what you eat? – how to read food labels

I believe there’s one positive side of this whole pandemic situation – that people started more taking care about their health and trying to be more aware of what they eat. At least I hope that. It should be obvious that if you keep your body healthy and your immune system is strong you’re going to be less prone not only to the most famous sickness in the world, but any sickness. Sadly mainstream media does not inform how to boost your immunity, how to make your body stronger. They don’t teach about small but important daily habits you can develop (completely for free) to improve your immunity and health. And this is very sad because if we would all started treating our bodies more like temples and less like machines that’s utilizing what the food industry has to offer, I think that we would be not only healthier but also happier. And I do not say it from the position of a person whose diet is impeccable, I eat only organic food and have absolutely no health problems. I am only a weak-willed human and I sometimes eat highly processed foods and those generally considered unhealthy. With the fact that I do it with full awareness. And I would like to instill this awareness in you.

It’s going to be a long post, so grab yourself a tea or coffee and make yourself comfortable 🙂

There’s lots of things you can do to improve your awareness about what you put in your mouth and it’s completely for free.

It’s reading food labels.

Do you ever look at them? If you judge the food product only from the front of the packaging – usually very colourful and promising, you may actually be very disappointed when you read the label.

Couple days ago we’ve got delivered a new product in the cafe I work in. Very eco-looking packaging – vegan, gluten free, milk free – healthy you would think. BTW, did you noticed that in last couple years everything that is labelled as vegan/vegetarian – is considered healthy? Gluten free- healthy? Dairy free – healthy? So I took a look on the back of the packaging to see the label and that’s what I saw:

“Ingredients: Sugar, Rice Flour, Palm Oil, Belgian Dark Chocolate (12%) [Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins), Flavouring], Rapeseed Oil, Golden Syrup, Cornflour, Tapioca Starch, Water, Soya Flour, Salt, Emultisifires (Soya Lecithins, Mono- and Diglicerydes of Fatty Acids), Flavouring, Colour (Carotens)”

After reading this all my enthusiasm for this promising product went away. What’s wrong you would ask? OK, lets go through this ingredients list.

What is the ingredient list?

The ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance by weight. It means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. In some cases, manufacturer also needs to show the percentage of each ingredient. All ingredients should be listed by its common or usual name so it’s easy to recognize and understand by customers.

Every food product has to have the ingredients list on the packaging, also most of them has nutrition facts label contains product-specific information (serving size, calories, and nutrient information), also explains the % Daily Value and gives the number of calories used for general nutrition advice. For me personally the most important is the list of ingredients. Nutritional value is also important to know, especially if you’re on some kind of diet that requires counting macros (calories, carbohydrates, fats etc.) For me in the nutritional label important is how many carobohydrates product contains, how much of it is fiber and if there’s any extra added sugar in the product.

So lets have a look on our example:

