Why Reading Food Labels can Immediately Change your Health
Plus, why I broke up with almond milk
Yes, you read that right.
Now, I love almond milk as much as the next health-conscious millennial, but I discovered something that made me kick store-bought almond milk to the curb:
1. It's got a lot of unnecessary added ingredients (more on that below).
2. Homemade tastes way better (plus it's easy to make).
The second reason is more of a bonus but still a great reason!
So, why is this so significant? Does it really matter what goes into the food you eat?
Yes. Yes, it does. But, I'm sure you already knew that.
So, let's take a closer look at why you should avoid foods with unnecessary ingredients and why it's vital for your health to channel your inner Sherlock and become a Food Detective.
Reading food labels (the ingredient list of a product) is critical when you're cleaning up your diet. Overexposure to foods with artificial flavors, colors, additives, and sweeteners cause hormone imbalances (regulates everything from fertility, mood, sleep, skin health, to metabolism), digestion issues, obesity, tissue damage, inflammation, and more serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer.
So, it's vital to know what products use them, so you can avoid them or substitute them for a better product.
Some of these ingredients are banned in Europe, yet US food manufacturers continue to use these scientifically proven dangerous chemicals in their products.
Take these two commonly used sweeteners:
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener) - proven to be a neurotoxin and carcinogen.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (artificial sweetener) - increases your risk of obesity, tissue damage, and diabetes.
As you can see, both are linked with severe health issues but are still added to popular products like diet soda, baked goods, sugar-free ice cream, candy, gum, and yogurt.
You can even find these in foods claiming healthy ingredients like whole grains and vitamins (I’m looking at you sugary cereals)!
If you can’t figure out what an ingredient is or does, chances are your body won’t either. It's not programmed to handle and digest chemicals and artificial additives, which can cause health issues down the line.
So, it’s best to stay clear of these as much as possible.
Shop like a Food Detective
Start by making it a habit of picking up the packed items you buy from the store and reading the labels on the back.
At first, it might seem overwhelming, but you'll quickly recognize what products to buy and which to avoid. It's all about practice.
In the beginning and to make your life easy, simply focus on fresh produce and foods with natural and simple ingredients - those you can actually understand and pronounce.
Just remember: if you can't understand what an ingredient is, chances are your body won't either.
Want to make grocery shopping even easier? I have the perfect blog post for you:
Let me show you an example of this.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of almond milk from two different brands (these are both original flavor, unsweetened, and the following ingredient list has been pulled from each brand's website):
Brand A: almond milk (filtered water, almonds), calcium carbonate, sea salt, potassium citrate, sunflower lecithin, gellan gum, natural flavors, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d2, d-alpha-tocopherol (natural vitamin e).
Brand B: almond milk (filtered water, almonds), contains less than 2% of: vitamin & mineral blend (calcium carbonate, vitamin e acetate, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d2), sea salt, natural flavor, locust bean gum, gellan gum, ascorbic acid (to protect freshness).
Alright, what do you see? You've got some almonds, water, vitamins, thickeners (locust bean gum and gellan gum), emulsifiers (ascorbic acid + sunflower lecithin - used to enhance shelf life and avoid separation) and natural flavors (what does that even mean?).
I don't know about you, but most of these ingredients seem unnecessary.
In my mind, the list should stop after the first ingredient: almond milk (filtered water, almonds). Plus, Brand B uses "natural flavors," which is deceiving since there are no laws that require companies to disclose what goes into their “natural flavor.” It could come from natural sources, like fruits and vegetables, or from artificial chemicals. We just don’t know.
After taking a closer look at the ingredients in store-bought almond milk, I decided to make my own! It's surprisingly easy and tastes way better. Click here for my recipe!
And, yes. I know there are worse products on the market to avoid than almond milk, but this shows that it’s crucial for yourself and your health to become aware of what goes into your body. Knowing what goes into the food you enjoy and which to avoid are the first steps to educating yourself on what healthy eating truly means.
Soon, you'll hone your Food Detective skills and will become a food label pro! You'll feel more empowered with this knowledge and will make better choices for yourself and your diet.
You got this!