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I am not talking about coke and brightly coloured sweets, that's too obvious!

Read on and find out my hit list of the 10 most deceptive foods you should not to trust...and why

 

1. Popcorns

 

There are a number of reasons why popcorns are not the healthy food you may think it is. Indeed corn is high in fibre, low in fat and for the volume they are low in calories when popped. In short the ideal way to keep fingers busy and mouth instantly gratified wherever you are. 
So what could possibly be wrong with popcorn...

  •  Industrial popcorn are packaged with a chemical (PFOA) that prevents the fat from leaking into the wrapper. PFOA is a known carcinogenic with gender-bending properties that disrupts thyroid function and the immune system. PFOA levels soar when reheating the popcorn in their wrapper (as is the case with microwavable popcorn) because it will then freely leach into the popcorn.
  • Popcorn (unless you make them yourself with a more stable fat like coconut oil or butter) are made using unstable vegetable oil (usually rape or corn) and as such share the same toxicity issue with all industrial and fried foods (such as crisps) namely trans-fat contamination. No vegetable oil can resist heat without the formation of toxic trans-fat. Trans-fats are exceptionally toxic to the liver and the cardiovascular system contributing to arterial plaque, unlike the cholesterol in food which has no bearing.
  • Corn is one of the main GE (genetically engineered) crop. Despite broadly assumed knowledge, GE corn is far from being the answer to the global food crises. It is a source of increased contaminants in the food chain and the environment. The GE corn seeds are engineered to resist the weed killing action of Glyphosate which makes spraying it liberally on crops of no immediate consequence.  The combination with calcium phosphate in fertilisers is particularly toxic for the kidneys and killing farmers worldwide... Don't be lulled into a false sense of security Europe is not GM free. Some European countries are banning its agriculture but genetically engineered food is still making its way through imported process foods and animal feed

 2. Table salt

Salt is essential for life—you cannot live without it. However, regular ‘table salt’ and the salt found in processed foods are NOT identical to the salt your body really needs. In fact, table salt has practically nothing in common with natural salt. One is health damaging, and the other is healing.

  • Processed salt is 98 percent sodium chloride, and the remaining two percent comprises man-made chemicals to help absorb moisture. These are dangerous chemicals like ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate. Some European countries, where water fluoridation is not practiced, also add fluoride to table salt. Fluoride is also potentially toxic and can disrupt thyroid function
  • Natural salt is about 84 percent sodium chloride. The remaining 16 percent of natural salt consists of other naturally occurring minerals, including trace minerals like silicon, phosphorous and vanadium

Given that salt is absolutely essential to good health, I recommend switching to a pure, unrefined salt. My favourite are Himalayan pink salt and grey Atlantic sea salt.

3. Tuna fish

Combustion in power plants of coal containing mercury is a major source of environmental pollution. As mercury containing particles are released and move through the air they get deposited in water and mercury finds its way into fish. It accumulates especially in fish that are higher up the food chain like tuna, marlin, shark, barracuda, and swordfish which, when tested, have some of the highest levels of contaminants.

Pregnant women should be especially careful to consume the right types of fish because the toxic heavy metal can cross the placenta and harm the rapidly developing nervous system, including the brain of the foetus. Studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.

4. Chard, barbequed and rotisserie meat

Heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, are compounds created in meats and other foods that have been cooked at high temperatures. The worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and never eat charred sections from barbequed meat.

Studies have shown that humans who consume large amounts of HCAs have increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.

However HCAs aren't the only cancer-causing chemicals created during cooking. A couple of other well-known compounds include:

  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): are formed when dripping fat from barbequed meat is burnt and smokes the meat. It is also found in processed meats that are smoked as part of the curing process.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): Those are oxidizing free radical released from cooking. Their concentration increase with the intensity of the heat. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

In a study, published in the June issue of Meat Science, researchers specifically measured the HCA content of a variety of meats and found they contained the following amounts of this cancer-causing compound:

  • Pepperoni--0.05 ng/g
  • Hot dogs and deli meats--0.5 ng/g
  • Fully cooked bacon--1.1 ng/g
  • Rotisserie chicken--1.9 ng/g
  • Rotisserie skin--16.3 ng/g

Clearly, when it comes to HCAs, the skin of rotisserie chicken is one of the worst culprits, so it is best to remove the skin.

This obviously doesn’t mean that hotdogs and bacon are preferable compared to chicken. You simply cannot judge the danger of a food by its HCA content alone. It does however alert to some of the problems associated with cooking methods. It is also worth noting that virtually all Processed Meat contain another well-known carcinogen: sodium nitrite. It's a commonly used preservative and antimicrobial agent that adds colour and flavour to processed and cured meats. Hot dogs, deli meats and bacon are notorious for their nitrite content, so even though they might be low in HCA's, they are far from healthful.