  • Sugar is the ingredient that weighs the most in this product – I’m sure you know that sugar is not the healthiest foods in the world, in fact it’s one of the most unhealthy food ingredients. Do not confuse the sugar naturally contained in, for example, fruits with the sugar that you can buy in the supermarket, because they are two different sugars. But here we are not going to go into details because this post would never ends 😉 After Wikipedia: the average person consumes about 24 kilograms (53 lb) of sugar each year, with North and South Americans consuming up to 50 kilograms (110 lb) and Africans consuming under 20 kilograms. Excessive consumption of sugar has been implicated in the onset of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay. Numerous studies have tried to clarify those implications, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that consume little or no sugar. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended that adults and children reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10%, and encouraged a reduction to below 5%, of their total energy intake;
  • Rice Flour – common substitute for wheat flour in gluten free food products. It’s simply finely milled rice;
  • Palm Oil – became very popular when the United States banned the addition of trans fats to products. Palm oil has become an easy and cheap replacement as it does not contain them. It does, however, contain saturated fatty acids. But the problem with palm oil is somewhere else. Well, the oil from the flesh of the palm oil in industrial applications is divided into the so-called fractions. One of them is the called: palm stearin. It contains high concentration of saturated stearic acid, which makes it solid at room temperature. And this makes it extremely attractive to producers. It easily gives products a “buttery” structure. However, when processing palm oil, another fraction is formed – the called: palm olein. It is high in monounsaturated oleic acid but liquid at room temperature. For this reason, it is often hardened by hydrogenation. And this causes the formation of harmful compounds in it. The hydrogenation process produces trans fatty acids – extremely harmful to health. However, we may not find out from the labels what type of palm fat was used. Also from ecological point of view (which became so important recently) according to WWF, irresponsible expansion of oil palm plantations has negatively impacted many vulnerable and threatened species, also the rights and interests of local communities and indigenous peoples. Should also mention about dramatic employment conditions of plantation workers, soil erosion and pollution, as well as air pollution. The burning of forests and peatlands to clear and manage land for palm oil plantations releases massive quantities of carbon dioxide (hmm… who than produces more CO2, average person like you and me or giant plantation owners?). Take a look at WWF website, I linked it below, it’s actually quite interesting how food industry exploits ecosystem.
  • Belgian Dark Chocolate (12%) [Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins), Flavouring] – 12% of the whole product is Belgian Chocolate, but chocolate apart from cocoa mas and cocoa butter is also made with sugar listed as a second ingredient perdominance by weight. But let’s focus on Soya Lecithins, as it’s quite mysterious ingredient. Dr. Axe describes very accurately and simply what Soya Lecithins is: manufacturers use it when mixing oils and water in a food product to become uniform and smooth in texture. Soy is that it contains isoflavones or phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring estrogenic compounds. Isoflavones are found in many different plant foods, soybeans contain uniquely rich amounts. Although consuming isoflavones may have potential health benefits, like improving menopause and osteoporosis symptoms, there are concerns about their estrogen-like properties and how they affect the thyroid, uterus and breasts. That’s why Dr. Axe advises to eat soy fermented – fermentation process breaks down the antinutrients that are present in soybeans. But that’s a whole different story… Also last one on the list is: Flavouring – might be natural or artificial, but we don’t know that, and it doesn’t say what flavour is that;
  • Rapeseed Oil – naturally low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, which is excellent for your health, but…It’s also famous for its affordability and versatility in food industry and in chemical and automotive industries. Follow the money – most rapeseed oil (also called canola oil) sold in grocery stores is genetically modified (although I found that all the rapeseed oil produced in UK is GM free). Growers genetically modify plants to produce higher yields and more affordable products. What are the constituencies for us? Most research does suggest that genetically modified products are generally safe. But as we know from the long history of food, tabacco and alcohol industry, what’s commonly used to be considered as healthy or “generally safe” often proved to be quite the opposite;
  • Golden Syrup – it’s production according to Wikipedia seems to be quite complicated but at the end it is just – sugar but in a different form;
  • Cornflour – very finely ground corn kernels, used in baked goods or to thicken liquids. Is it healthy? It depends, corn as a vegetable has plenty of different nutrients, but again according to Dr. Axe, almost all the corn in the U.S. is genetically modified and sprayed with dangerous pesticides. Organic corn is loaded with fibre and protein, also rich in anti-oxidants and easy to digest;
  • Tapioca Starch – popular gluten free flour made from cassava roots. Again after Dr. Axe, it’s used as a thickening agent, is made up of almost all carbohydrates and is very low in all types of fats, sugar, fiber, protein, sodium, and essential vitamins or minerals. Why then why use it?;
  • Water – not much to explain here;
  • Soya flour – After sciencedirect.com: soya flour has improving effects on dough handling and product quality. The enzyme lipoxygenase bleaches the xanthophyll pigments, resulting in a whiter crumb. Seriously?;
  • Salt – natural rock salt or himalayan is great, but I don’t think they used it here;
  • Emultisifires (Soya Lecithins, Mono- and Diglicerydes of Fatty Acids)Soya Lecithins we know already, the rest on the other hand are simply food additives called E471. Generally used to improve texture, volume of product, also prolongs shelf life and freshness. Approved as “generally recognized as safe”, although it may increase the amounts of trans fatty acids in final products;
  • Colour (Carotens) – natural food colourant driven from wide range of plants (for example: palm oil).

So…it took mi couple hours to go through one small product and write about it. And you may think: what?? you want me to google all the ingredients one by one while I’m shopping? No, because we would all die starving analysing each ingredient in each product we would like to put in the shopping basket.

But what this analyse let us know about this product?

It’s made mostly with sugar and different flours and starches, fats and additives. It’s vegan, gluten and dairy free, sounds great but after reading description of each ingredient do you still feel like it’s healthy or you feel like you’d love to eat it? I think the main problem is, that we are easily tempted by pretty packaging, tasty looking product that looks the same like you would make it at home or as your grandma used to make. But unfortunately it doesn’t mean that it’s made the same way as you or your grandma would make it. In modern food industry there’s lots of ingredient’s that we don’t even know that exists, that only pretends the ingredients we know, but are cheaper or easier to produce or grow.

If you take a quick look on the back of the food item you want to buy, and you see that list of ingredients is very long and has ingredients that names you cannot even read, you might want to put it back on the shelf. Especially if it’s simple one or two ingredients product, like for example jogurt or chocolate bar.

To help you understand what I mean I will show you another example: we have three packs of cheese snacks from different brands. All strongly advertised for kids.

