Category Archives: artificial colors

Top 10 Ingredients To Avoid

I’m often asked which ingredients we should avoid in our food.  There really isn’t a simple answer for that.  I could say all of the fake ones, but that leaves you to decide which ones are fake.  And truthfully some of them aren’t “fake”, meaning they’re not entirely from chemicals.  They’re just highly modified.  Either because they’ve been through some sort of a chemical process to invert, alter, or manipulate their chemical structure to change them significantly from their original form. 

An overview of Splenda (TM)

A perfect example of manipulation is Splenda.  It started out as sugar (which some could argue is highly processed, stripped of all minerals and therefore not a great choice to begin with).  In processing it becomes modified by the addition of sucralose which is made by replacing three hydrogen-oxygen atoms and inserting three chlorine atoms in their place. Because it contains less than 5 calories per serving it’s labeled as having no calories.  (A single packet, weighing 1 gram, actually provides 3.36 calories — a miniscule amount, however this is still misleading labeling).

Unfortunately Splenda (TM) is far from the harmless non-nutritive sweetener that it’s advertised to be.  It has been shown to alter intestinal pH and reduces intestinal microflora.  We need a balanced pH for good health.  We also require beneficial levels of bacteria to help support good digestive health.

According to one report published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, there seems to be some evidence that Splenda (TM) may not be as biologically inert as advertised.  It also appears that exposure to high temperatures can cause it to break down into a toxic substance.

Ingredient Overview

While I frequently write about what ingredients are, where they appear, and other information you need to be aware of in the newsletter, I also recognize that it’s helpful to have a “cheat sheet” of sorts to give you an overview and help you break it down a little bit further.  So I’ve created the infographic below.  These are my top ten “baddies” and the ones that you really want to watch out for.  Print it out, write it down, whatever you need to do to be able to bring this information with you to the grocery store. 




























If you’re looking for more in-depth information about ingredients your best resource is The Pantry Principle:  how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food. 

For regular, weekly updates on what’s going on in the world of food manufacturing and processing be sure to check out my newsletter, Food News You Can Use.



What’s That Flavor?

what's that flavor

Food manufacturers are always looking for new ways to keep consumers engaged with their brands.  They’re also looking for new ways to encourage you to eat, or a new flavor to tempt you with.  After all, the more you eat, the more profitable their product is.  Unfortunately this has turned us into a nation of snackers.

We’ve been so effectively marketed to that we think we have to have snacks.  Even more than that, when we say the word snack most people think chips, pretzels, granola bars, or other high carbohydrate foods which deliver a lot of calories and little to no actual nutrition.  

a snack is not a meal

Unfortunately the more we snack the less hungry we are when meal time comes around.  So perhaps we don’t eat a real meal.  And then a couple of hours later we’re hungry again and it’s time for another snack.  By the time you get to the end of the day it’s possible that you’ve simply snacked for the entire day.  You go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again. The challenge is that you’re just making yourself hungrier and hungrier.  Your belly may be full, but your body is not nourished.

Snacking is not meant to replace mealtime.  It’s a mini-meal.  A little something to keep you going if you’re hungry in between regular, nourishing meals.  Preferably something that has a little protein and a healthy fat.  Healthy snacking can help to keep your blood sugar stable.  All day snacking, especially with high carbohydrate snack foods can put you in the front row seat of the blood sugar rollercoaster.

manufacturer manipulation

As part of their effort to keep you snack-engaged, food manufacturers sometimes run campaigns designed to get consumer feedback on flavors.  One example is the Pepsi Co. “Do Us A Flavor” campaign which they’ve been running since 2012.  [I’m deliberately not linking to it because I don’t want to participate in bringing attention to it — you’ll see why in just a minute]  Thanks to this campaign they’ve come up with different, unusual flavors of potato chips such as Korean Barbeque or Smoked Gouda and Chives.  Some manufacturers are looking to build brand excitement by “retiring” flavors or creating “limited editions” in an effort to create a scarcity effect.