5. Organic “healthy” crisps

I know this one is possibly obvious to most of you but you could be forgiven for thinking that organic potato crisps made with natural sunflower oil is only mildly objectionable and that fat free Pringles or baked chips sound like a good idea. Think again

  • One of the most hazardous ingredients in potato chips is not added, but a by-product of the processing. It is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted, or toasted. It is an AGE that causes cancer and is neurotoxic called Acrylamide
  • According to a 2005 analysis, ALL potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by 39 to 910 times, and baked chip products oftentimes contain more acrylamide than their fried counterparts
  • There are more than 800 different heat-induced compounds in crisps and chips, 52 of which are potential carcinogens and include trans-fats.

6. Tinned tomatoes

Many leading brands of canned foods contain BPA , a toxic chemical linked to reproductive abnormalities, neurological defects, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. According to Consumer Reports’ testing, just a couple of servings of canned food can exceed the safety limits for daily BPA exposure for children.


High acidity — a prominent characteristic of tomatoes – causes BPA to leach into your food. To avoid this hazardous chemical, avoid canned foods entirely and stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, or switch over to brands that use glass containers instead—especially for acidic foods like tomatoes and other tinned fruits.

7. Margarine and “cholesterol busting” spreads claiming to be free of trans-fats

It is a bio-chemical fact that unstable unsaturated (omega 3 and 6) or mono-unsaturated (omega 9) fatty acids are just that : unstable. It is also a bio-chemical fact that they are liquid at room temperature and remain mostly liquid in the fridge, unlike saturated fats AND Trans-fats.

Trans-fats are also called hydrogenated fats and those can be impossible for the body to break down. They end up as fatty deposits and are a source of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is now well documented for its involvement in many degenerative diseases like Alzheimer, Cardio-vascular disease and certain cancer. Trans-fats are extremely stable. They are solid and occur whenever unstable/unsaturated fats (like soya, rape or sunflower oil) are submitted to heat (any heat!). The resulting Trans -fats are artificial and resemble plastic.

It bears the question therefore of how a margarine that is supposed to be rich in unsaturated “healthy” fatty acids can be spreadable! The answer is it can’t. No matter how much the manufacturers (and the NHS website!) would like us to believe it. Those artificial fats are toxic and un-recognisable by our bodies. If you are worried about your cholesterol it is sugar and processed foods that you need to be concerned with, not naturally saturated fats like butter!

8. Vegetable oils

Vegetable oils are also something of a con, pretending to be rich in omega 6 and good for you. The seed they come from may be rich in healthful fatty acids but by the time the oil has been extracted at quite considerable temperature the fragile omegas are now degraded and turned into those nasty trans-fats again. Industrial oil extraction is never omega friendly. Only buy oils that specify that they have been extracted by cold pressed methods.

In addition to the fact that vegetable  oils  commonly contain trans fats degraded by excess heat exposure during extraction, an excess of omega 6 in the diet (from too much of those omega 6 rich oils), creates an imbalance between omega 6 and omega 3. This imbalance is associated with chronic inflammation and is something to be careful of. For this reason I recommend that the majority of omega 6 comes from nuts and seeds (rather than oils) and that you choose cold pressed oils richer in omega 9 such as olive oil and argan oil or rich in omega 3 like flax seed oil and hemp oil for your salad dressing.  Bearing in mind that those are not especially stable when heated, choose coconut oil for cooking

9. Omega rich eggs

These eggs are obtained by feeding hens (often caged) with fish or flax oil. These types of feeds can be made from inferior crude products and the fats they contain are highly unstable. This is again leading to a degradation of the precious omega fatty acids in the feed and the eggs may end up contaminated with trans-fats. They also can have contaminants, e g. heavy metals, from contaminated fish which is a real concern these days. Eggs are a healthy food if they are free range and organic or locally produced by hens that are left to scratch and eat bugs, grass etc. Those types of eggs are, in fact, already very rich in healthy fatty acids.

10. Non-organic potatoes

Who would have thought it but the humble potato is one of a “dirty dozen” according to The Environmental Working Group It turns out that along with non-organic spinach, celery, apples, grapes, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, kale, red peppers, strawberries and nectarines it made it to top of the list of the non-organic vegetable with the most pesticides residues.

The reason I have picked the potato over the others is that it already contains little in the way of nutrients so no redeeming features! At least the others have beneficial nutrients as well as poisons…and if you have to choose between a non-organic salad that contains celery apples and spinach over a sandwich, the salad is the clear winner. A diet rich in (raw) fresh vegetable is far preferable organic or not, but a potato is not a vegetable as such, it’s a starch more like wheat or rice. The good news is that sweet potatoes are low pesticide residue even if non-organic so there is a simple nutritious alternative packed with antioxidants and delicious. Try roasting with coconut oil, Himalayan salt and thym.

 

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