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The heavy hitters in the ’dirty food’ world

If you want to feed your body healthier food, you can simplify it even beyond the games of balancing calories and macronutrients (amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates). The first best step is to start with eating food that is real.

How do you know it’s “real” or “clean” food?

Additives such as flavors, colors, sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers and other additives have been used for many years in the American food industry. These products are added to improve the appearance, flavor, packaging, processing, shelf life and shipping of the food you eat daily, but they usually don’t work in your favor.

The human body is a wonderful detoxifying machine, but the current volume of food additives is accumulating toxicity within the human body. This can result in inflammation, headaches, skin disorders, weight gain, hormone imbalance and many, many more symptoms.

The good news is that not all packaged food is bad.

The key is knowing what to look for (or avoid) in packaged food so you can feed yourself and your family healthier. While the front of the package will grab your attention with a very well thought out color scheme, well-tested marketing lingo and catchy phrases – these don’t matter if you want better health from your food. You need to turn over the package to the ingredients list. I dare you! This is where you find what’s in the packaged ordered from the most abundant to least abundant ingredient.

For example, what do you look for on a peanut butter ingredients list? If you’ve been eating clean for a while, this is an easy one you probably already know. If you put a handful of peanuts (or any nut really) into the blender, you get peanut butter. That means the ingredients list for your peanut butter should say “peanuts and salt.” That’s it. No sugar, hydrogenated oils or trans fats that are all very inflammatory for the body.

Other examples are condiments such as pickles, relish, barbecue sauce and ketchup. These products are a little bit tricker to choose cleaner options as most use a sweetener to enhance the flavor. However, they don’t need multiple sweeteners, and you’re better off with good ole sugar than high fructose corn syrup. It should go without saying that a healthy condiment such as mustard does not need to have three different types of corn syrup or any of the most common food dyes used (e.g. caramel color, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6).

Many people ask why I buy organic. The simple answer is that when I buy mustard, I want to I know I’m buying mustard and not corn syrup mixed with food dye. Instead, the real food mustard ingredients should read something like this: “distilled white vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika and clove.” Now that’s healthy.

In summary, try to avoid eating packaged foods that include high fructose corn syrup; hydrogenated oils or trans fats listed as modified vegetable oil, hydrogenated oils, canola oil, etc.; artificial sweeteners including aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium and sucralose; monosodium glutamate; sodium nitrite (found in meats); and carrageenan. These are the heavy hitters in the dirty food world.

Let’s step out of the dark side and into the “cleaner” food side. It all starts with reading ingredients lists and replacing them with the cleaner healthier option.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.