By creating these campaigns the manufacturers are hoping to build further brand engagement.  To hook you a little bit more closely to the brand.  They don’t need to guess at developing new products.  Consumers tell them exactly what they want so the manufacturer can make it.  It allows them to save money and tempt you to eat more snacks.

All of these flavors, however, don’t add up to good nutrition.  They simply add up to more chemicals and more calories. 

new flavors



If you’re looking for a healthy snack check out this article on protein snacks to boost energy.

Want to know more about flavors and how they’re used in food?  

When you’re looking for a snack, remember, a snack is not a meal.  Choose a little something with some protein in it and have just enough to get through your day to your next meal.  You’ll feel better and your metabolism will be more balanced because of it.

Some Like It Hot

Spicy heat is an interesting flavor to consider since it is not typically included among the five generally-recognized tastes – sweet, salt, bitter, sour, and umami.  These five sensations are experienced when receptors on the surface of the tongue become activated by food, triggering nerve fibers that run to the brain to signal a specific taste.  Spicy heat is not perceived in the same way.

Spice Perception

Your trigeminal system controls spice perception and the ensuing heat sensation. The system detects pain and irritation through nerve endings that are sensitive to touch, temperature, and pain. Capsaicin, the molecule that gives hot peppers their “kick,” for example, binds to a receptor on nerve cells that detect temperature and those that send messages of pain. Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, and allyl isothiocynanate, the burning compound in mustard and radishes, function similarly.

“Send messages of pain” might resonate with those of us who cannot handle spice. The reason we might feel a painfully “hot” sensation when we eat jalapeños, for example, is because the receptors that jalapeños trigger are usually turned on at temperatures higher than 107 degrees – this hurts! There’s no obvious biological reason why we should tolerate this chili sensation, and yet many actively seek it out and enjoy it.

These spice lovers likely curated their tolerance by eating an abundance of spicy foods and peppers. Through repeated exposure, the taste receptors eventually stop responding so strongly to the compounds found in peppers – known as capsaicin desensitization – which may explain why some are able to tolerate more spice than others. Cultural norms can also contribute to a higher tolerance for spicy food. In places like India and South America, hot peppers and spices are a part of the daily cuisine. However, even with this proclivity toward spice, these cultures don’t seem to participate in the competitive, insane heat-seeking activities that Americans pursue.

Hot and Spicy Trends

Despite the fact that nature seems to have created capsaicin and its heat sensation to repel us, food manufacturers are now using it to draw us in. Spicy foods appear to be trendy, particularly spice added to processed foods. Nearly every major commercial snack brand has some form of hot sauce flavored potato chip or cheesy puff product from Sriracha to Tapatio and Trader Joe’s currently boasts a bag of extremely spicy Ghost Pepper potato chips.

Many processed foods are now promoted for their extremely spicy and “fiery” flavors as we can see in this slideshow.

Cognitive scientists have studied how relief and pleasure sensations are intertwined in the brain, suggesting that this may explain what motivates someone to eat the world’s hottest chili pepper, the Carolina Reaper, and post it on YouTube.  What we might view as pure torture and physical agony, appears to produce satisfaction from the relief felt after the painful chili flavor subsides.  Psychologist Paul Rozin argues that activities such as this allow us to believe we’re doing something dangerous without any real repercussions and he coined the term “benign masochism.”

A senior manager of consumer insights for General Mills explains, “You get endorphins when you eat something really spicy,” which can feel intensely exciting to flavor-seeking eaters and can “create a lot of loyalty.”

General Mills and other food manufacturers have found a way to capitalize on this trend and continue to increase the heat of foods in pursuit of this “loyalty.”  Fast food chains boast fiery fries and chicken wings, while commercial items are branded as hot habanero, ghost pepper and “wicked wasabi,” complete with goading marketing to entice the heat-addicted among us to purchase and consume them.

