To Eat or Not to Eat: 5 Red Flags to Look for with Food

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You’re health-conscious and want to fuel your body with the maximum amount of nutrients and the least amount of junk. And when we say junk, we mean preservatives, artificial flavoring, dyes, and other additives that aren’t normally found in produce.

Of course, the easiest way to find food that’s straight from nature is in the fruits and vegetable section of the grocery store. Still, it’s hard to fight off those cravings for processed sweets and snacks. Not everything that tastes good is going to kill you, but there are a few warning signs you should be aware of. So if you find yourself wandering the snack aisle, be wary of these 5 red flags.

Trans fat

Trans fat rarely occurs in nature. It’s a product of superheating vegetable oils. The shape of the fat changes into a form that our bodies don’t recognize, so it dumps right into our arteries. If you’re reading a product’s ingredients list, trans fats are sometimes called “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils,” or simply, “hydrogenated vegetable oil.” But be cautious. Legally, a product can say that it has 0% trans fat if it has less than 0.6 grams of it. This could purposely mislead you into consuming trans fat.

Added sugars

Look on the nutrition label for any added sugars. Things like milk, oatmeal, almond milk, and healthy cereals are often sweetened with extra sugar. Look for unsweetened versions, and use fresh fruit instead of white table sugar to get that flavor boost. At first, your tongue might not enjoy unsweetened foods, but over time, you’ll notice that your taste buds adjust and become more sensitive. You may even start to enjoy the natural flavor of most foods!

Sugar-free labels

Some products replace processed sugars with artificial sweeteners. While some people can taste the difference and choose to avoid sugar substitutes, others prefer it. But there’s a cost. Artificial sweeteners trick your brain into thinking you’re eating sugar when you’re not. As a result, many tend to experience cravings and over-eat. In the long run, sugar-free products can actually make you gain weight. What’s worse, certain chemicals such as aspartame are known to cause cancer in mice, and migraines in humans.

Low-fat labels

Before sugar was the enemy of good health, fat was the boogeyman in most dietary circles. But eating fat isn’t nearly as bad as we used to think. What is bad are low-fat or fat-free versions of high-calorie foods that compensate with sugar. That happens because fat gives flavor to foods, so to make up for the loss of taste, companies will add plenty of sugar to make the food taste edible. But in the long run, eating all that sugar actually will make you fat! So what should you do instead? Eat the regular products, with the natural amounts of fat. Just practice moderation.

All-natural labels

‘All-natural’ is a bit misleading. Why? Because all foods, processed or unprocessed, come from nature. That pre-packaged chocolate chip cookie was made from wheat, cocoa, and sugar cane. Sure, we might have refined certain chemicals from those plants, but they’re still, technically, natural. So, what does that all-natural label really mean? Not much. This phrase is mostly a marketing trick, but if you read the label, you’ll see that the product is still highly processed.


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