Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beware of the Big "C"

In an ideal world, we would all have access to the freshest produce and most minimally processed food stuffs available. The reality of the situation is that we overwork, undersleep and often times grab what is most convenient to satiate our hunger pangs. When shopping for sustenance, the more health conscious of us will look for the "hot button" words like, "organic," "all natural," or "minimally processed," and feel they have taken one step closer to adequate nutrition. Truth is the container of soy milk you just purchased, while containing less fat, more protein and all sorts of other proported health benefits is probably better than soaking your Cheerios with Red Bull, it may also contain a seriously dangerous "NATURAL" ingredient: Carrageenan.

What is Carrageenan? It is a "natural" gum made from seaweed extract that helps preserve foods.

Two gums that are pretty familiar are gelatin and corn starch. If you look at processed food, you see all sorts of other gums like carrageenan, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, locust bean gum, agar, and so on. Food scientists (not cooks -- food scientists make processed foods) use these substances for four main reasons:
1. They thicken things: Ice cream, marshmallow fluff, pancake syrup, etc., all benefit from thickening.
2. They emulsify things: They help liquids to stay mixed together without separating.
3. They change the texture: Generally, a gum will make something thicker or chewier.
4. They stabilize crystals: A gum might help prevent sugar or ice from crystallizing

That's right, food scientists make these processed foods so they can bake a cookie in Texas in January and have it fresh for the New Englanders in May. Foods containing Carrageenan: deli meats, toothpastes, apple cider, hot dogs, most ice creams and prepared sauces and jellies (among many others).

Carrageenan has been found to cause colitis and anaphylaxis in humans, but it is often present in baby “formulas” and a wide range of milk products, with the result that many people have come to believe that it was the milk-product that was responsible for their allergic symptoms. Because the regulators claim that it is a safe natural substance, it is very likely that it sometimes appears in foods that don’t list it on the label, for example when it is part of another ingredient. Check your box of Girl Scout Cookies!!

The health conscious know to avoid high fructose corn syrup and transfats...add Carrageenan to your list. It is processed, it is a chemical and there is nothing natural about it.

Your assignment: Look at the labels in your refrigerator. Throw out anything containing this product. Post your results to comments.

Coach Kevin


FilthyBrit said...

Thanks, Kevin. Will take a look in the fridge!

Any thoughts on nightshades? I just found out there's a lot more in this family than just white potatos, including tomotoes, eggplant, hot peppers (booo!!!) and tobbacco (Nick, thanks for the tip).

On the Crossfit forums, there's lots of talk about the negative side-effects of nightshades.

Are they something you've eliminated from your diet? If so, noticed any benefits?



Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe the nightshade deal is more trouble than it's worth. For most, cutting down on refined foods, grains and dairy is most of the picture...


Nick said...

I tend to agree with Boz. I thought about cutting nightshades from my diet, but I already eat healthier than I ever have in my life, and healthier than 99% of the people I know. Although I suspect they may cause me some extra soreness from time to time, I just like the flavor. Plus Italians, Asians and other cultures have eaten them for years. Why should I cut them out now when it hasn't affected me that significantly.

adrian said...

Great post Kev, by the way.


FilthyBrit said...

Thanks, guys!