Monday, February 2, 2009

Organic and Healthy Foods...A Primer (Updated)

I wasn't always the healthiest of eaters. But after seeing a family member suffering from cancer, I became proactive and studied everything I possibly could about healthy living and possibly preventing certain diseases in my children, my husband, and myself. I'm not a dietician, or have any medical education, etc... just a Mom that wants to see her family live a long, healthy life. After attending the "University of the Internet", checking out countless books, and reading a number of articles in various medical journals, I would share what I learned with anyone who would listen. (and, literally overnight, I cleared all of our cabinets of each and every piece of food, mix, etc, that contained anything on this list! What a surprise my family had when they woke the next morning. I had to mix up french toast with homemade bread for breakfast...good thing I have a 60min. bake on my machine!! Okay...I went a little overboard, but with good intention!) I'm still learning to this day! My husband and I are trying to live healthy lifestyles, modeling a healthier life for our children. I hope to share with you whatever I can!

Start here:
Confused about what foods to buy organic? Go here to read about the organic "dirty dozen" list... a list of 12 foods that you should most always buy organic.

Another should always do your best to buy organic dairy products. If you're unable to buy organic, seek out dairy products that are stamped "rBGH free" (bovine growth hormone).

Here is some other info to take note of... harmful additives and ingredients that are in many of our foods, many that cause a number of health problems and cancer! Please steer free of foods that contain these ingredients! (I'm not saying never have them, just keep foods with these types of ingredients to a bare minimum. (that's what we do) Life happens...parties, playdates, and special can't always be there with your children to be the "food police", but when you are, you're in control and can see to it that your family follows a healthy diet) I will be sure to post certain foods/snacks that we use regularly to substitute for "the real things" (ie: Oreos, fruit snacks )

Partially Hydrogenated Oil:

  • Semi-solid shortening made from liquid oils (such as canola and soybean) by reacting them with hydrogen

  • Hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats

  • Gives baked goods and snacks a longer shelf life

  • Used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S. according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

  • Trans fats increase harmful LDL cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol, both of which contribute to heart disease

  • For more information, visit:

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO):

  • BVO is an additive created by mixing vegetable oil with the element bromine
  • Gives the flavoring oils in soda the same density as water
  • The emulsified flavor oils stay suspended in the drink, boosting flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks
  • Causes a significant increase of triglyceride and cholesterol content in both heart and liver
  • Residues in rats accumulated in body fat, damaging organs including heart, liver, thyroid, testicles, and kidneys

  • For more information, visit:
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS):

  • HFCS was developed in the 1970s because it was cheaper than cane and beet sugar

  • Easier to blend in beverages; maintains sweetness better; prevents freezer burn; reduces crystallization; keeps baked goods soft and helps them brown

  • With a high glycemic index, it converts to fat more than any other sugar

  • It alters the metabolic rate in a way that favors fat storage

  • Research suggests that it is a major factor of obesity

  • HFCS increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, and cancer

  • HFCS is not easily metabolized by the liver

  • For more information, visit:
Artificial Colors & Flavorings :
  • Artificial colors are chemical compounds made mainly from coal-tar derivatives

  • Food coloring is used to give color, lost during processing, back to food to make it more attractive

  • Artificial colors have been linked to allergic reactions, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity, headaches and fatigue

  • Artificial flavors are cheaply produced chemical mixtures that mimic a natural flavor

  • Artificial flavors also linked to numerous sensitivities

  • For more information, visit:
Benzoate Preservatives: BHT, BHA, TBHQ :

  • Benzoates are antioxidants normally used as sodium, potassium, or calcium salts and their derivatives

  • Benzoate preservatives are phenolic compounds often added to foods to preserve fats and prevent the fats from becoming rancid; also used as a de-foaming agent

  • Benzoates are often used in cereals, butter, meats, baked goods, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes, and beer

  • Can result in hyperactivity, asthma, urticaria, rhinitis, dermatitis and angiodema

  • Believed to cause tumors in lab rats

  • For more information, visit:
Caffeine : (I am so guilty of this one!!!)

  • Caffeine is a mildly additive stimulant

  • Caffeine increases heartbeat, respiration, basil metabolic rate, gastro enteric reflexes and production of stomach acid and urine

  • Caffeine affects the kidneys, increasing urination which can lead to dehydration

  • Caffeine is metabolized by the liver

  • Caffeine can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, heart disease, jitteriness, headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, possible birth defects, and depression

  • For more information, visit:
Artificial Sweeteners :

Acesulfame-K: commonly used in sugar-free baked goods, chewing gum, gelatin desserts and soft drinks. May be cancerous
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet): can cause sensitivities resulting in headaches, dizziness, and hallucinations
Saccharin: has resulted in cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skins, blood vessels and other organs in lab rats; may cause bladder cancer
Sucralose (Splenda): artificial sweetener used mainly in diet foods; made by chemically reacting sugar with chlorine
Sorbitol: a sweetener used as a thickening agent; maintains moisture in dietetic drinks, foods, candy, shredded coconut and chewing gum; commonly has a laxative effect

For more information, visit:

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate):

  • MSG is an amino acid flavor enhancer

  • Flavor enhancers are believed to stimulate appetites contributing to obesity

  • MSG is used mainly in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soup and chips

  • Sensitivities to MSG include headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensation, and difficulty breathing

  • Flavor enhancers in infant mice destroyed nerve cells

  • For more information, visit:

  • Olestra is an indigestible fat substitute used mainly in foods that are fried and baked

  • It is a non-absorbable lipid-like substance that inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients

  • Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding, and incontinence.

  • Olestra can collect and assimilate fat-soluble vitamins present in other foods, reducing their ability to be absorbed. Long-term use of Olestra can reduce fat-soluble vitamin (including E, A, D and K) absorption.

  • For more information, visit:

Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate:

  • Preservatives used in preserving, coloring and flavoring cured meats and fish

  • They prevent botulism and are a color fixative

  • Nitrites/Nitrates can combine with chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamine, a highly carcinogenic substance

  • For more information, visit:

Other Useful Websites/Sources

Updated/Edited to say you can also go here for another post on "healthy living resources"


  1. What a great list! There are a couple on here that I've never heard of, so I'll have to check my kitchen to see if I've accidentally bought products containing them. Thank you for this great list!!!

  2. It is confusing, but read up on it, study the lists, etc, and you'll grow to the ability to just scan the ingredient list and pick them out right away. Then you'll become familiar which products/brands contain what! Thanks for reading! Glad I can help!

  3. Wow, Shannon. Just came over from your excellent guest post at Life as Mom. This is some fantastic information (and pretty overwhelming, too!) I bookmarked it to digest later and stumbled it, too.