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House of Evexia by Helen Taylor
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Unpacking the Hidden Dangers: Ultra-Processed Foods Lurking in Your Kitchen

Today, I want to dive deep into a topic that’s close to my heart and crucial for our well-being: the hidden dangers of ultra-processed foods (UPF).

You see, as a forensic wellness expert, I often encounter clients who are diligently working on their health but aren’t fully aware of the culprits hiding in their kitchen cabinets and pantries.

Let’s start by addressing a common misconception: ultra-processed foods aren’t just limited to fast foods or obviously processed snacks. They’re sneaky little devils that can find their way into seemingly innocent items like cooking sauces, breakfast bars, cereals, pasta, crisps, turkey dinosaurs, chicken kievs, and more. Yes, even the staples we’ve grown up with and considered harmless may harbour ingredients that wreak havoc on our bodies.

So, what exactly makes these foods so harmful? It all boils down to the ingredients lurking within their packages. Take a moment to read the labels of your favourite cupboard items, and you might be shocked to find a laundry list of additives, preservatives, artificial flavours, and hidden sugars. These additives are not only devoid of nutritional value but can also trigger a cascade of negative health effects, from inflammation and digestive issues to hormone imbalances and mood swings.

Let’s break it down further:

  • Added Sugars: Keep an eye out for sneaky sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, and other syrups masquerading under different names. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
  • Emulsifiers and Artificial Additives: Beware of artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives like MSGs, (I’ll look some others up for here)lurking in your favourite packaged foods. These additives have been associated with allergic reactions, behavioural problems, and adverse health effects.
  • Hydrogenated Oils: Stay clear of foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, sources of harmful trans fats that raise bad cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. For example sunflower, rapeseed and vegetable oil.
  • Refined Grains: Opt for whole grains over refined grains like white flour, which lack fibre and essential nutrients and can lead to blood sugar spikes and chronic health conditions.
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Be cautious of zero-calorie sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin, which may disrupt gut health and metabolism and contribute to long-term health issues. Aspartame has been classedas a carcinogen so should be avoided at all costs.

But what kinds of foods are we talking about? 

  • Breakfast Cereals: Many breakfast cereals, especially those marketed to children, are loaded with added sugars, artificial flavours, and colours. Opt for whole-grain options with minimal added sugars and natural ingredients.
  • Items like granola bars, protein bars, and snack packs often contain hidden sugars, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives to prolong shelf life. Look for snacks made with whole ingredients and minimal processing.
  • Salad Dressings: Bottled salad dressings can be a surprising source of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives. Make your own dressings using olive oil, vinegar, and herbs for a healthier alternative.
  • Flavoured Yoghurt: Notorious for their high sugar content and artificial additives. Choose plain yoghurt and add fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey for sweetness.
  • Frozen Meals: Convenience meals like frozen pizzas, microwavable dinners, and pre-packaged main courses often contain high levels of sodium, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients. Opt for homemade meals or healthier frozen options with minimal additives.
  • Condiments: Ketchup, barbecue sauce, and other condiments can contain hidden sugars, artificial flavours, and preservatives. Look for natural, organic options or make your own sauces using whole ingredients.
  • Instant Noodles: Instant noodles are a staple in many households but are typically high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives. Swap them for healthier noodle options like whole-grain pasta or rice noodles.
  • Packaged Breads: Processed bread products like white sandwich bread and bagels often contain refined grains, added sugars, and preservatives. Choose whole-grain bread made with natural ingredients for a healthier option, and try to get your loaves from a bakery too! 

Let’s give you some real examples: I have checked the packaging on some random, and also VERY usual suspects that you WILL have in your cupboards, fridges or pantries just to give you some REAL examples and to help you understand exactly what i mean: 

Hellmans Light Mayonnaise: The ingredients list contains something called ‘Calcium-disodium EDTA’ (E385). To you I am sure this means nothing, and let’s face it, ignorance is BLISS. However, E385 is also a ‘moderately risky’ additive and here’s why…..

EDTA is an antioxidant that protects food from deterioration. In high doses it can cause various adverse effects such as: Poor mineral absorption, mineral deficiencies, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal and muscle cramps, blood clotting and blood in the urine!

Oyster Sauce: For starters it’s laden with Salt, far too much per 100g than is ‘good for you’. Not only that, the ingredients list ‘Potassium Sorbate’…. Anyone know what that is? Well it’s actually another moderate risk additive which is a product of Sorbic Acid. Sorbic acid may react with nitrates and ascorbic acid to form mutagenic compounds, which are capable of causing changes in the structure of genetic material. 

Warburtons Thick sliced white bread: From the ingredient list i can see that it has emulsifiers, and lots of things that are listed, you will have never heard of, and certainly won’t know what they are. Again, 2 moderately risky additives, E472e (Mono-and diacetyltaric acid) and E481 

E427E – An emulsifier. This disrupts the intestinal flora and increases the risk of auto-immune disorders, allergies, and inflammatory diseases. The inflammation MAY even promote the development of colon cancer according to studies – you fancy taking that risk?

E481 – An additive and texturising agent. The acceptable daily intake (ADI) is very often exceeded, especially for children. A recent study showed that Sodium Lactylates have the capacity to alter gut microbiota composition. 

As you can tell from just 3 normal store cupboard staples, there are UPF’s everywhere and they are damaging us all. 

Now, you might be wondering, “How do I navigate the supermarket aisle and make healthier choices?” It’s all about mindful shopping and embracing whole, minimally processed foods. Fill your basket with vibrant fruits and vegetables, organic proteins and meat, whole grains, and healthy fats. Cook from scratch as much as possible, using fresh ingredients and herbs to add flavour without relying on processed additives. When you look at the list of ingredients and there are lots of letters, numbers, or things that you can’t pronnounce OR you have no idea WHAT they are…… PUT THE ITEM DOWN!

And remember, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with the tools to decipher food labels (like the YUKA app), and don’t be afraid to question what’s really going into your body. Your health is your greatest asset, so treat it with the love and respect it deserves.

Keep an eye on my social media pages for hints, tips and myth-busting to help you navigate wellness and encourage a healthier lifestyle, rather than a perceived healthier lifestyle.

Until next time, stay mindful, stay nourished, and stay well.

With love and wellness,

Helen Taylor  

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Warwickshire
CV21 3LJ

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