I still remember as a child that I was not allowed to eat junk food. No McDonalds, no KFC, no Hungry Jacks, no Mars Bars, no Snickers (gross, who would want them anyway?), no Hot Dogs, no Jellybeans.
I also remember we were allowed to pick out a sweet treat now and then. I used to love Summer Rolls (do you remember those?) I loved sesame treats and Apricot Bars. NomNom. These were the healthier options! Yet I know these are full of sugar, and probably tonnes of other horrible ingredients too! But my poor Mum was not given the information that we have today. She believed she was doing the right thing by her child and providing a healthier option than the alternative “junk food”.
Today we are talking about “health” foods. Foods that are labeled healthy, labeled as natural, sugar-free, or fat-free. Are these foods actually healthy for you? And should you be eating them?
The quickest answer is found by reading the ingredients list and nutrition panel.
Today’s example will be the Summer Roll (Yes I found out they are still sold at Woolworths 25years later)
The first two ingredients are sugar and wheat glucose syrup!
Glucose syrup is a substance primarily used in commercial food production as a sweetener, thickener, and moisture-retaining agent. The syrup is made by breaking down glucose molecules in any starchy food through hydrolysis. Commonly used products include corn, wheat, and sometimes potato. This chemical reaction yields a concentrated, sweet product with a high glucose content. Glucose syrup is a concentrated source of sugar and calories that’s primarily used to improve consumer satisfaction. It greatly spikes your insulin response and it may increase your risk of various health conditions. Glucose Syrup in any shape or form is not healthy!
The next ingredient I am going to discuss is milk solids. Milk solids’ refers to the dried powder left after all the water is removed from liquid milk. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But one of the most commonly cited harmful effects of milk powder is the presence of oxidized cholesterol. There aren’t any notable clinical studies that clearly identify how much of a health risk this is — or isn’t. But personally, I generally keep dairy to a minimum and I do know oxidized fats are NOT healthy foods! Oxidized (or rancid fats) cause damage to our cells and resulting in increased inflammation!
Vegetable Oil. The next horrible ingredient is one I suggest everyone avoid like the plague. Vegetable Oils do not come from vegetables. They usually come from seeds that have been highly processed to get the oils from the seed. Common seed sources include rapeseed (canola oil), soybean, cottonseed, sunflower seed, safflower, and linseeds. How does a seed become an oil?
This process involves the crushing and removing of the unwanted components, which is typically achieved through mechanical pressing. This version of oil making is perfect, the oil must then be kept fresh in a cool dark environment to prevent oxidization. But usually, vegetable oil extraction is completed by chemical extraction using a solvent. Solvent extraction is used to remove the oil content in the compressed plant material. During this step, the crushed plant materials are heated and mixed with hexane; a chemical that extracts the residual oil within the crushed goods.
Once the oil has been extracted, a process of purification takes place to remove any impurities that may still be present after the extraction process. This is an important step as these impurities can affect the taste, quality, and clarity of the final oil product.
Refining is the final processing step when it comes to creating vegetable oil. The refining process removes any missed impurities and other remaining undesired constituents, through bleaching and deodorizing steps.
During the bleaching component, the oil is heated and mixed with filter aids that absorb the colouring and other impurities found within the oil. Once this has been completed, the oil is heated under vacuum to 200 – 280 degrees Celsius – this step removes the remaining free fatty acids and impurities.
Water is then introduced as steam, which then bubbles through the oil, carrying away any impurities. This step is key to the manufacturing of vegetable oils and once it has been completed, the oil is ready for packaging. (Information Source)
This whole process creates an oil that is highly refined and very different from its natural source. It is damaged. The research is building about the horrible effects of oxidized oils and their effects on our health. I would avoid all vegetable oils as much as possible. And certainly would not class any food with these oils as a “health” food.
Stabilizers and Emulsifiers: These help foods that would naturally separate (i.e. water and oil) stay together. They are often from natural sources but can be irritating for gut health. Some sources are from eggs, vegetable oils, and acids like citric acid. Read more here
So as you can see there are some “dodgy” ingredients in this “health bar” as it was back in my era as a child.
If you look at the health foods aisle today and choose some random items and read the ingredients, how will you know if it is actually healthy?
This is how I read and interpret ingredient labels:
- Do I know what each of these ingredients is?
- Is the label full of numbers?
- Is the label full of chemical-sounding names?
- Is one of the first ingredients sugar of some form?
- Is there canola oil, vegetable oil, seed oil of any sort listed?
If I answer yes to any of these questions then I contemplate if the risk is worth the taste? Some days I will say yes and some days I will say no. But these foods are not my everyday foods. They are not “health-promoting”.
Occasionally a scary sounding word is not actually bad… I like this list from Dr. Sarah Ballantyne to help interpret these:
Another good resource she has about label reading includes a big list of foods that actually contain wheat, dairy, soy, corn, or sugar, even though it doesn’t sound like it!
So what are truly healthy foods?
My health-promoting foods are whole foods without any labels. They are fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, poultry and fish, and properly prepared grains and legumes. These make up the bulk of my diet. The foods that come without packaging, that will rot and break down into the earth, the foods that the earth provides me with rather than a factory.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Anthea Holder
(Chiropractor and Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner)