The Fed+Fit Podcast | Nurturing a Healthy Mindset for a Healthy Lifestyle

We’re back with our 39th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 39 Topics:

  • Burning tangent about perfectionism [3.:09]
  • Five ingredients I avoid: number one [13:50]
  • Five ingredients I avoid: number two [17:59]
  • Five ingredients I avoid: number three [20:06]
  • Five ingredients I avoid: number four [22:42]
  • Five ingredients I avoid: number five [26:06]

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Ep. 39: 5 Food Additives Worth Avoiding

Today we’re going to talk about how you can actually feel comfortable in that middle ground between on the bandwagon and totally off the bandwagon of perfectionism, and 5 ingredients actually worth adding to your “avoid if possible” list.

1. Burning tangent about perfectionism [3.:09]
2. Five ingredients I avoid: number one [13:50]
3. Five ingredients I avoid: number two [17:59]
4. Five ingredients I avoid: number three [20:06]
5. Five ingredients I avoid: number four [22:42]
6. Five ingredients I avoid: number five[26:06]

Cassy Joy: And we’re back! Episode number 39. Thank you guys so much for joining me today. I’ve got kind of; today’s episode is a little bit of a burr in my saddle, which I guess it’s one of those things. Diane Sanfilippo, in her Build a Badass Business podcast, which if you haven’t listened to is an excellent resource. I know there are a lot of people who listen to this show that are starting their own businesses and in the grind, and I think it’s a great resource for folks like that. Especially considering the internet age and how so much of our business transpires in this social media/internet world.

Anyways, that was a little tangent. But something that Diane always says is, the thing that’s burning; do that. Whatever it is, with all of our monstrous lists of to-do’s, and all the possibilities and all the ways we can take our work and all the projects we can really dive into; there’s got to be one on that list that’s actually burning. That’s a concept that I really appreciate, that kind of direction, because when I was mapping out the podcast, the Fed and Fit podcast and all the things I want to cover, I have sheets of things that I want to talk to you guys about and it’s pretty much never-ending.

I have all these ideas and all these people I want to bring in and share with you some really good solid knowledge and perspective so that you can get a really good grasp of the landscape at large. While creating that list, there was one of these, especially one of those topics was burning. Like I said at the beginning of the show; kind of like a burr in my saddle. So I want to talk about it today.

The spin I’m taking it, so that it is a productive episode, I want to talk about 5 ingredients to avoid. So be on the lookout. Now; having said that. As we prepare to talk about 5 ingredients that I encourage you to avoid. And these are the ingredients; I mean, when you’re strolling up and down the grocery aisle, things to read on labels and look for. And if you have a choice between one can of salsa that has one of the ingredients on this list, and one can of salsa that does not, then at that point you’ve got a really great opportunity to choose the one that doesn’t. Because you know it will benefit your overall health, goals, and efforts more. So that’s really the purpose of this episode, is to provide you with that.

1. Burning tangent about perfectionism [3:09]

Now, the thing that’s burning that I want to talk about, and it’s one of the most common questions and dilemmas that us “real food”, “nutrient seekers” or maybe you’re “paleo”, whatever it is. It’s this dilemma that we all eventually have to face, and it boils down to how far down the rabbit hole do you really want to travel in terms of the foods that you will eat and the foods that you will not eat. So if we dial back from a 60,000 foot view. You’re up in an airplane and you’re looking down at the world of all of your food choices.

When you first start off, you see macros as the dos and don’ts. I’m using the term macro inappropriately here, but what I really want to get at is, we see that we’re not going to eat grains anymore because we know that grains are really inflammation inducing, and we’re going to cut that entire food group out, and we’re going to add in healthy proteins, and we’re going to add in healthy fats, and we’re going to avoid maybe irresponsibly raised dairy because we know that that’s not really health promoting. We’re going to avoid a lot of those artificial ingredients, a lot of those processed sugars.

All of those big chunks; those big food groups that make sense to us from that elevated foot view, you can kind of wrap your mind around as a beginner coming in, you can understand those food groups, and you can understand the ones’ the stick to. The healthy proteins, all the vegetables, the starchy vegetables, the fruits; the healthy fats, nuts, seeds, butter, olive oil. We see those as health promoting foods, and we can get on board with that, alright? So that’s where most of us start off at for about the first year of being introduced to this kind of nutrient seeking, so to speak. Really healing, anti-inflammatory diet.