Perhaps spicy heat is not among the five biological taste sensations we normally experience for a reason. Pain is not typically something most of us intentionally seek out. However, if you enjoy a modicum heat and don’t experience gastrointestinal distress or other concerning side effects – more power to you.

How to Enjoy Spice Healthfully

Ideally, we can get our spice fix by consuming natural foods without ingredients such as added sugar or xanthan gum, which is often added to hot sauces to make them thicker.  Instead, we can add heat through fresh ginger, wasabi, curry or chili powders, crushed red pepper, and jalapeño or chipotle peppers while staying far away from fast food’s gimmicky “extra spicy” menu items.

Glucerna – Is It A Healthy Choice?

Meal supplement beverages, such as glucerna, are frequently promoted by doctors for a variety of reasons.  In some cases it may be due to concerns about the amount of protein a patient needs, or if they are a “picky eater” and not getting enough nutrients.  An increasing number of these products are aimed at diabetics, purporting to help them control blood sugar levels.  Sadly these products come with a massive ingredient list and are not as healthy as the manufacturer would have you believe.

What’s in the can?

Glucerna - ingredient breakdown

I’ve chosen Glucerna because it’s one of the more popular products aimed at people with diabetes.  It claims to “Help Minimize Blood Sugar Spikes”, has 190 calories, and provides 10 grams of protein.  Just because something has a lot of protein does not mean that it’s helpful for managing blood sugar.  You need to read the label to see what’s really in that can.

INGREDIENTS:  Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Milk Protein Concentrate,       Fructose, Glycerol, Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Cocoa Powder       (Processed with Alkali), Soy Protein Isolate, High Oleic Safflower Oil.            Less than 2% of the Following: Canola Oil, Soy Oil, Cellulose Gel, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Salt, Choline Chloride,  Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate,      Cellulose Gum, Potassium Phosphate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Liquid Sucralose, Potassium Hydroxide, Magnesium Chloride, Carrageenan, Turmeric Concentrate, Acesulfame Potassium, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, FD&C Red #3, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Chromium Chloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3.

That’s  quite a mouthful.  Literally.  So now let’s break down that long list  so you can really understand what you’re getting.

Glucerna ingredients


This product delivers 6 grams of sugar per serving.  That’s a lot of  sugar in my book, especially for a beverage that’s supposed to balance blood sugar.   The very first thing that stands out for me on the ingredient list is that the first ingredient is water, meaning that most of this product is water.  

When we go through the list of ingredients we see that it has several different sources of sugar and sweeteners.  To have all of this in a product clearly aimed at people trying to better manage their blood sugar levels does not make sense.

  • Corn Maltodextrin: The corn is most likely genetically modified meaning that this has GMOs in it.  I do not advocate consuming GMOs and recommend avoiding them as much as possible.
  • Fructose: This is probably from either sugar cane, sugar beets or corn.  While I don’t know which one it is I will point out that the sugar beets and corn are most likely to be from GMO sources.  Excess consumption of fructose has also been shown to have a negative impact on the liver.  
  • Glycerol: This is a sugar alcohol which can be synthesized or made from either plant (soy, i.e., GMO soy) or animal (tallow) sources
  • Sucralose: An artificial sweetener which can cause a host of negative health issues including migraines, dizziness, digestive disturbances, and allergic type reactions.
  • Acesulfame Potassium: Another form of artificial sweetener.  Unfortunately studies appear to show that consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners may be linked to weight gain.

