Stick with foods that don’t need labels

I always advise you against eating processed foods, including processed meat. As I explained on Tuesday, a huge, new, taxpayer-funded study by AARP-NIH recently made headlines by proclaiming that eating red meat increases mortality risk. But when you dig deeper into the study, the real data shows that eating more processed meats, such as hot dogs, is the real problem. Fresh, unprocessed meat provides many health benefits, as I often report.

Indeed — processing is a huge problem throughout the grocery store. That’s why I always recommend sticking to the perimeter where you find the fresh produce, fish, seafood, meats, and dairy.

These fresh foods require some additional care. So — they design the buildings’ perimeter to provide ventilation, cooling and watering.

In the center of the store, you find all the processed, prepared, packaged foods loudly proclaiming how healthy they are supposed to be. But it seems they put more care (and marketing) into what goes on the box than what goes in the box. Indeed — it’s safe to say almost all of the packaged, processed products in the middle of the store are just shadows of real food. They typically offer little or no real nutritional value.

First, manufacturers must cook and sterilize processed foods to eliminate the risk of microbial contamination. This processing kills natural enzymes and nutrients and drastically reduces the nutrient levels.

Next, they must load packaged foods with artificial additives and chemicals, which serve to help with processing, preservation, and “flavoring.” Rather than extract flavors and pigments from whole foods, they combine chemicals in a lab to imitate the real flavors and colors. Often, these “natural” ingredients require up to 75 different chemicals to simulate the taste or color of cinnamon or lemon, for example.

The word “natural” on the box doesn’t mean what it should

Food manufacturers can still use the word “natural” on products made with artificial ingredients. In fact, the government doesn’t closely regulate the word as it does with words “grass-fed,” “free-range,” and “organic.” (And they even try to play games with “organic,” as I have reported.)

In fact, when food manufacturers use the word “natural” on labels, it only means it contains any chemical the FDA has approved for use in food. And, in my view, the FDA and EPA have approved far too many chemicals for environmental exposure, human exposure, and even human consumption.

Over the decades, the FDA has banned 23 artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. But only after many years of human exposure. For example, it took half-a-century for the FDA to ban “orange dye #1” after research found it caused organ damage. Perhaps they are now working their way up to reviewing the data for “orange dye #2.”

Last but not least, food manufacturers package the processed food in metal cans, foil wrappers, plastic containers, and/or paper boxes that contain more artificial chemicals. Many of these chemicals pose health risks of all kinds.

Of course, in Nature, the natural pigments tell you that foods have important nutrients like carotenoids, anthocyanins, and other compounds, which offer potent biological activities. Plus, fresh, whole foods like eggs have natural, anti-microbial properties that protect and preserve their quality and nutritional value.

My advice? Avoid the center aisles and the processed foods they contain. Pure and simple.