Let’s take a look on the ingredients list:

Cheese snack number 1

Ingredients: Milk. Added Ingredients: Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Lactic Acid), Paprika, Vitamin D

Cheese snack number 2

Ingredients: Cheese Dip: Skimmed Milk (Water, Skimmed Milk Powder), Cheese, Concentrated Whey (from Milk), Inulin, Milk Protein, Milk Fat, Emulsifying Salt (Polyphosphates), Modified Starch, Calcium Phosphate, Acidity Regulator (Lactic Acid), Corn and Potato Snack: Corn Flour, Potato Granules, Palm Oil, Flavourings, Sugar, Salt, Onion Powder, Emulsifier (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Parsley, Acid (Citric Acid), Rosemary, Horseradish

Cheese snack number 3

Ingredients: Milk. Free From: Artificial Colours, Artificial Flavours, Artificial Preservatives.

I’m sure you can see the difference, that you wouldn’t spot looking only on the front of the packaging advertised as cheese snack for kids. And it’s exactly the same with all the food products you buy. Lists of ingredients in potentially the same or very similar products might vary a lot.

Moreover some of the food products cannot be manufactured other way than in complicated processes, that are more like laboratory processes rather than cooking. For example vegan foods that pretend no-vegan foods – like vegan bacon, vegan chicken, vegan cheese, vegan burgers etc. Vegan diet is advertised as healthy and on based on this opinion lots of people still think that they can become healthy eating vegan highly processed foods. Why they buy it? Because it’s easy, even tasty, doesn’t cost any effort to prepare and if someone likes meat they can cheat their brain consuming something that pretends to be meat.

Because I think examples are the best way to explain what I mean, I will show you another one. Vegan bacon rashers.

Ingredients: Water, Rehydrated Textured Soya and Wheat Protein (22%)(Water, Soya Protein, Wheat Protein, Salt, Soya Bean Oil, Natural Flavouring), Rapeseed Oil, Stabilisers: Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Methyl Cellulose, Wheat Protein, Soya Protein, Salt, Dextrose, Natural Flavourings, Colouring Foods: Blackcurrant, Radish, Apple, Starch, Natural Smoke Flavouring, Chicory Root Fibre, Acid: Citric Acid

Let’s break down this list and have a closer look on each ingredient:

