easter basket just the day before, but the only thing that he had eaten out of the basket was some Peeps. The doctor asked the mother what color the Peeps were, the answer was, "Yellow".
The doctor reviewed any allergies with the mother and again she told the doctor the only allergy the boy had was aspirin and they did not have aspirin in the home for this reason. The doctor then said, "That's it!" The reason for the boy's hives was aspirin.
By this time the mother was becoming a bit frustrated with the doctor for his persistence with the boy's aspirin allergy, when she did not have aspirin in the home. The doctor explained that the yellow food dye used in many foods, including marshmallow Peeps had the same components as aspirin, so when the boy ate the yellow Peeps he broke out in the hives because he was allergic to aspirin. Such a simple yet highly complex answer to this child's dilemma, yellow dye.
Foods, Beverages, Additives, Perservatives and Dyes
So what is the common factor between the following four issues?
- Obesity crisis in America in children and adults
- The growth spurt in many children in the 21st Century
- Ineffective use of Antibiotics in the 21st Century
- Allergies and respiratory illnesses on the rise
Health problems including obesity is on the rise
Is the answer to obesity in the foods and beverages we ingest every day?
It is strictly my own opinion that the way many of our farm animals are raised today for the markets and the way the meat is processed is leading to any number of health issues stated above, including obesity. I also believe that all of the additives, preservatives, sweeteners and dyes put into our food are another thing we can blame. For the most part the public demands certain dyes, additives and preservatives or they are not going to buy the product. One example of this is as follows.
Many think that the redder the Beef the Healthier the Meat?
One week I made my routine stop at our wonderful meat market. The owner of this meat market was full of knowledge and compassion for quality foods, stocking his shelves. I wanted to buy three pounds of ground chuck that day and I asked him why his ground beef was not looking as red in color as the stores. His ground beef was a pale pink. He said that he does not put hardly any red food coloring in his ground beef, although he did have to put a little bit in, because if he did not no one coming into his shop would buy his ground beef. He then went on to tell me that ground beef is naturally gray in color, a real turn off for customers. He said, "No one would buy gray meat, they would think that it is spoiled. People think that the redder the meat the better quality it is." Call me stupid I guess, but I never knew this.
I doubt if the younger generation is even aware that meat packaging plants used to stamp meat before it was packaged. The older generation will probably remember when meat processors used to stamp beef with a light purple stamp used by the USDA for inspection grades on the beef. I remember this process, but I never paid any attention to the stamp or that I was ingesting ink when mom cooked the beef. I never gave it a thought that the stamp was stopped in the late 1960s. Researchers found that this purple dye was shown to possibly cause cancer, so it was banned.
Read Food Labels
If You Care What You Feed Your Family, Read the Food Labels
All I can say is if a consumer really cares what they are buying at the grocery store, shop when there is plenty of time to read the labels and know what you are feeding your children and yourself. Food dyes, sodium nitrite, potassium bromate, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrups, monosodium glutamate, trans fats, BHA, BHT, sulfur dioxide, and many more, only tips the scales on food additives.
Americans are great at spending their hard earned money on processed foods in order to save time in the kitchen without giving a thought about what it is doing to the insides of childrens' bodies and theirs. Processed foods are treated, stripped of all their nutrients and refined until there is no nutritional value left. These foods were once whole and full of nutritional value.
The FDA Has Our Backs or Do They? What are Additives in Foods
Most of these processed foods contain additives. Additives are used with the purpose to change the food in some manner before it hits the store shelves and is sold to consumers. Additives include a few ingredients such as flavorings to make the item yummy, preservatives are added to assure the food has a longer shelve life and dyes to change the way the food items looks, as in my ground beef story. The manufacturer may also add vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other 'healthy' substances. What was surprising to me is that the packaging around foods contain additional additives that absorb into the food. I had never heard of this.
We all feel better, when the FDA or Food and Drug Administration approves certain ingredients, medicines and such because they are in the know, and their goal is keeping us safe. Right? Wrong.
Even though the FDA has approved well over 2,500 food additives it no way means that they are healthy for us. These additives stand to threaten our health. There are hundreds more food additives that manufactures use in our foods that are not approved by the FDA, because the monitoring of what is put into foods is low. These additives are 'generally regarded as safe for consumption'.
Food Packaging Can Penetrate the Foods We Eat
Another thing I did not know about additives, is the packaging materials penetrate the foods wrapped in them and in addition to the additives put into the food. These direct additives can include preservatives, nutritional supplements, flavors, texturizers and colors or dyes.
It is a much better plan to buy whole foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables versus canned fruits and vegetable and processed foods. Whole foods may also be treated, but treatment is to a much lesser degree. The question is, "Who can afford the price of many of the whole foods on the market today?"
While many chemicals are 'FDA approved' there are even more that are not approved and these chemicals when consumed can interact with the consumer to cause health side effects and doctors are usually way off track trying to diagnose the problem. There are nearly 90,000 different chemicals in the food industry today.
What are Preservatives?