Other negative ingredients

  • Artificial flavor:  Made from “proprietary chemical formulations” the actual ingredients are not required to be listed on the label as long as they are considered GRAS.  However, many artificial flavor formulations have been shown to cause nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, chest pain and more.
  • FD&C Red #3: Made from petrochemicals, this artificial dye can have a very negative impact on brain chemistry.  Studies have positively linked inattentive type behaviors, anxiety, and aggression with consumption of artificial food colors.
  • GMO ingredients:  In addition to the probable GMOs found in the sugars listed above, this product also has Soy Protein Isolate, Canola Oil, Soy Oil, and Soy Lecithin.  Soy and canola are two of the most highly genetically modified crops currently out there and should be avoided.
  • Milk Protein Concentrate: Sometimes listed as MPC, this highly processed ultra-filtered product is highly likely to come from cows that have been treated with artificial hormones and antibiotics.  These artificial hormones have been linked to overall immune system issues, metabolic syndrome, and even diabetes.  Overconsumption of antibiotics through animal products have been linked with antibiotic resistant diseases.
  • Carrageenan: is made from red seaweed and is often highly problematic for those who have digestive issues.

Many of the other additives are most probably synthesized versions of the vitamins that they represent, not the forms found in nature which are more readily absorbed by the system.

Overall this is not a product that I would suggest for anyone.  There are too many negative ingredients and I do not believe it’s a product that delivers any sort of health benefit.


When I posted this on my Facebook page it generated a number of comments asking what would be a good alternative.  If you’re looking for a protein drink there are powders that have a reasonable protein content, far less sugar, and few to no dubious ingredients.   I encourage you to read the label and understand what’s in the can before you make a choice.  The object is to choose one that has no negative ingredients.

An even better choice than a beverage would be the addition of real foods that are nutritionally dense and provide balanced protein without junky ingredients.  One of my favorites is soaked raw nuts or grass fed bison jerky.  My friend and colleague Trudy Scott is a huge fan of tinned sardines.  There are plenty of other options out there if you read the label.


Gummy Bears Give You Diarrhea

Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 10.52.36 AMA friend of mine recently shared a link to a product she saw on Amazon; sugar free gummy bears.  For those who like gummy bears this might seem like a great idea.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not.  Gummy bears are normally not a great choice to begin with.  Loads of sugar, glucose syrup, wax, starch, artificial flavoring, artificial colors, citric acid, and some form of gelatin.  Obviously, as I’ve said, this is not a great choice.

This particular package of sugar free gummy bears?  They’re even worse.  It starts with the fact this it comes in a five pound bag.  That is just far to much junk food to consume, much less have around the house.  If the sheer quantity is not enough to dissuade you how about the fact that smack dab in the middle of the page is this statement, “This product is a sugarless/sugarfree item with ingredients that can cause intestinal distress if eaten in excess.”  Followed, further down the page, by this statement, “Safety Warning:  Consumption of some sugar-free candies may cause stomach discomfort and/or a laxative effect. Individual tolerance will vary. If this is the first time you’ve tried these candies, we recommend beginning with one-fourth of a serving size or less. Made with Lycasin, a sugar alcohol. As with other sugar alcohols, people sensitive to this substance may experience upset stomachs.” Somehow none of that sounds tempting.

So what is this sugarless/sugarfree ingredient you ask?  It’s one you probably haven’t heard of before called lycasin.  A hydrogenated glucose syrup, also known as hydrolyzed starch (remember hydrolyzed is code for free glutamic acid and therefore a form of MSG).  Derived from maltitol, a disaccharide made from corn (and probably genetically modified corn at that), it is known to cause bloating, flatulence, intestinal disturbance, and more.  Online research revealed that according to a study done by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition a mere 15-20 of these gummy bears produced a significant laxative effect.  And the more you ate the worse it was.

The reviews for this product are an unfortunate mix of horror and humor.  One review claimed that this would be a much more delicious way to prep for a colonoscopy.  Another claimed that after eating these they were “praying for a fart.”

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but my advice?  Don’t Eat That!!!


Colonoscopy – What To Drink

I have ulcerative colitis (UC).  It was diagnosed years ago, after 15 years of a misdiagnosis of IBS.  I was finally diagnosed after I had my first ever colonoscopy.  In the  years since my diagnosis I’ve had five colonoscopies.  The fifth one just recently.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.  I take no daily medications for my UC and have no major issues when I eat according to my nutritional plan.  My primary triggers appear to be stress and sugar.  I work hard to try to reduce both in my life as much as possible.