However; because this industry, and by this industry I mean the real food/paleo industry, because it tends to attract us type A, ever eager to improve, type people, we tend to want to learn even more once we get the hang of the macro dos and don’ts. Right? So once we’ve kind of got all of the major food groups under our belt, and we know how to navigate them and we feel really confident, it’s like we start to get really curious about; well, let’s split some more hairs. Let’s see; now that I know that healthy proteins are what we want to do, let’s start digging into which types of meats are the best. Or let’s start looking at nutrient timing, or microcalculations; micronutrients. And we can really start to split hairs.

What I want to touch at; and I’m not saying there’s anything innately wrong with that, but the thing that’s burning with me, and the burr, is I just want to point out that if we chase all those rabbits down their little obsessive holes, we can eventually back ourselves into such a restrictive corner that we’re afraid to eat out; and think about, if you’ve ever seen the show Portlandia, one of the most popular episodes they go into a restaurant and they order chicken, it’s free range chicken, and then they start asking questions about the farmer; and it takes of course a comedic spin, but they start asking what was the chicken’s name, did he have a nice life, you know? It’s just one of those kinds of obsessive rabbit holes we can go down.

If that’s what you choose to pursue, that’s great. But that does not have to be the way to health, or the way to achieving balanced, sustainable health. And even more so in this, if we think of ourselves in that restrictive corner. We might be afraid to buy anything from a grocery store, because let’s say that we understand now that buying straight from our farmer or growing all of our food in the backyard is the best way to go. And I agree with that; that is the best; but it’s not the only way to go, and it’s not the only way to achieve healthy.

Ultimately; and the part that I guess really kind of causes this issue to be one that really burns me is the fact that when we have chased these rabbits down those holes, and we’ve done the research, and we feel like we’ve got a really good bearing on all of the minor ingredients and little things that are in everything, and the reason we choose beef over pork in certain areas of the country, and things like that, is that we stick our head up out of the water of all of our research and all of our opinions, and we tend to pass judgment on the people who are just out starting off, and just making those grand strides towards mostly better.

And those are the people who might be in their first year of just looking at the major food groups of what they are going to eat and are not going to eat. And I think we need to have a little bit; us, and I’m speaking to the audience right now, and I hate if this comes across as a little harsh on my end. But I challenge those of us who have been in this industry for a long time to show grace to the people who are doing mostly better, and support regardless.

And we talked about that on our episode, how to paleo with grace. One of the biggest pieces of advice was; don’t give advice unless it’s asked of you. I think that’s important. Being in the grocery store when someone’s about to check out, and looking at what they’ve got on their cart, and either actively or passively passing judgment on them. It can be pretty damaging. So just support people, encourage them, tell them they’re doing great. Because at the end of the day, that’s more beneficial than nit picking other people’s choices.

And I totally get this dilemma; I get it, I’ve lived it, that’s why I can speak to it. I’ve “been paleo” for close to 6 years now, and I really understand the temptation to see how far I can chase that perfectionist rabbit down into its obsessive hole. But that being said, I do not think that the perfectionist model is one that will last. And what I have decided is that I am in the business of finding, illustrating, and encouraging a model that is a health model, and nutrition model; a lifestyle model that is based on your intuition and what balanced equation is right for you. That’s a model that will actually last.

What I wish for you is to go off and live and make decisions that you feel great about, and don’t fret the small stuff. I will keep researching a lot of those avenues to perfect health; a lot of those rabbit holes, and I will keep coming back to present findings that I think are most relevant. Examples of some of those a little bit more nit-picky topics include our episodes on hydration, sleep, alcohol, some of the things I’ve written on beauty products on my blog. But for the most part, please know that you can trust me to stay above the fray; above that obsessive fray.

I just wanted to get that out of the way. That was the thing that was burning that I wanted to talk about. And it does lead me in to; there are some smaller, some ingredients that once you do kind of zoom in a little bit. Let’s say if you do kind of have the hang now of those major food groups; well, in the world of today’s, our ability to Google and be just terrified by all of the dangers of horrible ingredients that are in all of our foods; that restrictive corner I was talking about where you’re afraid to even go to the grocery store because there isn’t a single thing you could buy that has not been touched by whatever it is that you’ve read online.

News stories come out that there’s no such thing as an organic strawberry, and all of a sudden; and if you’re curious about that I encourage you to Google it, because I don’t have time to talk about it today, but all of a sudden now people are afraid to ever buy strawberries. And that’s ok if that’s your decision, but I at least want people to be able to sit down and compare apples to apples. What really poses a significant threat to their health, and what is maybe overdramatized by not just the media, but today’s bloggers? You know, and all these people on social media that are going to be posting these scare stories.

