What's in our food?

We are back from our crazy east coast road trip and along the way I was introduced to a book called, “Autoimmune: The Cause and The Cure.” by Annesse Brockley and Kristin Urdiales. It is a very informative book! Lots and lots of great research and evidence of our food playing a HUGE role in our health. In the chapter entitled, “Food as Medicine” Annesse talks a little bit about trans fats, an ingredient we should definitely steer clear of. Take a listen…

When William Procter and James Gamble started their company, Procter & Gamnble®, they hired a chemist, E.C. Kayster, to develop a process to hydrogenate cottonseed oil. This process would ensure the shortening would remain solid at normal storage temperatures. This was in 1911. The initial purpose was to create a cheaper substance to make candles, rather than the expensive animal fats which were in use at the time. 

Electricity began to diminish the candle market, and since the product looked like lard they began selling it as food. The product became known as Crisco®. It’s name is derived from the initial sounds of “crystallized cottonseed oil.” And so it began; ‘trans fat’ became a part of the American diet…

Trans fats have been linked to depression, infertility, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, liver dysfunction, cancer, reduced immune function and diabetes…

Mankind has been consuming nature’s fats, such as butter, lard, and coconut oil for thousands of years. Yet, heart disease only became common after 1920, when more people started to consume less expensive trans fat. Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School, is a recognized authority on trans fats and has found that for every 4 to 5 grams of trans fat you eat, your risk of heart disease nearly doubles. To put that in perspective, some brands of microwave popcorn contain 14 grams of trans fat per bag. That is a big risk to take for a bag of popcorn. 

The story above is a great example of how profit often becomes much more important than our health and how money seems to direct our food industry. If people really knew what they were ingesting perhaps it would be a different story. Annesse does us the wonderful favor of explaining how margarine is made. 

First, the oil is subjected to extremely high temperatures and pressure. Then, hydrogen is forced into a trans isomeric molecular structure to harden it. This process requires toxic substances, such as nickel oxide, which act as catalysts that enable the chemical change. The final product is a gray, smelly, greasy mass. Now it must be deodorized, again using high heat and chemical additives. This gray grease is then bleached white and then dyed yellow. Finally, artificial flavors are mixed in to make it taste like butter. Is it any wonder trans fats are linked to cancer? 

Can you imagine if this process was described on the food label? 

(Illustration courtesy of Jeff Convery)

Maybe it’s time to evaluate what you’re putting in your body everyday. Can you pronounce all the names on the ingredient list? Does it have more ingredients than you have fingers? Does it have trans fat? Does it make you feel good when you eat it or tired and even more hungry? When we fill our bellies with healthy, nutrient rich foods our lives can’t help but be effected in a wonderful way. Educate yourself and choose wisely. Real food is our friend, not the enemy.