Shop Smart: Winning The Label Game

By Health & Wellness Correspondent Abby Royce

Shop Smart: Winning The Label Game

When it comes to eating healthy, there is an ever-expanding array of information. And it can seem at times like the more we learn about our options, the more complex the decision making process becomes. For almost every product on the market, there is group telling us it is either "healthy" or "unhealthy". It's this writer's opinion that this would be due largely to economics and financial incentive, more than hardened fact.

Let's take a look at a few of the most conspiratorial food additives that we do have the facts about: Monosodium glutamate (MSG), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS's) and artificial sweeteners:

MSG is a flavor enhancer found in many commercially processed foods. Some believe that MSG causes a number of cardiac, circulatory, gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine and many other disorders. The FDA states that it is perfectly harmless, a naturally occurring
amino acid that mimics what the body already creates and simply makes food taste better. However, the pharmaceutical companies are spending millions of dollars creating glutamate blockers to fight neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. It seems rather peculiar to me that we are creating drugs to combat some of the same chemicals that are added to our foods. (It's similar to going to war for profiteering, but that's for another newsletter.)

To further obscure the issue, MSG may also be labeled as gelatin, calcium caseinate, textured protein, monopotassium glutamate, hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP),yeast extract glutamate, yeast food or nutrient, glutamic acid, sodium caseinate, and a host of other names. It does beg the question that if MSG weren't harmful, then why is it so hidden in our food labeling? I offer this information just as a precaution for the next time you read the back of a veggie burger box. 
Is what is marketed to us as "healthy" truly that? Food makers are in business to make money, not make you healthy. Therefore, it's up to us alone to decide what gets put in our bodies.

The ever-popular high-fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of foods and is cheaper and sweeter than sugar. HFCS's are another ingredient found in most processed foods. Some nutritionists blame the increased consumption of the syrup for the growing obesity problem in
this country. One popular theory is that fructose is more readily converted to fat by your liver than sucrose.

Artificial sweeteners might be the most controversial "health" food of them all. Certain study groups have found substances like aspartame and products like Splenda to cause cancer, liver, spleen and kidney issues in lab animals. Again, the FDA deems them to be perfectly safe. Many people (like myself) find the artificial stuff to cause headaches
while others swear by it.

So how can we shop healthy at the market without spending the entire day there vacillating over food labels? Personally, I prefer not to gamble my health with mixed reports on certain food additives that may have adverse side affects. My personal rule of thumb for judging foods is to ask myself how I feel after consumption, and does my butt still
look good in a bikini—here in the never ending bikini season state.

My general recommendation for gamble-free foods is to buy whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. I try to circle the peripherals of the market, as the middle isles are usually filled with processed foods. Shopping at the farmers market if you can, also takes a lot of
guesswork out of the equation as many commercial crops are sprayed with chemicals that may put a strain on liver and kidneys. And remember, your liver and kidneys filter the chemicals, alcohols, sugars and fats we consume. When the liver is stressed out with too
many toxins, the body will look for alternative places to store those toxins and fats (say hello cellulite).

With the constant onslaught of information out there, we hope we can at least make your trip to the grocery store a little less confusing. Being "foodies" at heart, we at B on Hawaii, wish you and your family good health, happiness and the ability to enjoy foods for their
nutritional and tasty value most of all!