Health experts around the nation are learning more and more about what is actually in the food commonly found on American grocery store shelves, and many seem pretty grossed out by what they have discovered. A quick online search can provide millions of results around what Americans should be eating and what they should avoid. Some say dairy is okay, some disagree. Some say to lay off the carbs, others say carbs are okay in moderation. No-fat, low-fat, high-fat as long as it is not trans fat…the list of naughty food products can get confusing in a hurry. However, in hopes of helping others make sense of the massive amount of information out there, some food experts are starting to identify individual food items that even they refuse to eat.
The latest food-related report, issued by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health earlier this week, expressed new concerns around the health risks posed by common chemicals used to package, store, and process food items that Americans consume in mass. Although the chemicals are used in legal amounts, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’s controversial report stated that they still may pose concerning hazards to America’s health.
The study authors stated that over 4,000 known compounds currently are used in food storage, preparation, packaging, or processing (called “food contact materials” or FCMs). Many of these chemicals can leach into the food itself. Some, like formaldehyde, which is often used to make plastic bottles, are known carcinogens. Others, like bisphenol A (BPA), are used in plastic products and to line aluminum cans, and have been linked to increased risk of childhood obesity and other health issues like asthma and heart disease.
Critics are quick to challenge the report, stating that, although research into any substance that may be harmful to humans is beneficial, there are other food substances that could pose greater health risks. Trans fat and high levels of sugar and salt found in processed foods could be more harmful than the chemicals found in packaging. Controversy aside, there are a handful of specific food items that even food experts refuse to eat.
Integrative health expert Dr. Isaac Eliaz refuses to eat any product containing artificial sweeteners, including diet soda, sugar-free candies, and gum. Eliaz says that artificial sweeteners can cause problems related to weight-gain, neurological diseases, and cancer. Sustainable farmer Joel Salatin stays away from fast food, stating that fast food is typically highly processed and laden with preservatives, genetically engineered ingredients, food dyes, and artificial sweeteners. Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia, refuses to eat canned tomatoes due to the levels of BPA contained in the resin linings of the tin cans. Cardiologist William Davis says to stay away from bread, stating that wheat used today is linked to numerous health problems like digestive disease, asthma, and obesity. Other food items on food experts’ naughty lists includes industrially produced hamburgers, corn, white chocolate, non-organic strawberries and potatoes, butter-flavored microwave popcorn, milk produced with hormones, farmed salmon, and conventional soy.
So what is left for the food lovers out there? Although the list of food that food experts refuse to eat may include many of America’s favorites, nutritionists say that eating healthy does not have to be hard. Stick to whole foods, avoid heavily processed products, and, when an unhealthy craving strikes, make sure to enjoy in moderation.
By Katie Bloomstrom