Top 15 Food Ingredients to Avoid: Part 5 Refined Sugar, Bleached White Flour and Table Salt
I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about this final installment of food ingredients to avoid. I’ve decided to get right down to the basics, the foundation of the typical American diet and the source of so many of our health woes.
Our family has been eating small of amounts of all of these food ingredients still even since we’ve moved toward our organic, whole foods diet. These last three ingredients are about impossible to avoid when we eat out, buy processed foods and prepared meals and if I use my family recipes (or most cookbooks used in most homes today). Refined sugar, bleached white flour and refined table salt are difficult to avoid. I’m going to suggest some substitutes and ideas I’ve found helpful to limit your consumption of these pervasive food ingredients. What makes them all so dangerous to our health is the processing, the final super-processed form in which they come to our grocery store shelves. This is not sugar cane, raw honey or maple syrup. This is not whole soaked or sprouted grain. This is not sun-dried sea salt. Refined sugar, bleached white flour and table salt are about as far from their natural and wholesome beginnings as they can be. Let’s take a closer look.
In its natural state sugars are present in foods along with enzymes, minerals, protein, fiber, vitamins, and other life supporting elements. With these components occurring together, most of our bodies have all they need to digest and use all the parts including the sugars. Refined sugar, however, is missing all of the good stuff. I was curious about how sugar consumption has changed over time and found these statistics:
- In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
- In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
- In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
- In 2009, more than 50 percent Americans consume 1/2 pound of sugar per day, which is 180 pounds of sugar per year. (from wholevegan.com)
Refined sugar is just bare carbohydrates. Your body actually needs to take minerals from elsewhere in your body to digest and utilize refined sugar. As your body works to digest sugar and keep your body in balance, essential nutrients are being depleted. This in turn leads to all kinds of health problems, including obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer just to name a few. I can just about guarantee that if you cut out (or even greatly reduce) sugar from your diet, you’ll feel much healthier, you’ll lose weight, you’ll get sick less often. Combine your sugar reduction with flour elimination or reduction and you’ll be on your way to a whole new you and much closer to living in vibrant health.
Bleached White Flour (really most flour on the market today falls into this category – ingredients to avoid)
Flour naturally bleaches as it ages. This takes time. In an effort to speed up the process scientists started to look for ways to bleach the flour chemically. Today a number of different oxides are used to bleach flour including oxides of chlorine, nitrogen, nitrosyl, and benzoyl peroxide mixed with various chemical salts. It is not just the bleaching agent that I’m concerned about though. Bleached flour loses much of its goodness in processing. Take a look at what’s lost!
Half of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids
Virtually all of the vitamin E
Fifty percent of the calcium
Seventy percent of the phosphorus
Eighty percent of the iron
Ninety eight per cent of the magnesium
Fifty to 80 percent of the B vitamins (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/03/26/The-Little-Known-Secrets-about-Bleached-Flour.aspx)
Bleached white flour is also missing two nutritious parts of the grain: the bran and the germ. Once again, the product of processing is nearly devoid of nutrients and is difficult for our bodies to digest and utilize. Our bodies are getting worn out and used up, trying to keep up with the inundation of processed foods and chemicals. The human body is incredibly resilient and resourceful, but it of course has its limits. When our stores of minerals and other nutrients run out, then what? If we’re not feeding ourselves with nutrient dense foods, we’re on a downward spiral toward general malaise and illness. While I recommend cutting down on your use of all flours, if you do continue to use flour, seek out whole grain unbleached flours. You want the bran and the germ intact, and you want the flour to have aged naturally, not chemically.
I recommend reading this article to get a fairly comprehensive look at the history of milling grains and the results of the moving away from local mills to the use of centralized super-efficient mills.
Refined Table Salt
I am in no way saying that salt is bad for you. In fact, salt is essential for certain body processes. Different components of salt have different jobs. Salt contributes to healthy functioning of your nerves and brain and digestive system. Salt also helps regulate blood volume and blood pressure.
As with most anything that is good for you, you can also have too much. The danger in consuming salt is in taking in too much sodium in particular. Sodium is present in high amounts in most processed foods. So if you can reduce the amount of processed foods you buy, you’ll cut down your sodium intake considerably. I also suggest switching from table salt to a pure sea salt. I use both Real Salt and Celtic Sea Salt.
Table salt is highly processed, refined salt from salt mines and from the sea. Chemicals are used to refine it and additives are used to make it look appealing and keep it from caking. While the make-up of table salt and sea salt is similar, table salt has significantly more sodium content in general. Sea salt has many trace minerals present naturally. Some folks discount these trace minerals when comparing table salt to sea salt, but in my role as a farmer, I’ve learned how important these trace minerals can be to overall health. There are some things that we only need in small amounts, so for them to occur in small amounts in our food is perfect.
This wraps up my report on food ingredients to avoid. Be on the lookout for a special downloadable guide and a bonus list of additional ingredients to look out for. I hope I’ve inspired you to keep moving forward on your quest to a cleaner diet and better health! As always, I encourage you to leave comments below and join in on the conversation. Thank you for following along!