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What’s in your food? Food additives explained


A box of a leading brand of cereal contains an astounding amount of ingredients and additives (I counted 29 in my cereal this morning). These additives range from sugar and soybean oil to “mixed tocopherols for freshness.” Can we even trust what we’re eating?

As twenty-somethings, food can either make us full or make us sick. The food we eat is habitual and we have choices every day: to eat whole, healthy foods with few preservatives or eat highly addictive foods with many additives.

However, nutrition isn’t as black and white as many of the foods we eat may be tricking us into thinking. Our eyes may be drawn toward the low-fat, low-sugar packaged foods at the grocery store. But a reassuring cereal or yogurt label might be the ultimate problem: we are being tricked by factory-produced foods.

And when foods are processed, such as in a box of cereal, many healthy ingredients are taken out in order for longer preservation. Unfortunately, our food has become a jumble of chemical compounds. Try researching a hard-to-spell ingredient and see where you end up.

I recently read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” and he writes “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He states a very simple message, but can we find and eat these whole foods all of the time?

The problem is that the Western diet is full of food from not only factory farms, but factories in general. Such additives in our food include artificial sweeteners, food dyes, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, BHA, BHT, Sulfur Dioxide, and many more. It’s hard to know what these ingredients even mean, but the purpose of these additives is to increase shelf life and enhance the look of food.

Next time you eat food, think about the color, the texture, and taste. Why is this bread so white? How can these peaches last so long in this can? What health benefits are we losing?

Our food has become a commodity—chemical compounds that could be killing us. Pollan asserts that the Western diet contributes to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

What should we do?

This summer I had a very rewarding experience — I worked on my campus’s organic farm and learned the entire cycle of producing food from soil to seed to crop to mouth. Imagine picking the green beans, squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers that you planted!

Eating whole foods versus factory-processed foods, without a doubt, can make us twenty-somethings more energized, healthier, and more knowledgeable about what fills us.

So put down that carbonated beverage with aspartame, save some gas money on fast “food” with factory-farmed chicken and drink water, a salad, and an apple instead.

Photo via qmnonic

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