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Top 10 Packaged Foods You Shouldn't Buy

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page and our Health Issues page.

Grist Magazine started me off on this list by providing the first five packaged foods that are completely unnecessary, as making them at home is not only simple, but far healthier and more inexpensive. I added five more to Jane Mountain's list, for a total of 10.

1. Canned soup: This typically contains large amounts of processed salt, additives, MSG, and genetically engineered ingredients. Many companies also still use cans with bisphenol-A (BPA) in the lining. This plastic chemical has been identified as a potent endocrine disruptor, which means it mimics or interferes with your body's hormones and "disrupts" your endocrine system.

 Fortunately, making home-made soup is easy to learn and ensures you know exactly what's in it. Jane offers three soup recipes in her Grist article.1 The Internet offers countless more. She also offers the following three tips:     

   1."Sign up for a CSA [local community supported agriculture] box and you'll have lots of crazy fruits and vegetables on hand to make soup.     

   2. Invest in a hand blender... we use ours every single day and it's so much easier to blend the soup right in the pot.     

   3. Make your own stock!" 

2. Stock and Bouillon: Making stock is even easier than making soup. Instead of composting potato peels, onion skins, leek tops, eggplant stems and whatever else you happen to be left with, freeze them and make stock when you have enough to make a batch of vegetable stock.

 Jane links to a page with instructions for making "Scrappy Veggie Stock" on PoorGirlEatsWell.com2 that looks to be easy enough even for the most intimidated of beginners. I also like Jane's suggestion to: "pour the stock into some flexible ice-cube trays and freeze them. Then it's ready to use in small portions..." Excellent advice. 

3. Canned Beans: Just like soup, beans taste better and fresher, and are better for you, if you buy them dried and prepare them at home -- and again, this way you'll ensure your beans aren't laced with BPA. CookingManager.com offers all sorts of cooking tips, including how to prepare dried beans from scratch. Commercially prepared beans are also typically cooked at very high heat for short periods of time, which is not as good as cooking them longer at lower temperatures.

 When foods are cooked at high temperatures, advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are produced. These compounds, which stimulate cells to produce proteins that cause inflammation, can be toxic to the body. AGEs are normally produced at a slow rate, but the rate increases when food is highly heated. There is also a substantial body of evidence supporting the notion that heat treatment of food alters, damages or destroys many nutrients in the food.

 Think dried beans are too time consuming? Consider Jane's comment on the matter:

"In reality, it takes around three minutes to put the beans in some water, another minute to change that water during soaking, and then about five more minutes to put them on the stove. All the beans you'll eat all week in less than 10 minutes."

4. Hummus: Making your own hummus using fresh chickpeas takes just minutes once you get the hang of it, and gives you the freedom to season it to taste. 

5. Cereal: Most cereal is a combination of high-fructose corn syrup and GM corn, and cereals marketed to children are the worst offenders. According to one 2008 study, one serving of cereal equated to 11 percent of the daily limit of added sugar for active boys aged 14 to 18 years old, and an astounding 92 percent of the daily sugar intake for sedentary girls aged 9 to 13.4

 Reducing sugar intake should be on the top of your list regardless of whether you or your child is currently overweight, because it's been proven over and over that sugar increases insulin levels, which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, premature aging, and more.

 While the featured article points out that you can make muesli in a matter of minutes, sans added sugars, I don't recommend eating grain carbs for breakfast, even if it doesn't have any added sugars. Instead, I recommend focusing on protein for breakfast, such as easily-digested whey protein.

 Look for high quality whey protein derived from grass-fed, non-hormonally treated cows that's been minimally processed. This ensures it still contains beneficial immuno components, including immunoglobins, bovine serum albumin, and lactoferins, in addition to all the key amino acids and other beneficial nutrients you typically get from a high quality whey protein. Organic, pastured eggs are another excellent breakfast food, as long as it's consumed as close to raw as possible. Avoid scrambled eggs, as cooking destroys many of the beneficial nutrients.


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