Many canned, packaged and frozen foods contain artificial colors or flavors, preservatives or other additives that are added to keep the product on the shelf for an extended period of time. Artificial flavors, colors or other preservatives are added to “enhance” the flavor of a food. Some of these additives and preservatives have been shown to be carcinogens, and/or affect brain developement. As a matter of fact, some of these additives are banned in other countries even though they are available in the US, such as: certain types of food coloring, brominated vegetable oil (used in sports drinks), brominated flour, rBGH and rBST (synthetic growth hormones used to increase milk production), olestra (a synthetic fat used in potato chips). Packaged foods may also contain “natural and artificial flavors.” Often, these are made with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) a known neurotoxin that affects brain development. Many deli meats also contain sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites which have been shown to cause cancer. Check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of Food Additives for a comprehensive list of food additives and their safety ratings.
Canned, packaged and frozen foods also contain a lot of sugar – to keep the product on the shelf for an extended period of time. If you look at the ingredient list on a package, sugar can come up multiple times. Here are some other versions of sugar: Maltodextrin, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maltose, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Invert Sugar, and Fructose. The problem with sugar is that it wreaks havoc on our blood sugar balance, causing us to have quick bursts of energy followed by a crash. Sugar also weakens our immune system because it is so difficult to digest. The artificial sweeteners are even more dangerous than the regular sugars as many of these have been shown to cause cancer and other neurological problems. In addition to sugar, processed and packaged foods also contain many unhealthy fats. One fat which is typically used is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation is a process whereby liquid fats are made solid. The process of hydrogenation creates transfats, which have been shown to cause heart disease.
There are some healthy options in the center aisles. The key here is to stick with products that are as whole as possible and don’t contain an extensive list of ingredients. Whole grains—such as, brown rice, oats, quinoa—and beans are good sources of complex carbohydrates and protein. Nuts and seeds are another good source of protein which one can find in the center aisles of the supermarket. Of course, there are also the spices, which have many health-promoting properties. One can also find the healthy oils to use, such as olive, coconut, sesame or grape seed oils and condiments such as vinegar and mustard.
In short, the more ingredients you can get from the perimeter of the supermarket, the better you will feel. Think of focusing primarily on foods that are real and whole. And, if that’s not always possible, try to stick with the 80/20 rule – 80% of the items from the perimeter and 20% from the center aisles.
Kohlrabi, Turnip, and Pea Soup
This soup is perfect for the cooler weather ahead.
6 shallots, halved
6 small turnips, cleaned and quartered
4 medium kohlrabi, peeled and quartered
2 thyme sprigs
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1lb. frozen peas
1 cup roughly chopped kale, chard or spinach (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche
- 1. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the shallots, turnips, kohlrabi and thyme. Sauté until very lightly browned.
- 2. Add the stock to cover the vegetables and the salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and lower heat.
- 3. Cook until all the vegetables are tender 20-25 minutes. Add the peas and kale, chard or spinach, if using, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until peas are cooked and greens are wilted.
- 4. Let soup cool slightly then puree in a blender.
- 5. Return soup to pot and add crème fraîche. Serve warm.