The only way to get away from eating preservatives is to eat very fresh foods. Preservatives are used in foods for a number of reasons as follows,
- To prevent discoloration of foods
- To prevent foods from becoming rancid
- To prevent bacteria from forming
- To slow down the ripening process of fresh fruits and vegetables
Some of these preservatives are propionic acid, nitrates, nitrites, and benzoates.
What about Flavorings?
Flavorings mimic certain flavors and smells of foods. Certain flavors appeal to humans, thus processes foods utilize additives to restore flavor when it is lost during the processing of the food. Most fast food restaurants use flavorings to restore flavor of their many food options.
The word 'natural' is very appealing to the public ear, so when a food item labels as 'natural' the public thinks they are getting natural. However, the food item can contain 90-percent artificial and 10-percent natural and it is legal to label the food item as 'natural'. Some popular flavors are sweeteners, fruit flavors, cheese, and butter. These flavors are used in their natural and artificial forms.
It is not unusual for the FDA to state that a food item contains ingredients that have unknown safety consumption. If a label states this, I would just stay away from the item.
A few common additives in our food supply are Benzoates. Benzoates kill microorganisms in foods. Potassium Sorbate kills any mold, which might develop in the food item. Aspartame is a sweetener, cochineal is a red food coloring and there are hundreds more.
The bad thing is that even though the FDA says these additives are fit for human consumption, it does not make them safe to consume. Many people have mild to life-threatening allergic reactions to these additives. Just as the little boy, I spoke of earlier.
A Hidden Agenda- Is it Sulfa, Sulfate or Sulfite?
Too many of some of these additives links to diseases such as birth defects, asthma and cancer. Take your pick. The difficult thing is to know what to look for on food labels as there are many additives listed as flavorings and spices, so how is anyone really to know.
Sulfites for instances cause allergic reactions in many people and used to keep food the right color for sales. As an added note to confuse any reader more, there is a difference between Sulfite, Sulfate, Sulfa and Sulfa. To help clear this confusion the definitions of each are as follows.
- Sulfa is a wonder drug that patients take internally for infections. Sulfa powder used topically on open wounds helps to heal the wound of infections
- Sulfate is a salt used in compounding certain medications. Sulfate is compounded from sulfur
- Sulfite is a substance used in foods and medications to help preserve the product
A person can be allergic to one of these substances, but show no allergic reactions to the others. Just because a person is, say, allergic to sulfa-based medications, it does not mean they are allergic to sulfite. However, there is a good chance they will be allergic to sulfate because this is an element of sulfur. In addition, just because someone has never had an allergic reaction to one of these substances does not mean he or she will ever show symptoms of a reaction later in their life.
It is the law that these are printed on all food labels due to the number of people who are allergic to sulfites. Because a small percentage of the American populace is allergic to this preservative the FDA is restricting its use to only certain foods and this preservative listed on the ingredients label.
A Personal Story About Saccharin
Years ago, there was a sugar substitute on the market, consumers could put into their food and beverages. This substance was called saccharin. Because saccharin was shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats during the 1970s, it now comes with a warning label on its package, even though the FDA has approved its use. In the early 1960s I had a dear great uncle who was diagnosed with diabetes. At this time he could use saccharin or nothing to sweeten his coffee and other food items. I remember him buying a small jar of tiny flat pills which was his saccharine that he used religiously. My great aunt and uncle moved to a home in Florida in 1964 where they spent the winters and they came to their lake home in upper Michigan during the summer months. While they were in Michigan in 1972 he developed difficulty swallowing and it felt to him his food would stick in his esophagus. He became so ill he had to return to Florida with my aunt to see his doctor. He was diagnosed with esophageal and stomach cancer and passed away in Novemeber of that same year. When information came out years later about saccharin I always felt that his cancer was due to the amount of this sweetener he used on a daily basis. One can only assume and since there was no history of cancer in his family, it makes me wonder to this day if this caused his death.
Is MSG an Old Wives Tale?
My husband and I love to eat Chinese food, however when he does, he soon complains of a nasty headache. It is not uncommon for Chinese restaurants to add a flavor enhancer to their foods called MSG. They want their foods to taste good and they want your business in the future. MSG can also make a person feel weak, complain of nausea and shortness of breath. Some people become drowsy or complain of chest pain with a rapid heart beat. It is for this reason that we tell the waitress we Do Not Want MSG added to our food order. Fortunately, the Chinese Restaurant we enjoy in our city, does not use MSG. However, I still tell the waitress to make sure the chef adds, "No MSG for us." I simply tell the waitress we both have a serious life-threatening allergy to MSG, then they chef is very careful to follow our request.
Nitrites in Hot Dogs
Researches found nearly eight years ago that nitrites cause lung disease for people who eat cured meats on a regular basis. The percentage of developing lung disease is over 70 percent chance from those who do not eat cured meats. That percentage is too high for me not to sit up and take notice. Nitrates are found in luncheon meats, bacon, sausages and hot dogs.
The rule of thumb about hot dogs is, if you are planning an amorous night with your loved one, do not serve him or her hot dogs for dinner.