  • Water – main ingredient, it’s first on the list so this bacon rashers are made mainly with water;
  • Rehydrated Textured Soya and Wheat Protein – it’s a highly processed food product that’s manufactured by isolating the soy protein from other components found in whole soybeans or other plants like wheat. It’s a result of thermo-mechanical process, which combines high heat, high shear, and high pressure to form a product that can be moulded into various forms for different uses. By itself, textured vegetable protein has a bland flavour, so it’s easy to add spices and other flavourings to make it taste like the meat product it’s imitating. What’s interesting, that it’s not unusual to find textured vegetable protein in foods that contains meat, such as frozen or canned pasta dishes. That’s because its texture is similar to that of meat, so it can serve as a meat extender, making it seem as if the dish contains more expensive meat than it actually does. Cheeky, isn’t it?
  • Rapeseed Oil – we’ve mentioned about it before;
  • Carrageenan – a family of marine polysaccharides isolated from seaweeds, has been at the heart of considerable debate in recent years. They are widely used in the food industry, for their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties. Their main application is in dairy and meat products, due to their strong binding to food proteins. As of 2011, global sales of carrageenan were estimated at $640 million. The largest producer of industrial carrageenan was the Philippines, where cultivated seaweed produces about 80% of the world supply, while China is the main exporter to global markets in the US and Europe (after Wikipedia). The use of carrageenan in infant formula, organic or otherwise, is prohibited in the EU for precautionary reasons, but is permitted in other food items. As of 2018, carrageenan was deemed non-toxic under certain consumption levels (75 mg/kg bw per day), although further research was recommended. Simply there’s no enough research to know how carrageenan impacts colon microbiome, digestion, there is no knowledge if and how it impacts elderly people or the one with chronic digestive issues;
  • Guar Gum – is made from legumes called guar beans, it’s a food additive known also as E412. It’s used in food manufacturing because it’s soluble and able to absorb water, forming a gel that can thicken and bind products. Guar gum is generally low in calories and mainly composed of soluble fiber. So might have positive impact on digestion. Soluble fibers such as guar gum have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects. High amounts of guar gum can cause problems like intestinal obstruction and death. The amounts in processed foods do not usually cause side effects but can sometimes lead to mild digestive symptoms;
  • Methyl Cellulose – is a filler used to add bulk — rather than more real ingredients — to processed foods. It’s a cheap additive that allows processed food manufacturers to increase the weight and improve the texture of products without adding any nutritional benefits. Methylcellulose is the active ingredient in many laxatives, but animal studies indicate that the additive may promote colorectal cancer at levels typically present in processed foods;
  • Wheat Protein, Soya Protein – similar to Rehydrated Textured Soya Protein and Wheat Protein – highly processed carbohydrate with no nutritional benefits;
  • Salt – also mentioned above;
  • Dextrose – simply – processed sugar. Produced by culturing sugar with bacteria, marketed as a “more natural” way to preserve, sweeten, or texturize processed food. Can cause: upset stomach, fatigue, and increased thirst;
  • Natural Flavourings – according to FDA definition: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating, or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit, or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavouring rather than nutritional.” In the EU, the natural flavour has to originate from a vegetable, animal, or microbiological source and must be made through a traditional food preparation process. India requires that they’re derived exclusively from vegetables and doesn’t allow microbiological processes. In Japan, natural flavours can be made from a limited list of plant and animal sources. In Canada, any flavourings that are not made from plant, animal, or microbiological sources have to be called “artificial flavourings.” In 2002, regulations in Australia and New Zealand were revised to remove any references to natural flavours, making it impossible to differentiate between artificial and natural flavours anymore. Great example of how natural flavours are used is mentioned by foodrevolution.org. “a piece of ripe fruit can taste amazing. But if a farm picks its fruit too green, and ships it 10,000 miles, it may lack flavor, color, and sweetness. If a company can add some natural flavors (plus a hefty dose of sugar and maybe even some food dye), suddenly the food will taste sweet and flavorful, and look brightly colored. The result is a poor substitute for real food, but these practices can be profitable, and most consumers will be fooled. Creating these substances is big business. The food industry employs what are called “flavor scientists,” whose main job is to mimic the taste of different foods and make them more flavorful and even addictive to consumers.”
  • Colouring Foods: Blackcurrant, Radish, Apple – food ingredients used by the food industry for the primary purpose of imparting colour to food and beverage products. They are manufactured from fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, algae or other edible source materials;
  • Natural Smoke Flavouring – produced by a wood-burning process called “pyrolysis”. As an alternative to traditional smoking, producers add them to a range of different foods to give a “smoked” flavour. They can also be added to foods which are not traditionally smoked. Smoke flavourings are regulated separately from other flavourings as they consist of complex mixtures including unidentified substances, which give rise to different safety issues;
  • Chicory Root Fibre – chicory root is a bit wood-like and, due to its fibrous composition, it’s not digested in the small intestine but instead maintains its forms as is travels to the colon or large intestine. Contains inulin, a type of plant-based carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. Inulin is classified as both a soluble fiber and a type of prebiotic. In general – beneficial for your body;
  • Acid: Citric Acid – flavouring and preservative in food and beverages, especially soft drinks and candies, also called E330. Citric acid can be added to ice cream as an emulsifying agent to keep fats from separating, to caramel to prevent sucrose crystallization, or in recipes in place of fresh lemon juice. Over-ingestion may cause abdominal pain and sore throat.

If you ask for my opinion, it’s healthier to eat a slice of real bacon, rather than highly processed slice of something that kind of looks and kind of tastes like bacon. And what do you think about that? Do you buy or eat this kind of foods? Do you feel better after eating them? If you are interested in this subject and you would like to read more informations about highly processed vegan food and other food ingredients take a look at this website: https://wellness.consumerfreedom.com/plant-based-meat/

Brave and patient one who managed to read until the end. I also learned a couple new thing while writing this post. I hope I encouraged you to start reading labels and ingredients list. And if health factors still didn’t convinced you to put some of the food items back on the shelf, ask yourself: do I really want to spend my money in this food product?

Source of knowledge:

https://www.tygodnik-rolniczy.pl/articles/wies-i-rodzina/olej-palmowy-kiedy-jest-szkodliwy-dla-zdrowia/

https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/food_practice/sustainable_production/palm_oil/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/what-is-soy-lecithin/

https://www.hardquestionstoanswer.com/2022/01/04/is-rapeseed-oil-banned-in-the-uk/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/corn-flour/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/soy-flour

https://foodadditives.net/emulsifiers/mono-and-diglycerides/

https://www.carotene.org/food-coloring/

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/food-labels.html

https://www.verywellfit.com/textured-vegetable-protein-4693634

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/guar-gum#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1

https://wellness.consumerfreedom.com

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/natural-flavors/

https://natcol.org/library/what-are-colouring-foods/

https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/smoke-flavourings

https://draxe.com/nutrition/chicory-root/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citric_acid

10 eating habits to improve your health (even if you don’t want to be on any diet)

There’s hundreds of diets in this world. You don’t believe that? Have a look at Wikipedia list of diet. “Not all diets are considered healthy. Some people follow unhealthy diets through habit, rather than through a conscious choice to eat unhealthily” – good point Wikipedia! Some diets are obviously unhealthy, and you don’t need to be a doctor to know that: “junk food diet” or “Western diet”, aren’t the best choices in therms of eating habits.

