This mantra started when I was pregnant with my first child. I was at work one day and I had that cliché craving for ice cream. The only ice cream available in the school I teach at can be found in a vending machine in the cafeteria. After making my selection, I quickly devoured it without looking at the label because I didn’t want to know how much fat I had consumed, as I already felt guilty enough about putting it into my body knowing it wasn’t healthy! Once it was gone though, I got curious and looked. It was then that I first saw the letters TBHQ, with the word antioxidant next to it in parenthesis, and I thought, if the makers have to say it’s an antioxidant, it certainly can’t be a natural one; so I looked it up. What I found made me wish I had never even taken one bite of it, especially since a fetus is what his/her mother eats! I’ll let you know about my findings regarding TBHQ in a bit!
Once I became a mother, I started reading labels a lot more often because I want to make sure that everything I put into my family’s bodies is safe. About two years after I gave birth to my son, I started doing research on and writing about many different types of products in addition to food. After a couple of months I found I was basically saying the same thing at least once in each piece I wrote: It all comes down to reading the labels!
These days, just about everything seems to have a label. Labels are so commonplace that instead of reading them, a lot of people trust the front of the box, bag, or what have you, without reading the fine print. After all, if something is sold on a store shelf, then it must not be bad for you right? Think again!
Being that heath and wellness is in the spotlight a lot these days, I would like to share with you some of what I have learned from reading labels.
American Cheese versus Most Other Kinds: Cheddar, Havarti, Swill, Gruyere, Parmesan – all of these types of cheese contain only 4 or 5 ingredients (milk, cheese cultures, salt and enzymes). Meanwhile, some brands of American cheese contain 14 ingredients, including artificial flavors and carrageenan. I’d much rather buy the cheese that is simply that, cheese, rather than an artificial knockoff!
Bug Repellant: I found DEET in almost every bug repellent sold at Rite Aid, including the OFF products. Some products are labeled as natural because they also contain essential oils (much like many artificial air fresheners claim), but they still contain nasty chemicals. Being that DEET was once (in 1998) considered unsafe enough that it was illegal for any products containing DEET to make any child safety claims (www.environmentalhealth.ca/spring03hazards.html), it is a chemical that should be avoided, especially since there are many natural alternatives, including the use of essential oils.
TBHQ: It was only after I devoured that chocolate éclair that I was telling you about that I decided to look at the ingredients and I had my regrets. Listed on the label was ”TBHQ (antioxidant)” Here’s what I found when I looked it up: 1. It is a form of petroleum (butane), and is used as a stabilizer in oil fields among other things. 2. The FDA said that TBHQ must not exceed 0.02 percent of its oil and fat content. Death has occurred from the ingestion of as little as 5 grams. And 3. Ingestion of a single gram (a thirtieth of an ounce) has caused nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse (http://food.oregonstate.edu/glossary/t/tertiarybutylhydroquinone.html). TBHQ can be found in preserved foods such as ice cream pops and pre made cones, in dog food, many children’s snacks, like Cheeze It’s, and in certain brands of chicken nuggets, such as McDonalds, some vegetable and soybean oils, and even in perfumes and makeup.
Even foods that are labeled as healthy may not be: A couple of months ago I went to the grocery store looking to find the brand of rice crackers I like. Unfortunately, the place I went to no longer carries them, so I went looking for another brand, which I found in their “Healthy Food Aisle” (on a side note, I can’t get over how supermarkets label one or two aisles as health food – are they openly saying that the rest of their food is not healthy?) Anyway… in this health aisle, I found another brand. I turned the package over to read the ingredients and low and behold – it contains food dyes yellow 5 and 6! These dyes have been cited to cause hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children, and have caused adrenal tumors when tested on animals.
I could go on with my findings, but I think I’ll let you explore more for yourself for now. By knowing what to avoid and making sure that these chemicals are not included on the ingredients list of what you are bringing home to your family, you really can help to bring health and wellness into your life. Thus, my mantra: Read your labels!
For more on living a healthy lifestyle and great recipes, visit Nourishing Treasures!