I do think there are some ingredients worth looking out for, worth avoiding so they don’t sabotage your health efforts, or your efforts to bolster your own healthy. And as possibly frightening as these 5 ingredients may seem; I narrowed it down to 5; I do encourage you to take them with a grain of salt. I’m not out to strike fear into your eager for health hearts; I am out to really help you become an empowered consumer who has enough information to make your own informed decisions. So whether you choose to avoid foods that have these ingredients, or not, at least you’re informed. At the end of the day, that is my only goal. My only goal is to inform you; it is not to dictate your every movement. And it’s not for me to tell you what’s best for your health and your family’s health. It’s just to present you with what I believe to be the most relevant facts; the most relevant information that has really kind of been; you boil all of the drama down, these are the nuggets that are left worth really considering.

2. Five ingredients I avoid: number one [13:50]

Ok, so number one ingredient on this list is called carrageenan. It is spelled C-A-R-R-A-G-E-E-N-A-N. And carrageenan has been one of those ingredients you have probably seen in the media of late; some various news stories have come out about it. It is a natural food additive that has been derived from seaweed. It is a polysaccharide compound that’s kind of surfaced recently to be known to trigger an immune response.

So what that means is it will kick in your white blood cells and an immune response essentially goes hand in hand with inflammation in your body, and like we said at the beginning of this episode, this real food, paleo nutrient seeking diet is really an anti-inflammatory diet. Right? Because if you really look at the root cause of the majority of our health issues, it boils down to inflammation. So if we want to promote broad sweeping good health, then we need to start looking at broad, sweeping, anti-inflammatory efforts.

Carrageenan is one of those ingredients. That doesn’t sound to be so bad, except that it has been found to be, an especial gut irritant. And carrageenan; the reason I have carrageenan on my list as opposed to some other ones is because if you are pursuing this healthier lifestyle, you probably are gravitating towards certain brands, and certain foods. Let’s say if you’re paleo, maybe you go and you stock up on your deli meats, and your almond milk. Those are all “paleo friendly foods”, but if you flip that carton around, or you turn that package over of meats, and you start reading the ingredients, some of them, some of these food companies are kind of cutting corners a little bit, and they’re including things like carrageenan on the list. Not all of them, which is why I have it on the looks so that you know to look for it so you can choose the other option.

But carrageenan is used as a thickening agent; an emulsifier. It is found in deli meats, it is found in almond milks, but it will always, to my knowledge on this day, goodness I don’t even know what day it is. It’s late September in 2015; on this day I believe it has to be labeled, so you will always be able to find carrageenan on the label.

So it’s a good thing to avoid; it will definitely cause, or can cause more symptoms if you suffer from IBS, irritable bowel syndrome. And the reason why it’s really caught so many of the headlines, and the reason why it’s on my list, is that it has started to show signs in certain trials of contributing to some kinds of cancers. So that’s a no go, in my book.

These are the 5 ingredients; I should have said that at the very beginning, but these are the 5 ingredients that I personally will go to the grocery store, will read for, will look for, and if something has this on the label, I will put it back. And I personally follow a mostly healthy lifestyle. I found that balance, after my first overhaul and transformation 6 years ago; after that point, I dialed back on how strict I was with myself and I just started living life and making mostly healthy decisions, and my health has really sustained through that. I’ve never felt better. So I will fudge on some of the areas; I will drink wine, I will go out and I will not obsess over the ingredients on a menu; minus for the big ones, I won’t order wheat pasta, but these are ingredients that I will look for ,and will avoid.

3. Five ingredients I avoid: number two [17:59]

Ok, number two is another one that I will always avoid for the most part if I know it’s there. {laughs} MSG; monosodium glutamate. It is a synthetic food additive, and it’s relied upon for its ability to make foods palatable if not hyperpalatable. So if you’re trying to think about MSG, have you ever had it. Think about Chinese food. Have you ever had a plate, or a bowl, of Chinese food in front of you, and you can’t stop eating it! You’ve had whatever portion is you know you’re satisfied, you’re tummy is full, you have all the food you really need, but you are not going to finish until you’ve eaten every last piece of sesame chicken or every last noodle. One of the reasons, of many probably for that, is the presence of MSG. It really makes food hyperpalatable.

It’s essentially; the reason why it’s one to avoid is it’s highly suspected; I’m going to put that disclaimer on it because some of the studies are a little bit wishy washy. But it’s enough; and I’ve had enough of my own personal experience, but there’s been enough news and enough research for me to put it on the list; it’s suspected to be a neurotoxin. So if you’ve ever experienced a headache after you had Chinese food, I would tend to say it’s probably because of the presence of MSG.