It had been five years since my previous colonoscopy and my doctor and I agreed that it was prudent to have a colonoscopy just to check things out.   I’m fortunate enough to have found a GI doc who is amenable to my nutritional plan, supplemental routine, and the use of functional foods.  His comment when we scheduled was, “I’m interested to see what’s going on in there.”  My reply?  “Me too!”

Prepping for a Colonoscopy

I’m not going to lie to you, the prep isn’t fun.  There’s nothing like deliberately giving yourself the worst ever case of diarrhea to put a slight off-kilter aspect to your day.  But it’s a necessary part of the procedure so there’s no help for that.  Luckily over time it’s gotten better as the medium used for the prep has gotten a little less disgusting to swallow.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the allowed foods.  As a holistic health professional I am not happy about the list of what you can have to “eat” during this time.  Obviously solid foods are out as that’s counter to the point.  And you’re not allowed red, blue or purple dyes.  It can color the walls of the colon and look like inflamed tissue.  (That’s okay, anyone who reads this blog or my book knows that I am against artificial food dyes anyway.)  But what is allowed, and what I don’t like, are some of the other “foods.”  Jello, gatorade, soda, and popsicles.  They all have artificial ingredients in them.  Many of them have sugar.  If you’re getting a colonoscopy because you have a condition which is sensitive to sugar it doesn’t make sense to take in something with sugar which is going to promote inflammation and stress your system.  Even if you don’t have a condition which makes you sensitive to sugar, that’s just not a good idea on an essentially empty stomach.  It can spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling droopy and out of it.  Plus all the other chemical nasties just are not a great health choice.

Healthy Colonoscopy Prep

What’s on that list that I do like?  Broth, tea, and juice.  So here’s what this holistic health professional had for my meals throughout the day of my prep.

Start with one large cup of warm water with the juice of a half a lemon to alkalize the system.

Throughout the morning I made fresh juices mostly consisting of cucumber, celery, romaine, and green apple.  It was delicious, just juice, and because it was fresh it was full of nutrients.  It’s important to note that if you’re going to drink juices they must be free of pulp.  Buying over the counter juices may not be pulp free so read the label and think about what you’re purchasing.  Because I ran mine through my juicer all of the pulp was extracted (and went to the compost heap).

I made sure to continue to stay hydrated by drinking water and teas.  Coffee is on the list but I don’t drink it and even if I did I don’t want the dehydrating effect.  Decaf or herbal teas are perfect for this.  Warm beverages are important, especially towards the end of your prep day.  

Later in the day I switched from fresh juice to a nourishing broth.  I had made this earlier in the week specifically for this prep day.  It’s delicious, provides a wonderful, gut-supportive beverage, and is a functional food.  If you don’t know how to make your own nourishing broth I’ve listed the recipe below.  The beauty of this broth is that it’s beneficial for gut health, provides vitamins, minerals, collagen, amino acids, and, most importantly, is warming.  Anyone who has been through a colonoscopy will tell you that by the end of the day before your prep you are f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g.  That’s because deliberately emptying your system that way causes a drop in core temperature plus an imbalance in electrolytes and you may get very cold.  Drinking this broth helped considerably and although I was definitely feeling colder I did not feel the deep bone-chilling, shivery cold that I had in the past.

I’d asked if I could have coconut water but was told no.  This was mildly frustrating to me as it would have been a balanced electrolyte beverage which is something you really need to replace when you are prepping.  This is why the doctor will usually recommend gatorade however I’m not a fan of gatorade due to the ingredients.  When I asked if I could have coconut water the nurse was very specific and said no.  The next morning when I arrived at the facility and discussed it with the staff I was told yet it would have been allowed.  They think the nurse may have been confused and thought I meant coconut milk.  Good to know for next time, I’ll definitely be sure to add this in to my prep plan.  Please note, when purchasing coconut water it’s important to buy one with no unwanted additives.