Being on a diet become very popular and in some environments is trendy, which I believe is not the best idea. Nevertheless , not everyone needs to be on a certain diet and not everyone wants to be on a diet (I was that person), and no one should feel bad because of that. No one should feel bad because people around him are on some kind of diet, and he is not. Changing of eating habits should be a concious decision, backed up with knowledge drawn from various sources. If you start being on a certain diet just because everyone else are, you might not only harm your body but also your mind. But as I said, not everyone want to restrict themselves to certain eating rules, and that’s fine. No one wants to be restricted and feel forced to anything. Including me.

But if you’d like to try to make a small changes to your eating habits and see if they’ll make you feel better, I have 10 eating habits for you. If you have digestive problems like bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, or you constantly tired, you have cravings, you joints are stiff and painful, take a look at this list. Even if you implement one habit, it might help you a lot. You don’t need to reorganize your whole world, try to adapt one small habit you think would help you the most. Some of them might seem to be more complicated at the beginning, but I can assure you that you’ll quite easily get used to them. Especially if you start feeling better. But don’t force yourself, remember it needs to be your concious decision. Make your research, read some more informations, listen to other people who’s also implement these habits in their lives. An try yourself.

The lack of scientific evidence is not proof that something is not happening, and the other way – if there is a scientific evidence that something works, it doesn’t mean that it will work for everybody.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

10 eating habits to improve your health

(even if you don’t want to be on any diet)

1. Drink apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is produced by fermenting apples, its main active substance is acetic acid, but also lactic acid, citric acid, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and bacteria friendly to our digestive system. Good quality apple cider vinegar is cloudy (unfiltered), unpasteurized and has a dark orange colour (sediment at the bottom of the bottle it’s called “the mother”).

Vinegar has a long history of use as a disinfectant and natural food preservative. According to a study conducted at the University of North Carolina, School of Medicine, Department of Hospital Epidemiology in the US, vinegar has a strong antimicrobial effect and can kill certain strains of bacteria.

The best health benefits of apple cider vinegar have been found in patients with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels, both due to insulin resistance and the inability to produce insulin. However, elevated blood sugar levels can also be a problem for people who do not have diabetes … high blood sugar is believed to be the main cause of ageing of the body and the cause of various chronic diseases. Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain the proper level of sugar in blood. In particular, it improves insulin sensitivity during a meal with a high carbohydrate content of 19-34%, and thus significantly lowers blood glucose and insulin levels, as well as lowers blood sugar by 34% after consuming 50 g of white bread. In addition, taking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar at bedtime may reduce your fasting blood sugar by 4%. As a consequence, it is beneficial for blood sugar levels, it does not spike after meals and build up in the form of adipose tissue. If you are currently taking medications to lower blood sugar levels, consult your doctor before introducing apple cider vinegar to your diet.
Drinking apple cider vinegar helps with digestion as it produces more gastric juices, but if you start to experience diarrhoea, reduce your dose or stop drinking it for a few days.

Typical doses are 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 ml) to 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) per day. Always drink diluted vinegar (maximum 2 tablespoons for about 200 ml of water). Have a drink before meals (especially high-protein) or twice a day (e.g. morning and evening). If you’ve never tried drinking apple cider vinegar start with 1 teaspoon, and see how you feel. Slowly increase the amount of vinegar up to 2 tablespoons. You’ll see significant difference if you tend to feel heavy after meals, especially if you eat a lot of meat, and your stomach is not producing enough stomach acid. Which leads me to the second one.

2. Don’t drink while you eat

There’s many theories about you should drink while eating a meal or not. What I’ve noticed from my own experience, that drinking a glass of tea, juice, coffee or large amounts of water during my meal or just after, makes me feel heavy, bloated and uncomfortable. So if you drink a lot (also fizzy drinks) with a meal and it makes you feel worse, you have abdominal pain and bloating, try not to drink anything while you eat and just after. Although if you feel like you need to drink something, have a couple sips of water. Always observe your body and decide, if it’s a habit or your body really needs water.