And if you really start doing some digging into the research, you will find that some studies support the safety of monosodium glutamate; and I’d also be willing to bet that you will find the financial backing of said studies that found it to be safe has a lot to gain. Those companies that probably paid for those studies are probably also the companies that are putting it in food, and a lot of their income comes from it. So keep that in mind if you do decide to Google; which I always encourage you to do your own research.

4. Five ingredients I avoid: number three [20:06]

Number three ingredient; I will avoid anything that has the words natural flavor or natural flavoring on the label. Natural flavors will probably be; let’s say you flip over a bottle of mustard; that’s probably going to be one of the most shocking ones to you. Mustard seems like such a benign food, right? It is mustard seed and vinegar; what else do we need to put in there? Well, go ahead and flip over the bottle of your favorite mustard and have a read. I’d almost be willing to bet that the very last ingredient on the list, after salt and some other things that make sense to you is going to be natural flavoring.

Natural flavoring can, it’s essentially a; gosh. It’s like a cloak. It’s this sneaky way for food companies, because these ingredients are so, the relative part per bottle, for example, of mustard is so small that they can get away with sticking it under this cloak of natural flavor, but it can encompass anywhere between 50 and 100 trace ingredients.

So even if you’re looking on the back of the bottle, and it’s got 4 ingredients, let’s say mustard, hypothetically, most mustards have more ingredients than this. But it’s got mustard seed, vinegar, salt, maybe turmeric, and then natural flavors. That’s 5. You might think; oh! Hot dang, that’s awesome! This mustard only has 5 ingredients. Well I would say that’s false, because that last one, natural flavoring, can actually be a cloak for a whole lot more.

Some of the ingredients that can be cloaked under natural flavoring are innocent. And some of them are not. So at the end of the day; and that could be a cloak for MSG, it could be a cloak for gluten-containing ingredients, it could be a cloak for a lot. So at the end of the day, I recommend that you opt for foods that will blatantly and brazenly display all of their ingredients on the label. Even if it takes up an entire panel, they will do it so that you can sit there and you can read them all. And if you understand all the ingredients, and you feel good about it, then you probably feel better about buying it and serving it to yourself and your family.

Otherwise, I tend to think; what the heck are they trying to hide? Why not put the ingredients on there? Why put natural flavorings? I tend to think guilty until proven innocent when it comes to natural flavoring.

5. Five ingredients I avoid: number four [22:42]

Ok, number 4. Canola or vegetable oils; other vegetable oils. So these are two ingredients that I will avoid, I will say 90% of the time. The 10% of the time that I will probably have canola or vegetable oil is when I’m eating out, and I know the food is probably cooked in canola or vegetable oil, and even though I might ask that they cook my food in butter instead, because butter is typically always available in any restaurant, and usually safer, I know I’m not catching them all. But that’s one of those circumstances where I just kind of shrug it off. But when I’m buying premade food, or food that I’m bringing into my home that I’m going to use to cook from, where I’ve got the option to sit there and make my decision with all the possibilities right in front of my face, I will avoid them.

And one day I’ll do an entire episode on the health promoting versus the health depleting oils and fats, but for the time being, I encourage you to avoid anything made with canola or vegetable. And instead, look for butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or maybe even palm shortening. And that’s also a rabbit hole we can chase, because there’s not sustainable sources of palm shortening, and there are some sustainable sources. But those are 50,000 foot view; remember, we’re just dipping a little bit lower. Those are some good ones.

And the reason why we avoid vegetable and canola oil; it all boils down to that balance of inflammation once again. There are foods that we can eat that promote anti-inflammatory efforts, and there are foods that we eat that promote more inflammation. And in the world of fats, we have; I’m going to take a very basic view again, but we have omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. And you’re probably familiar that we should be taking omega-3 fatty acids in pill form; I’ve heard that it’s heart healthy, I’ve heard that fish oil is really good for you. The reason why omega-3 fatty acids, we tend to take those, is because they tend to be anti-inflammatory and our body, although we do need omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, which you will find in seed oils like canola and vegetable; our Standard American Diet; or even the diet of those of us who try really hard to cook our own food, tends to be way too high in omega-6 fatty acids. And that imbalance of way too many omega-6 and not enough omega-3s is what causes some additional inflammation in our body.