The Plan

Here’s the plan in a nutshell. Remember you can drink as much of these liquids as you like but if you are purchasing juices or any of the other items you’ll need to read the label and avoid harmful artificial ingredients such as carrageenan, dyes, artificial sweeteners, flavorings, or preservatives.

Mira’s Colonoscopy Prep Plan
  • 1 cup warm water with the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh green juice – 1/2 cucumber, 2 ribs celery, 1/2 small head of romaine lettuce, 1 small green apple
  • water, decaf, and herbal teas
  • nourishing broth
  • coconut water


Nourishing Broth
  1. 1 whole chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bones, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings
  2. (organic, pastured chicken recommended)
  3. gizzards from one chicken (optional but highly recommended)
  4. 2-4 chicken feet (optional but highly recommended)
  5. 4 quarts cold filtered water
  6. 2 tablespoons raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  7. 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  8. 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  9. 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  10. 1 bunch parsley
  1. If using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley.
  2. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer the stock cooks the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.
  3. Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy



I’m happy to report that all went well.  My doctor doesn’t want to see me again for several years and I was told to “keep doing what I’m doing.”   I’d also like to encourage anyone who is 50 or over who has not had a colonoscopy to consider having one.  It can be a life-saving procedure as it is the only way to diagnose colon cancer and other GI conditions.  As a preventative measure I believe it is worth doing.

On My Mind Monday 01.21.13

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Eating a fatty diet may reduce sperm count – the study mentioned in this article does not show a definitive correlation, but a probable one.  However, of more interest to me is the fact that saturated fats are, once again, being vilified.  Saturated fat in excess is indeed not a healthy choice.  However, it is required for, among other things, hormone production, so curbing saturated fat intake to excess is also not healthy.  Of only minor mention in the article but, I believe, more significance, is the impact that obesity has on sperm health.  Male obesity has risen dramatically over the past three decades and has been accompanied by an increase in male infertility.  This is an issue that needs to be more directly addressed for those who wish to have children.

Artificial colors in medications can trigger hyperactivity – When I work with clients I encourage them to remove artificial colors from their diets.  These petrochemical-based substances do not belong in our diet or our bodies.  There are many studies which support this.  One major challenge, however, is that while you can choose foods, toothpaste, and personal care products which do not have color in them, you cannot control medications as easily.  And any artificial color that goes into the body can have an effect.  As I wrote about over a year ago in this article on color-free supplements, it is healthier to have color-free choices.  My hope is that eventually manufacturers will either choose plant-based color options, offer color-free options, or find a different way to identify medications that does not rely on petrochemicals.

Vitamin K the supplement of 2013? – I get really upset when the news claims a particular food, superfood, or supplement is the “it” item of the year.  Unfortunately in this country we have a habit of thinking that if a little bit is good a lot must be better.  Witness what happened with soy…it was noted that Asians, who eat more soy, have less incidence of certain illnesses.  So Americans added soy to their diet in huge measure.  Soy milk, soy cheese, soy meat, soy ice cream, the list goes on.  The problem is that we eat more unfermented soy than the Asians do, we eat genetically modified soy, and we’re not responsible about how we add this highly phyto-estrogenic, goitrogenic substance to our diet. Adding vitamin K through food is not a bad thing, it can help to ensure that we have enough in our diet.  Found in dark leafy greens it’s a good thing to add to the diet.  But to start supplementing without knowing whether you need it or not is not a good choice  While it is not known to be toxic, consuming too much has been reported to cause tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.  So by all means add dark leafy greens to your diet.  However if you are considering supplementing because it’s the big thing of the year, consider testing your micronutrient status first to see if you really need it.