3. Say no to highly processed food

Humans has been processing food for centuries: cutting, cooking, baking, drying, chopping. Food processing that we can carry out at home are natural processes. E.g. pickling, pasteurization, drying, salting, smoking etc.
Highly processed food is one that we are not able to “produce” at home, special conditions, machines and substances are needed for this. Such industrial processes are: mechanical separation, spray drying, sterilization, freeze drying, vacuum packing, food treatment, radiation, infrared treatment. Food is not only subjected to unnatural processes, but also various types of food additives are used, which are not a natural food ingredient but are added to obtain specific effects. Food additives are defined differently in different countries. For example, in the European Union, a food additive is “a substance that is not normally eaten but is intentionally added to food for technological reasons“, while in the United States food additives are “substances whose intended use causes, or can reasonably be expected to will make it directly or indirectly an ingredient of food or otherwise affect the properties of food “(Wikipedia). Such substances include: flavouring compositions, dyes, emulsifiers, thickeners, raising agents and other substances that are intended to thicken the product, also preservatives, antioxidants and stabilizers, compounds that are to extend the life of products. These compounds have different origins, sometimes they are made from natural products, and sometimes synthetic. Importantly, they never occur naturally.
There are many misconceptions and contradictions when it comes to explaining which food additives and in what amounts are harmful to human health. It is generally accepted that everything that is in the product you buy in the store is not harmful and does not pose any threat to your life. Logically looking – why would they inform about the fact that what is added to food is not necessarily healthy?

Let’s look at these facts: boric acid was widely used as a food preservative from the 1870s to the 1920s, but was banned after World War I due to its toxicity, as demonstrated in animal and human studies. During World War II, the urgent need for cheap, available food preservatives led to it being used again (!), but it was finally banned in the 1950s. In 1938 US government decided that no carcinogenic substances should be used in food production, however, after the banning of cyclamates in the United States and Britain in 1969, saccharin, the only remaining legal artificial sweetener at the time, was found to cause cancer in rats. But they have found in 2000, that saccharin is carcinogenic in rats due only to their unique urine chemistry. (Wikipedia) So how can we be sure that if something will be fine for rats, will be also fine for humans? Especially in long term?

Do you know, that there’s over 300 different food additives? Which one you should avoid the most?

  • Sodium nitrites – check all the deli meat products, and meat products in general – I can guarantee that 99% of them will have sodium nitrite. Have you noticed that homemade deli meat never have such a pink glowing colour, like the one from the shop? It’s mostly because the additives. Naturally prepared deli meat always gets this greyish colour after cooking. But we got so used to what we see in the shop, we start thinking that there’s something wrong with the meat that we cook at home, because it’s not as pink and doesn’t have as strong flavour as the one from the shop. When sodium nitrite is heated at high temperatures or combined with stomach acid, starts producing nitrosamines. They are linked to an increased risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancer.
  • Sulfites – are a preservative many people are sensitive to (especially people with asthma). Their use on fresh fruits and vegetables is banned in the United States, but sulfites are present in other foods (also avoid sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, sodium bisulfite or sodium sulfite)
  • Trans fats – it’s cheap, they do not go rancid, they can be repeatedly heated and cooled without any harm, and the products prepared with their use are durable and have a long shelf life. There is only one but – this type of fat is really very harmful to health. If you eat a lot of them, and for longer periods you can get diabetes, heart disease, hardening of blood vessels and inflammation. It also reduces your body’s ability to lose weight. Most trans fats are found in all confectionery, cakes, potato fries and fast food.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – this substance enhance flavour and texture in processed foods (especially Asian foods are known from using MSG generously). People sensitive to MSG can experience nausea, breathing problems and other reactions. You can read about it also in this post.
  • E102, E110 (also known as FD&C yellow no. 5 and no. 6) – these artificial coloring agents can cause severe allergic reactions in those with asthma. Some research also suggests a link with hyperactivity in children, but this has not been proven. What’s interesting E110 is not only used in food but also in production of condoms, cosmetics, and drugs (Wikipiedia). Products containing E102 commonly include processed commercial foods that have an artificial yellow or green colour, or that consumers expect to be brown or creamy looking (!). It has been frequently used in the bright yellow colouring of imitation lemon filling in baked goods. E102 is widely use in cosmetic industry, household cleaning products, paper plates, pet foods, crayons, inks for writing instruments, stamp dyes, face paints, envelope glues, and deodorants (Wikipedia). Considering that, how much of E102 a human can absorb not only in food and medications, but also through skin contact?

Now if you eat a lot of processed foods, go to the kitchen and have a look on the labels, how many of these substances you find in your food?

4. Eat when you’re hungry

Depending on the opinion of the dietitian, we are told to eat 5 times a day, or 3 times a day. We are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that the first meal should be eaten before 9am and the last one no later than 6pm, and so on. All the experts has their own opinions you should be listening to. Such a single pattern that could be applied to every person could make sense only if everyone functioned in exactly the same way. Meanwhile, each of us functions completely different. We have different sleeping patterns (for example, if someone works in shifts), our work is different in terms of time and effort, we have different eating habits and we live in various climate. It is impossible for one scheme to fit all.
For some people, eating 5 meals a day is almost impossible. Depending of how your diet is – more carbohydrate based, or fat based (or both), if you work from home, and you sit most of the time, or you do physical work and need a lot of energy.

What if you would become your own expert? Isn’t you the one who knows your body the best? What if you’re absolutely not hungry in the morning, and you need to force yourself to eat something, when your body’s metabolism didn’t wake up yet?