So what’s an easy way to kind of help balance out that ratio once again; bring those omega-6s back down, and bring those omega-3s back up is to cut out the biggest culprits. And the biggest culprits are vegetable oil and canola oil for omega-6, and to start boosting your omega-3 consumption. Health fish is a good option; sardines an awesome option. If you can do it, I applaud you. Butter is another good one, and then all those other healthier fats. I will talk more about that one day, but I will always avoid, to the best of my ability, those ingredients.

6. Five ingredients I avoid: number five[26:06]

Ok, next. The last ingredient that I will always avoid when I’m in the grocery store is gluten and all of the deceiving little gluten-cloaks that it can ride in on. That can include, and if you’re curious about why I avoid gluten, and you’re not familiar with the paleo diet, one of my favorite books to recommend honestly, because there’s not enough minutes in today’s episode left to talk about it; one of my favorite books to recommend is Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis, if you are curious about the risks of a gluten-containing diet. Dr. Davis is not necessarily paleo; he is a cardiologist who implemented these practices with his own patients, and has seen just kind of miraculous results. So I encourage you to give that a read or a listen if you are an audio book person like myself.

So I will avoid gluten in all of its forms. And it can show up in artificial food coloring, it can show up in baking powder, it can show up in food starch. Safe starches, for example, if you’re looking for an alternative, could be arrowroot, potato starch, tapioca, all of those are good. Glucose syrup can contain it, and just backtrack a second; baking powder, an alternative to baking powder of course would be baking soda plus a little acid. So if you’re trying to bake gluten free, I encourage you to maybe try swapping out that baking powder which has; the beauty of baking powder is that it’s prebalanced. It’s already got the acid and the basic component in it for that chemical reaction to allow your baked goods to rise. Right? Baking chemistry is so much fun, and I do not understand it as well as some. But I’ve got kind of the basics down.

So, baking soda is just the basic component. So in order to trigger that to have a reaction in your baked goods, you have to add some sort of an acid into the food. I will often add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar or something like that to really trigger it. And you can get there easily.

Food starches, like I said, glucose syrup like I said; malted anything is going to have, for the most part, gluten in it; wheat gluten in it. Soy sauce, unless it’s labeled gluten free soy sauce like tamari, will have it; etc. So when in doubt, I encourage you to grab the bottle that says gluten free. Because if you can’t remember all of those ingredients; and I can’t sometimes. Sometimes I have to sit there and think; oh gosh, was that crazy ingredient on that list a cloak for gluten? Because it’s kind of impossible to keep the long extensive list in our brains at all time, that’s why it’s become handy that so many food companies are now labeling their products gluten free if they are gluten free. Just because something is labeled gluten free it does not make it a health food; it at least helps you avoid some of the sneakier ingredients that you might be confused by.

Ok; so, that’s the whole list. And if in listening to this; I have a word of caution, I guess. If you feel, after hearing that list, your toe kind of dipping back into that perfectionist pool, I want to say; do I still personally consume some of these ingredients that I talked about today? Yes, yes I do. I will eat out, and I choose to experience eating out as an effort to, you know, “get close” get pretty close where I have that 60,000 foot view of my big food bucket choices and I make decisions based on those big food bucket choices. And sure, probably the chicken that came on my salad the other day might have had carrageenan in it; but you know what? I’m just trying to get close because I’m eating out.

When I’m cooking from home is when I really do my best to make things as good as they can be. So we’re getting to a level of informed decision making without the stress of making flawless choices. So I hope that makes sense; that’s really what I’m after with this show. Is to give you information to make really good choices, but I also don’t want you to stress and obsess over whether or not it’s right or wrong. Because when we tend to obsess over being perfect, we’re either all in or all out. And I really want to show you guys that the middle ground; that world of moderation, which is such a difficult thing to articulate, but that middle ground of 80/20, whatever you call it; moderation, is comfortable, it’s expansive, you can make it your own, and it all comes down to you listening to your body and following your body’s advice. Because at the end of the day, you know what’s best for you.

Ok! Awesome. I’ll recap really quickly; the 5 ingredients that I would avoid, and I do avoid especially when I’m shopping in the grocery store, include: Carrageenan, MSG including all the other names it comes under; I encourage you to give that a quick look up if you’re curious; natural flavoring; canola or vegetable oils, and gluten in all of its form.

I hope you guys have an awesome week; an awesome day. Thank you again for joining me; we’ll be back again next week.

About the Author

Cassy Joy Garcia, NC

Cassy Joy Garcia, a New York Times best-selling author, of Cook Once Dinner Fix, Cook Once Eat All Week, and Fed and Fit as well as the creative force behind the popular food blog Fed & Fit.

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