India’s Packaged Food To Have GM Label – I’m so happy to see labeling of GMOs.  I hope that it will grow beyond just packaged foods and eventually include fresh foods as well as meat, dairy, and eggs.  After all, if the animals are fed GMOs the products we get from them are also GMO.

This video about food waste from the BBC

highlights just how much food is wasted in developed countries.  Some of it is due to confusion about labeling but some is due to carelessness.  Given the high number of people who don’t have enough to eat in these countries, let alone the rest of the world, this is a major issue.  If we continue to think there’s not enough food we continue to pave the way for GMO foods which, as is becoming increasingly clear, does not provide an appropriate answer.

Like these on my mind monday posts?
“Like” me on Facebook too for more information
and news you can use.

photo: mconnors

Candy Bars

snickers candy bar | photo: FightinG FalcoN

It’s in the news.  Mars has announced that it will stop selling king or super-sized candy bars.  They are now only going to sell candy bars with 250 or less calories in them.   Quite honestly I’m annoyed about this announcement.  My initial response is that they are pandering to the public.  In their press announcement the company states, “Mars has a broad-based commitment to health and nutrition.”

I’m not convinced they do.  Let’s remember, their job is to sell candy.  And they’re going to try to convince you that their candy is a healthier choice than that of another brand.  But whatever they say, and whatever they do, the bottom line is that they need you to buy their candy.

These super-sized candy bars are a problem.  A king-sized snickers bar is supposedly three servings, each one containing 170 calories, 8 grams of fat and 18 grams of sugar.  Eat the whole thing and you are getting a whopping 510 calories, 24 grams of fat and 54 grams of sugar.  Not a good thing.

It’s pretty much a given that we are programmed to finish our food.  I’m guessing that the vast majority of people who open a king-size candy bar wind up finishing the whole thing.  In that regard downsizing could be a good thing.  If Mars limits their candy bars to be no more than 250 calories (regardless of how many servings) that’s less than half of what king-size candy bar consumers are currently getting.

Before we get all excited about that, however, we have to look at the ingredient list of a snickers bar:

    Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, butter, milkfat, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean and/or hydrogenated palm kernel oil), lactose, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor

It contains trans fats (remember anything partially-hydrogenated is a trans fat) and that’s a problem.  Mars claims that they will eventually be removing these from their products but for now they are still in there.  And they’re using what I call tricky math.  The label claims that if you eat one serving of a king-size snickers you get 0g trans fats.  That’s because the government allows .49 g and less per serving to be considered zero.  Eat three servings and you could potentially be eating almost 1.5 g of trans fats.  That added up quickly for a product that supposedly had no trans fats at all.

Next we look at the soy lecithin, soybean oil, and corn syrup.  These are, in all likelihood, from genetically modified crops.  Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I am vigorously opposed to the use of GMO’s in our food.  Unfortunately the government does not believe that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food and does not require manufacturers to label the source.  Better to avoid them to the best of your ability.

Then there’s the artificial flavor.  We don’t need that, it’s not good for us, and we shouldn’t be eating it.

So while Mars claims to have a “broad based commitment to health and nutrition” the answer is, not really.


When I work with people I sometimes recommend they take certain supplements.  If they have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, shown through testing, or if they have digestive issues, there are supplements that can help with that.  When I suggest supplements I almost always suggest professional grade because they are a more pure product and do not have all of the chemicals and most of the fillers that come in over-the-counter supplements.  This is especially important for those who need to follow a nutritional plan that requires them to avoid dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, or corn.

Recently one of my clients asked why all of the supplements I suggest have no colors.  She pointed out that it is easier for her to know which is which when they are colored.

While the colors may make identification easier it actually makes the supplements less healthy for you.  There are a number of studies that show a negative effect from artificial colors on children with ADHD, autism, and other neurobiological illnesses.  According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) there is also evidence showing that many people have food sensitivities to artificial color and that these artificial colors are carcinogenic in animal studies.