So if you feel like you have to force yourself to eat 5 times a day, or to have a giant breakfast before 9am, consider thinking through your own body needs and prepare your own schedule that’s the best for you and your lifestyle. Become your own expert. And this leads me to a next one…

5. Observe and be mindful

to become your own expert start observing how you feel, after eating certain foods, also observe your hunger.

Ask yourself if:

  • your body is hungry for food?
  • or maybe you’re dehydrated?
  • or (if you eat a lot of sweets) your mind craves sugar?
  • or maybe you’re just bored?

We tend to be so unaware of our own body, that even if we’re on certain diet we do not recognise what it’s trying to tell us. We often mindlessly subordinate to the rules of chosen diet, without listening to how our body responds. As I have been writing here, before keto diet I didn’t stop and think how eating certain food makes me feel. Why the hell I feel so sleepy after dinner? Why I feel like I would explode after this delicious lentil soup? Why my stomach is heavy and painful after x or y? I’ve never thought about that. I thought it’s normal. If you feel bad after eating certain foods it is not normal. The food you eat should be nutritious for your body, make you feel energised and full of live.

6. Use a lot of herbs & spices

Even if you’re not a masterchef, and your cooking skills leave something to be desired, spices can take your kitchen to the next level. Not only that, spices have healing properties, they support your health, facilitate metabolism and even destroy microbes that are hostile to your body. 2017 research showed that essential oils and extracts of some spices contain active compounds like piperine, eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, linalool, thymoquinones, curcumin, allicin. These compounds acts like natural preventive components of several diseases and represent as antioxidants in body cells.

According to this research which spices has the most healing properties?

  • Black Cumin Seeds (Nigella sativa) – helps to treat common cold, infections of the trachea, bron-chitis, urinary tract, and reproductive system. Some skin dis-orders such as warts and hair losses. Egyptians used it to treat stomachaches, inflammations, intestinal worms, and migraines. Modern researches showed that black cumin seeds are potentially antioxidant, hepatoprotec-tive, anticancer, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, analgesic, antiulcer and antihistaminic.
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) – widely use in India. Leaves are used to add flavors to medicinal drinks, decoctions, and as flavouring wrappers in the preparation of traditional sweets. Aparft for its internal healing properties, turmeric can be used on the skin as a natural anti-septic. It can be applied topically for the treatment of acne,wounds, boils, bruises, blisters, ulcers, eczema, insect bites,and skin diseases like herpes. Researches showed that curcumin (active compound of turmeric) is highly anti-inflammatory, works against a number of pathogenic bacteria (for example Helicobacter pylori).
  • Garlic (Allium sativum L) – has antifungal and antiparasitic properties, it’s also anticancer and antioxidant abilities, can control cholesterol and blood pressure and prevent gastritis. It’s a natural antibiotic.
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – it comes from the same family as turmeric. Its antimicrobial, for example fights Candida albicans and Helicobacter pylori which is the main reason for peptic ulcer, dyspepsia, and gastric/stomach cancer.
  • Star Anise (Illicium verum) – has carminative, antifungal, antibacterial, analgesic, sedative, anticarcinogenic,and antioxidant properties. Seed from the star anise floret is known to contain about 55%fatty oils along with oleic acid, linoleic acid, myristic acid, andstearic acid.
  • Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) – good for head-aches, bad breath, and fever. Also extracts of nutmeg seed showed antibacterial activity against gram-positive bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) – it has antiseptic properties, and its potential for antibacterial and antifungal activity has been tested in laboratories by a number of researchers. Piperine extracts from black pep-per showed maximum antibacterial activity against multidrugresistant gram-positive bacteria.
  • Cloves (Syzigium aromaticum) – it’s known to control nausea,vomiting, cough, diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence, stomach dis-tension, and gastrointestinal spasm. It is recognized to possessanticarcinogenic, antioxidant, and antiparasitic properties. Active compound in cloves is eugenol, that has antibacterial and antifungal activity.
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum,C cassia,C zeylanicum,C loureirii) – antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood purifying and blood thinningproperties, and it is also used in reducing blood sugar levels andcholesterols. However, excess consumption of cinnamon can be toxic to bodyorgans.

Also there’s plenty of culinary herbs that has healing properties (contains polyphenols) and helps our body to digest the food.

