Walk around your local supermarket and notice where the food is displayed. Around the outer edge, you find fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and dairy products. These food products are packaged and sold much as they were grown. As you look at each item, you can see what it is. A cabbage is a cabbage and nothing more. The organic varieties are grown much as nature intended. The result is highly nutritious food loaded with vitamins, minerals and omega-3 oils, all essential to supporting a healthy body.
Let’s move on to the frozen section where things begin to be a little mixed. Here you find frozen versions of the same fresh vegetables and meats and they too are good nutritional choices. Freezing preserves almost all of the nutrients in freshly picked vegetables, so as some vegetables are not available with changes in seasons, you may look in the big freezers to find them. Storing frozen vegetables in your freezer at home can be a very helpful backup supply for when you forget to replace the fresh ones you bought.
Almost everything else called food in the supermarket deserves a much closer look before you put it in your shopping cart. This includes the deep freezers and the center aisles stacked high with boxes and other creative packages. You can generally assume that if it comes in a box and includes an ingredient list, it is processed or manufactured food. The creative packaging can be very alluring, with photographs of delicious hot meals steaming off the front of the box.
Unfortunately, many packaged foods fail the nutritional test on two fronts; they do not deliver the level of nourishment that fresh food provides, and they often include ingredients that may do more harm than good. People know that eating too much sugar and starch contributes to weight gain, inflammation and other harmful effects on the body. Food manufacturers creatively include sugar or starch hidden behind names you can’t pronounce, frequently ending in “-ose”, which is a dead giveaway for sugar.
Don’t be fooled by the label on the front of the package, particularly if it includes the word “natural”. Instead, focus on the ingredients list on the back. For example, you may choose stevia as a natural herbal sugar substitute. Conceptually, that is a good choice. However, if the primary ingredient in your stevia packet is dextrose, then you are eating corn-based sugar.
Another interesting ingredient is monosodium glutamate (MSG), often used to enhance flavor. Many people don’t realize that ingredients like hydrolyzed or textured vegetable protein and yeast extract are loaded with MSG. MSG, like sugar, is listed by several alternate names. Manufactures also use many creative and seemingly innocuous names for chemical preservatives.
If you decide to buy any of these packaged foods, learn about the manufactured ingredients and inspect the labels carefully. Better yet, buy all your food around the outer edges of the store and only visit the center aisles for household goods.