When I advise people to take artificial colors out of their diet the object is to remove all artificial colors.  This includes those substances that are not food but which are ingested in some way such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and, yes, even supplements.

The supplements can be identified by the label, and it’s a healthier choice.  I say choose the healthier option.

Colors And Fats

Jen wrote in with a comment and a couple of questions:

A friend shared a recipe with me for rainbow pancakes. It was pretty horrifying with tons of artificial colors. I am disappointed how my son’s class is drawn to the colors when choosing food at the class parties.”

I agree, rainbow pancakes would be horrifying (as are rainbow sprinkles, cookies, anything made with artificial colors). We are biologically drawn to eat a colorful range of foods. Unfortunately manufacturers have figured this out and turned it to their advantage. It’s not a bad thing to want colorful fruits and veg, what’s bad is when that instinct is transformed by modern “science” to include processed foods.

Back in 2007 the BBC published a news article highlighting findings from the University of Southampton, a leading research–led university in Southampton, England, that shows a link between artificial colorants, temper tantrums, allergic reaction, and poor concentration in children. This study supports the findings of Dr. Ben Feingold, a prominent pediatrician and allergist who was Chief of Allergy at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. In 1968 Dr. Feingold published a paper “Recognition of Food Additives as a Cause of Symptoms of Allergy.” Throughout his career he would continue to publish articles and work in clinical practice encouraging families to remove additives from their diet. The Feingold Association was founded in 1976 and continues to support a diet that eliminates artificial ingredients, flavorings, colorants, and preservatives. Dr. Feingold claimed that 30-50% of his hyperactive patients showed an improvement in behaviors after colorants were removed from their diet.

It is possible to make food colorings from readily available plant sources such as beets for a red tint, spinach for a green tint, carrots for orange, or saffron for yellow, however homemade colors tend to be rather muted. If a purchased product is considered more desirable there are several sources of plant based food dyes such as Seelect, an organic tea company located on the web at, Nature’s Flavors, which offers organic food coloring, many of which are kosher, vegan and gluten-free, located at, or India Tree, which sells natural food coloring, natural color sugar and other products through commercial outlets.

“I also have two food questions. I’ve been hearing buzz words like “good fat” and “bad fat”. I actually heard people in the store talking about it while looking at the information on the back of a food package, which I was very pleased to observe but didn’t have the courage to ask what’s the difference?

Good fats are fats that your body knows how to use and can efficiently work with. Bad fats are fats that are difficult for your body to process and clog your system. Good fats include things like olive oil, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil. Bad fats are things like margarine, crisco, hydrogenated and trans-fats.

“I think the answer might also relate to another question I have. What is better for you, olive oil or smart balance buttery spread. Olive oil has 14 grams of fat per TBS and the butter spread has only 5 grams per TBS. I would think that the olive oil is better for you since it’s the least processed but, I just can’t get that “5” out of my head. It’s less than half of the fat from the olive oil. I’m thinking this is an example of good fat vs. bad fat but which is better? Does it change your choice if your trying to stay on a low fat diet?

Olive oil is much better for you. Although it has more fat it is a good fat. Not only that you have to look at fat in context. A fair percentage of our brain is made of fat cells. Fatty acids (from good fats) help make DHA (docosahexanoic acid) which allows the brain to grow and create the cells you need to think. Also the myelin sheathing that surrounds our nervous system is made of fat, helping to keep them healthy so they can transmit nerve impulses.

We need fat to be healthy, without it our bodies cannot absorb and process fat soluble vitamins (A, K, E). Eating good fats also helps to promote saiety or fullness; too little fat and we can get dry scaly skin, dry hair, bruise more easily, take longer to heal wounds, and be less cold tolerant.

If you’re interested there is a very good book called “Eat Fat to Lose Fat” by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. It’s a pretty straightforward book and easy to understand.

Thanks for the questions!
Be well.