Nutrition

Where the Yucky Things Are

Today I thought I would go around my house and hunt for the chemicals in commons foods that can probably be found in many American homes. Foods like mayonnaise, Lean Pockets, and protein bars. A few of these foods I’m sure you already know are bad for you like mayonnaise. But what about the protein bar? Those little pesky chemicals can be hiding anywhere in your house, obvious or not. So let’s take a look.

When you look at the side of a jar of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise you only see a few ingredients, which is good. And while most of those ingredients appear to be non-chemical (like soybean oil and vinegar), the ingredient that caught my eye is the calcium disodium EDTA, which stands for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. (Quick tip: if you are trying to depend less on processed foods and are searching for healthier foods with whole ingredients, read your labels. If there are ingredients that you cannot pronounce, it is probably not good for you.)

I found that it is a chemical mostly used to treat lead poisoning, which may be beneficial if you have lead poisoning. Scientists use this ingredient in mayonnaise because it can also be used as a preservative and it prevents the separation of the oils and other ingredients in the jar to make it look more appealing on the shelf. So while this ingredient may not be an immediate concern for most, calcium disodium EDTA that is consumed continually over a long period of time may have adverse effects on the metallic levels in the human body.

The next item on the list is Lean Pockets, which are the just the “healthier” version of Hot Pockets. I didn’t have to do much hunting for this one. You would think that if these manufacturers were trying to create a lean meal, they would make it good for your body right? Wrong. The list of ingredients alone takes up an entire side of the box. The ingredient maltodextrin is listed a couple times. Maltodextrin is a white, powdery substance often used as a thickening agent. This ingredient alone can spike blood sugar, suppresses growth of probiotics, is made from genetically modified corn (so it’s not even natural), can be an allergen, and it has no nutritious value. And has anyone heard of methylcellulose? Do you know what it is? It’s a drug used to treat constipation. So there are literally drugs sitting in my freezer right now. Needless to say I will not be buying Lean Pockets anymore.

The last food I want to talk about is a protein bar. I’m a little scared to tap into this one since I eat them a lot and some of them are so good. But let’s get started. Reading through the ingredient lists it actually doesn’t look too bad, but I did find glycerine, also known as glycerol, which is also found in soaps, antifreeze, and is a plasticizer. Another is soy lecithin, which can cause bloating, diarrhea, mild skin rashes, nausea and stomach pain. And with any “soy” product, I encourage you to research the origin of the ingredient. Is it actually “soy” as found in nature? Or is it something manufactured in the lab with that label?

I hope this little adventure has proven enlightening for you. It certainly has for me. So I cannot urge you strongly enough, for the sake of your health and your family’s, read the labels. And if you see an unfamiliar ingredient, look it up. It could save your life someday.