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The unhealthy truth about our food

Thursday, June 18, 2009 Leave a Comment

The other day at the grocery store, I promised my 3 year old a treat if he was good while I shopped. Being a 3 year old who spends most of his day trying to eat sugar, he picked out a KitKat bar. When we got home, he devoured the whole thing and within moments, I kid you not, he turned into a maniac. Like, running around the house yelling jibberish with an empty diaper box on his head, crashing into walls. It took a good hour before he could settle down, and his behavior for the next 24 hours was atrocious. He was, literally, out of control. And bewildered at his own behavior.

I've heard the theories that too much sugar is contributing to all sorts of problems in kids, like ADHD and such, and it's not that I disbelieve them, but come on: I ate hostess chocolate donuts for breakfast through junior high and never had problems.

But after reading The Unhealthy Truth: How our food is making us sick and what we can do about it by Boulder mom Robyn O'Brien, I came away with this: the junk food we ate as kids is not the same as the junk in most of our food today.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame (nutrasweet), chemical preservatives like sodium benzoate, antibiotics, and most disturbingly, genetically modified crops like corn (high fructose corn syrup) and soy is in nearly everything we eat now. Mama O'Brien, whose kids have allergies, makes a compelling link between the introduction of genetically modified soy in 1996 and the crazy dramatic rise in allergies to another legume -- the peanut.

(Soy is particularly scary, and it's being genetically modified and used as fillers in everything -- for someone with a history of breast cancer in my family, it's something I need to research more, but there won't be any soy milk in my house. Remember hearing how Asian women never get breast cancer because of all the soy in their diets? Soy actually mimics estrogen -- a huge risk factor for breast cancer. The cooking methods of Asian food (like fermenting soy) take a lot of the bad stuff out of soy -- which is good for you too -- but they don't consume glass after glass of soy milk like Americans do).

While there haven't been a lot of studies on this new crap, there have been enough that most of Europe (including Russia) won't allow this stuff in their food. All the big American food companies -- Kraft, Wal-Mart, Mars, Coke -- have taken these ingredients out over there. But not here. In fact, those companies don't even have to tell us when they put genetically modified stuff in our food.

That just doesn't seem right to me. It's like the food companies are conducting their research on us and our kids. No one -- not even advocates of genetically modified foods -- can say with certainty what those products do to us. Until they do, should we really be eating them?

Read the book and make your own decisions -- but it makes me think twice about serving up some Kraft Mac-n-cheese with Yellow #5 dye. So what can you do?

- Read food labels and know the big offenders: Yellow 5, sodium benzoate, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame
- Check out AllergyKids, Mama O'Brien's website
- Support the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act