Reading the food label on these food items can fool the consumer as the manufacturer can put "natural flavor" or "hydrolyzed yeast extract" and no mention of MSG. However, natural flavor and hydrolyzed yeast extract are MSG.
Challenges for Parents
Several years back readers may remember that hyperactivity in children was on the rise. This is all we heard. I have not researched this but, I believe this is when the drug retailing came upon the scene and doctors were prescribing hyperactive children Ritalin.
Parents thought they were doing their children a favor by making sure they drank their juice every day. It was common for juice to contain additives and preservatives, artificial sweeteners and dyes. According to a 2008 edition of The Lancet artificial colors and sodium benzoate a preservative resulted in hyperactivity of a child. If the child was already hyperactive one can only imagine what that child and the parents were going through. Dyes in other children were found to cause excitement with hyperkinetic actions. There are so many additives and preservatives in our diets today one can only imagine what they are doing to the body.
Is It Possible to Eat Healthy at an Affordable Price?
I believe I can avoid food additives, persertatives and dyes to a limit by eating fresh, unprocessed foods that are locally grown, versus foods flown several hundred miles. These locally grown foods will not contain the dyes and flavorings found in foods grown so far away. I never buy ready made meals and meals such as TV dinners or items that say, processed imitation cheese spreads and I try to buy real cheese with less coloring.
Preparing Foods at Home with Conviction
To many prepared foods such as TV dinners are coated and deep-fried and I do not need this in my or my family's diet. When I prepare foods at home, I make good use of my crock pot, especially when I know I am short on time. My meats are broiled or baked. I am getting away from deep frying and stove frying foods. I may make use of searing before I put the meat in the crock pot.
There is so much more to consider in our daily diets that it can make heads spin.
- What about Milk and dairy products?
- What about white flour and white sugar?
- What about the breads we buy?
My Goodness Miss. Chicken, What Big Breasts You Have!
My Chicken Story
I am devoted to buying the healthiest foods I can at the price I can afford. There is a meat market that is very popular in the city I reside. They sell the best meats that beat the prices at the supermarkets anywhere. Consumers who frequent markets tend to find better prices and fresher foods versus going to the supermarket.
On my monthly visit to this meat market I had decided that I would cook more fresh chicken, turkey and fish, in addition to the other white meat pork a few times a month. I wanted to decrease our consumption of red meats. This day the meat market had a nice supply of whole and fresh skinless, boneless, chicken breasts. I told the server I wanted three and to split them for me. The market wraps their meat and label meat cuts ready for the freezer at home, which is an added bonus for their consumers.
One night I decided to bake some chicken breasts so took out a package to thaw. Towards late afternoon I proceeded to prepare the chicken to bake. I was so surprised at the size of these chicken breasts, they were huge pieces of meat. After they finished baking they seemed to inflate to a size of 54EEE. My husband and I enjoyed the chicken, but neither one of us could eat a whole one half, it was too much meat.
I got to thinking about this chicken as I had never before seen chicken breasts that big. Since I really did not know where the meat market buys their chicken I wondered if the chicken farmer had given their poultry steroids to help the flock grow bigger and quicker, ready for market in less time. I do know this happens. If this was the case, then I was ingesting steroids in my body from that chicken.
The Simple Fact About Steroids
Steroids are one of those drugs that work miracles on people who need them, however, steroids have too many side effects to count. When a person is prescribed steroids for any number of reasons, some of these side effects include weight gain and water retention. Steroids ordered for a short amount of time may or may not cause any consequence on the person, however, if the individual is on steroids for any length of time this medication, while answering a medical need also causes the individual to gain weight overnight.
I have not seen Jerry Lewis for a while on television. I believe it was last year that I saw him doing his MD Telethon and he was twice his size, because he had a medical condition that required steroids. Since steroids affect people in this manner, my simple brain says steroids affect animals in the same way.
If we routinely ingest poultry and livestock that was raised on steroids my common sense tells me I am going to ingest the steroids in my body. I believe this is one answer to the obesity problem. It makes a difference how poultry and livestock are raised and what is put into their body and feed. We are going to ingest what they ingested.
Cook with Conviction
Prepare the Most Wholesome Foods in the Right Manner
In the end we are never going to be able to eat foods without some additives, however, we can educate ourselves by practicing any number of options. The following are a few things we can do to decrease additives.
- Reading food labels help reduce the number of additives in the foods we consume because we just do not buy that item
- We can avoid fried foods and eat grilled, baked or broiled meats, steamed or raw fresh vegetables and fresh fruits
- We can take one day a week and bake our own bread and desserts, using wholesome ingredients
- We can avoid cooking foods to death that in turn takes all the good vitamins and minerals away
- When peeling fresh oranges and grapefruits try to leave as much pulp on the fruit as possible as this pup (the white skin under the outside skin) contains all the essential bioflavanoids
- Take all white from the kitchen such as sugar and white flour
- Use salt sparingly
Good Luck in Your Lifestyle Changes!
References are of personal experiences and years of research