Convenience Foods – At What Cost to Your Health?

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Years ago I proclaimed to my family that the next house we bought would not have a kitchen since we never seemed to spend time in it. Whew! While living life in the fast lane, our jobs and childrens’ organized activities jammed our schedule and there seemed to be no time for the “inconvenience” of food preparation. Does this sound like anyone you know? When was the last time you made a meal from scratch?

What is so bad about a busy and thrifty person stocking their pantry with frozen dinners, or packaged and canned “goods” anyway? Let’s look at four reasons to rethink our choice of selecting convenience and short term savings over long term health and vitality.

1) Fructose
This inexpensive form of sweetener in processed foods was introduced commercially about 35 years ago to replace glucose. It is now the number one source of calories in the average North American diet and a major contributor to weight gain. With high and long term use of fructose, the hunger hormone ghrelin is increased and the hormone that tells you that you are full (leptin) is decreased. Your brain keeps sensing hunger and prompts you to eat more. Do you wonder if the corporate food giants are aware of this physiological mechanism?

Fructose also raises blood triglycerides.

2) Genetically Modified Ingredients
GMO’s are causally linked in animal studies to infertility, immune system problems, gastrointestinal problems, organ damage, dysfunctional regulation of cholesterol and insulin, and accelerated aging. In the U.S., the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a memorandum recommending that all doctors prescribe non-GMO diets to their patients.

3) MSG
Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor “enhancer” found in practically everything from chicken soup to ice-cream and even baby food and infant formula. It tricks our taste buds into thinking we are eating real protein and can make even the yuckiest food taste great.

MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your brain cells.  In a stroke victim, for example, an excess of glutamate in the brain can cause the nerve cells to die from overstimulation.  Many people have adverse reactions to MSG in processed/manufactured protein but it does not happen with unadulterated whole foods.

MSG stimulates the pancreas to release insulin even when carbohydrates are not present. This drops your blood sugar and makes you feel hungry again.

There are 40 or so ingredients that may contain MSG used by manufacturers. Some examples are autolyzed yeast, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed, or textured vegetable protein… Please research these terms and read all labels so you can avoid them.

4) Food Additives
This includes a mind boggling array of chemicals as preservatives, fillers and dyes. It will take decades of clean research to unravel their individual, collective and accumulative effects. Here are a few to watch for: sodium benzoate a preservative in soft drinks, juices and salad dressings sodium nitrate, BHA, BHT, aspartame, potassium bromate, and colors such as Blue 1, 2, yellow 5 and 6, red 40. Most of these examples have studies linking them to cancers and allergies as well as behavioral problems and learning impairment in children.

Admittedly, healthy food preparation does require some extra time and planning.  In the end it comes down to your priorities. What is it worth to safeguard the health and vitality of you and your loved ones, particularly your children and grandchildren? Are you now more inclined to dust off those pots and pans and whip up a whole food meal from scratch?

signature_w_heartCathy Lidster, Health Educator, offers free nutrition classes monthly. She can be reached at Centennial Building Wellness Centre, 250-819-9041,, or

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