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Better food choices

Brittney M. Walker | 3/3/2010, 8 p.m.

These days, it's the "in" thing to be healthy and watch our sodium intake, sugar consumption, fat content, and everything else that follows. Yes, it is hard to keep up with all of that, counting calories, and finding alternatives for whatever you may be eating. Well the more you learn, the harder it gets. So as a warning before you continue reading this educational article, if you do not want to be responsible for your health, long living, or your children's future, do not read beyond this point.
Okay, so if you are reading now, you have decided you want to be responsible for your life, children's lives, and perhaps have volunteered to be a part of a food revolution. At this point it doesn't matter, so let's get to it.
Most food being sold on the shelves of your local grocery stores, liquor stores, and at drive-through windows are killing you softly, like the song Roberta Flack sang in the '70s.
I think we can all be in agreement; processed food is no food at all. Instead it is the product of chemically altered semi-digestible substances that provide no healthy benefits to our bodies. With all of the added artificial flavors, enhancers and preservatives, unnatural foods are ultimately contributing to the nation's poor health, shortened life span, and possibly to slower mental development.
Read the labels and watch out for these harmful ingredients:
Monosodium glutamate: This harmful ingredient, also known as sodium glutamate and MSG, is in just about every tasty, addictive snack, packaged food, condiment, and even in our seasoning cabinets.
A corporation in Japan originally patented the additive in the early 1900s. Glutamate is an amino acid already present in human bodies that helps our organs and other operations function properly. MSG, which is artificially produced and added to food, contains "pretenders" that do not quite work right with our body's natural enzymes and cells.
Though the effects of MSG is still being researched, scientists have found the chemical additive causes major harm to our bodies including contributions to seizures, brain cell death, brain damage, and other brain-related issues. It also stimulates the human pancreas to produce more insulin. MSG is a powerful cover-up for bad cooking because it tricks the eater's brain into believing the food is delicious and good for your body. In fact, it can be something like nicotine to a smoker. MSG causes a sort of addiction and makes our bodies hungry again, so we eat again. As a result, we eat more MSG infused food, consuming less real food.
Scientists have also proven that MSG causes a deficiency of a certain amino acid called GABA. This naturally produced amino acid contributes to normal neurological functions, keeping the body calm and balanced. When the body does not produce enough GABA, it may cause neurological disorders, seizures, and strokes.
MSG is found in common snacks most parents give to their children, like chips, artificially flavored crunchy foods, breakfast cereal, etc. Read your labels.
High-fructose corn syrup: It is like a virus or invasion of a cell killing empire. It's in just about everything edible. From sodas and juices, to salad dressing, bread and, tomato soup, HFCS sweetens the visibly unhealthy to the prospectively healthy eats. This is a sneaky one, and it is very difficult to avoid because food producers have found a cheap way to sweeten food. Anything for the buck, right?
Actually, there was a heavy campaign push by the Corn Refiner's Association, promoting the natural elements of HFCS, saying it comes from corn and is safe. We'll see.
HFCS is initially produced from corn syrup, which is made from milled corn. The other part of the equation is basically a chemistry experiment with chemical alterations most of us do not understand. So let's save that for another day.
A group of agriculturalists conducted a study of artificial sugars with a group of rats. When the animals were fed fructose, their vital organs swell, resulting in death before maturity.
HFCS is twice as harmful than sugar and is absorbed much faster into the body. Natural sugar, coupled with fibrous foods metabolizes much more slowly. Though fructose and artificial sugars in the past have been promoted to be the healthy alternative for diabetics, more resent studies show artificial sugars promote disease.
Its unnatural elements contribute to fatty deposits and liver disease. The fake sugar substance prevents the body from absorbing minerals like magnesium and copper, key to the heart's function. Other effects include reduction in white blood cell production, blood clots, high levels of blood cholesterol, and an increased amount of insulin.
Another linked disease that is rapidly increasing around the nation is obesity. Fructose converts to fat more quickly and more often than natural sugar. Studies have not yet directly concluded HFCS directly cause obesity, but due to its effects on the body, scientists and health buffs speculate it may be a contributing factor.
High-fructose corn syrup is found in pastas, breads, cereal, canned fruit and vegetables, frozen foods, most packaged foods, and even foods labeled diet, healthy, or natural.
Don't let the manufacturer fool you with savvy health lingo on the front of a package. Take the time to look at the label. Some health professionals say, "If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't eat it."