Buyer Beware

In this day and age, who do we believe when it comes to food rumors? Do you turn to your favorite health magazine? A colleague? A trusted friend? With the fast paced ways of the world, it is hard to stay on top of things and know just which gossip is fact and which is fiction. The following information will help you to understand that not everything is black and white when it comes to food.

Let’s start with a simple truth: moderation is the key to a healthy diet. Moderation is even more important when it comes to the dairy replacement, soy. It is true that soy can reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of certain cancers. However, a little known fact is that soy and soy based products contain chemical compounds that mimic estrogen. If large quantities are consumed it can reduce the fertility rate of women, cause problems with the development of fetuses, or encourage premature puberty.

The proper response to that bit of information is to educate yourself instead of running home to toss  every last bit of soy you might have in your kitchen into the garbage. Research the food that you consume and discover what potential hazards they might contain. It is a good rule of thumb that magazine advertisements and television commercials should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, they are trying to sell you something.
When it comes to education, food labels can be a tricky subject. Buying “low fat” or “fat-free” seems like a good call, especially when you compare calories per serving. It is not that cut and dry, however. What happens when fat is removed from a product? The flavor is changed. So, how is it that fat-free ice cream tastes remotely edible? Certain products will have chemicals and sugar added to make it taste worthwhile. Additionally, something could be labeled “low” but still have that specific item present. For example, “low fat” means that there are 3 grams or less per serving. That may not seem like a lot but when you consume more than the recommended serving each time you pick up that product, the numbers will begin to add up.

Did you realize that people tend to be more inclined to do just that when the product is labeled low calorie or fat free? Where an individual might eat only three servings of a regular item, he or she would be more likely to eat five or six of the fat-free version. Where is the justification? “The label says so.” When perusing the grocery store, you might find that purchasing the normal version and exercising self control might actually be a healthier alternative to stock piling fat-free dressings and 100-calorie packs of cookies.
Is organic produce the heavenly gift it is claimed to be? These days it is as controversial as discussing politics amongst hot-headed coworkers. Here are some facts: organic does not mean healthier. It means “grown without chemicals or additives” and sometimes “two or three times the price.”

The assumption that organic produce is cleaner, more sustainable and more nutritious is just that: an assumption. Organic produce is not cleaner; E. coli is not concerned with organic versus nonorganic. All produce should be washed prior to consumption. Although there is less of a  chance of consuming pesticides with organic produce, the amount of nonorganic produce an individual would actually have to eat to become ill due to ingesting pesticides is astronomical. Organic produce is sustainable, to a point. It would be impossible to go completely organic because in order to grow that type of produce on a large scale more land is required, meaning that there is less for residential neighborhoods and businesses, but more importantly that means less space for wildlife and forests.

As far as nutrition is concerned that all varies depending on the season, type of fruit or vegetable, ripeness and shelf life (and whether or not it is organic). However, there are natural compounds in plants that are actually toxic. It is the plant’s means of protecting itself. Pesticides and herbicides can lower a plants ability to produce those toxins because it does not have to defend itself like organic produce does. Those natural defenses can cause organic plants to be more toxic. But just like with the pesticides on nonorganic produce, the amount one would have to consume to have a reaction to the aforementioned toxins would be outrageous.

Regardless of what buzz topic is being whispered throughout the foodie world, we must all keep ourselves informed and actively involved with our diets. It is much easier to believe what is being reported on the evening news or that advertisement for the zero calorie potato chips. However, as with most things in life, if it were easy it would not be worth it. A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.

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