Fat-free. Sugar-free. Reduced calories. Labels of health or labels of confusion? That fit and healthy slogan plastered on that box or package may be more misleading than beneficial. Here are some key words to watch out for when deciding which foods should earn their shelf life at the store.
1. Aspartame – Although not significantly investigated, some researchers have found some potentially harmful side-effects from consuming these artificial sweeteners. A 1994 double-blind study investigating the affects of aspartame on people with mood disorders was halted by the Institutional Review Board. The reason? Eight patients with acute depression exhibited an exacerbation of their symptoms after consuming the sweetener. Another study performed by the Canadian Diabetes Association found that aspartame can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and obesity by spiking our insulin levels. However, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has not found an increase in blood glucose levels after consuming aspartame. With the conflict of evidence on aspartame, he jury is still out. However, when in doubt, keep it out – or at least limit it.
2. Fructose, corn syrup, glucose, and high-fructose corn syrup AKA sugar – When too much of these sugars enters the liver, our organ cannot process it all fast enough for the body to utilize, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Instead, it starts making fats from these sugars and sends them into the bloodstream as triglycerides. Translation: the body stores these tasty delectables as fat. Excess fat can lead to a host of symptoms like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and even death.
3. Partially hydrogenated oil AKA trans fat – This non-essential fat may taste great in some of your baked goods but can be deadly to your heart. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine says the consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
4. Sodium Chloride AKA salt -We need about 500 milligrams of salt a day for our bodies to function, according to Dr. Stibich of About. com. However, many people eat hundreds of milligrams more – leading to hypertension (high blood pressure), water retention (bloating) and dehydration. Stibich suggests avoiding a lot of condiments, pickles, ham, bacon, salsa, cheese, cold cuts, olives, broths, anything canned, and anything processed. These sneaky salt indulgences can raise your chance of a heart attack. If you’re trying to cut your salt, limit these foods or cut them out entirely.