  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) – control of swellings, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers, anaemia, menstrual disorders, small pox, eye care, conjunctivitis, skin disorders. Traditional Chinese Medicine the leaves were used to stimulate the appetite, promote digestion and to strengthen the spleen and stomach. The seeds were similarly used to soothe the stomach, relieve nausea, for intestinal cramping and constipation.
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens L.) – used for digestion problems including loss of appetite, intestinal gas (flatulence), liver problems, and gallbladder complaints. It is also used for urinary tract disorders including kidney disease and painful or difficult urination. Other uses for dill include treatment of fever and colds, cough, bronchitis, hemorrhoids, infections, spasms, nerve pain, genital ulcers, menstrual cramps, and sleep disorders.
  • Oregano (Wild Majoram) (Origanum vulgare L.) – Oregano is used for respiratory tract disorders such as coughs, asthma, croup, and bronchitis. It is also used for gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as heartburn and bloating. Other uses include treating menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis, urinary tract disorders including urinary tract infections (UTIs), headaches, and heart conditions.
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum (P. Mill.)) – vitamin C, vitamin A, Vitamin K, some folate (a B vitamin), and iron. It’s high in antioxidants which can reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress markers. If you’re feeling bloated, parsley’s anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) – n terms of vitamins, fresh rosemary contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and other B vitamins such as folate and thiamin. Also improves digestion, rosemary in a tea is great to treat an upset stomach or nausea.
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) – increase memory recall and retention, normalise cholesterol levels, treat symptoms of menopause, and improve blood sugar, anti-inflammatory properties as well as plenty of antioxidants.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) – considered as medicinal plant due to their pharmacological and biological properties. Its properties are due to its main components, thymol and carvacrol. Fresh Thyme has the highest level of antioxidants among all herbs. Fresh Thyme contains Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Iron, Phosphorus, vitamin A, B, K and vitamin C. Extracts from Thyme have been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of several respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis and for the treatment of other pathologies thanks to several properties such as antiseptic, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidative and antiviral.

7. Reduce sugar

It won’t be a great discovery if I say that sugar is harmful. Sugar addiction is compared to drug addiction.

People who eat large amounts of sweets very often struggle with gastrointestinal fungal infections. It is associated with the overgrowth of the yeast from the Candida albicans family. Probably few people are aware that they are present in the body of every human being from birth. When the immune system is functioning properly, fungi do not multiply, so they are not dangerous – normal bacterial flora keeps them in check. The situation changes radically when we disrupt this balance. Taking various types of medications, such as antibiotics, also causes disturbances in our digestive system, making the body extremely susceptible to the development of yeast. The second factor is eating large amounts of simple sugars that Candida is fed. Long term exposure of the body to yeast and fungus overgrowth causes chronic inflammation and, consequently, many dangerous diseases.


If you eat a lot of sweets and notice any of these symptoms, it is very likely that your body has been attacked by Candida:

  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • yeast infections of the genitals (especially in women)
  • feeling of constant fatigue
  • stiff neck
  • migraines
  • ear, throat and nose problems
  • white raid on the tongue
  • metallic taste and bad breath
  • bloating and gas
  • craving for sweets, pasta and bread combined with irritability, drowsiness, decreased concentration, fatigue and mood changes.

How to get rid of yeast overgrowth?

Traditional medicine, of course, will propose a set of drugs that give you a somewhat miserable feeling that you only need to swallow the pill and your problems will disappear. But the best, most effective and at the same time the cheapest, although not the easiest way, is to change your diet.

How can you prevent yeast infections of the digestive system? Avoid:

  • sugars and products containing it (chocolate, candies, jam, fruit juices), as simple sugars are an ideal breeding ground for yeast and fungi
  • wheat flour products: white bread, pancakes, dumplings, cakes
  • blue cheeses and fruit containing a lot of sugar (oranges, bananas, plums, dried fruit)

It is also important to drink a about of 2 litres of water each day, to help remove toxins from the body that are produced by fungi.

You can make a simple home test, to check the presence of active Candida in the body.

In the evening, put ½ glass of water next to your bed. Immediately after waking up, spit out quickly what you have in our mouth into the glass – do not collect saliva, but only spit out what you have in your mouth. Let the glass rest for 15 minutes. After this time, gently twist the contents of the glass. If the saliva rises on the surface of the water, it’s all fine. But if the water has become cloudy and the saliva has fallen to the bottom, you are most probably dealing with Candida imbalance in our body.


Make a test and stop eating sugar (it means sweets, bakery, flour products, pasta, rice) for a month and see how your body will response.

8. Use a bone broth as a base for your soups

Every two weeks I make beef bones broth that I get from the butcher. I simmer bones in a giant pot for 24 hours, with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (the acid helps to etch the bone marrow). Than I make a few portions of broth, freeze it, and use it for soups. Longer you cook the bones, you’ll get more powerful broth (you can simmer it up to 36 hours). This broth warms the spleen and gives you plenty of nutrients and natural collagen. Such a soup is a mineral bomb. A glass of collagen every day will improve the quality of every part of your body. It seals the intestines, which is the basis for the treatment of autoimmune or cancerous diseases. It warms up the spleen, which begins the entire energy flow in our body. It adds energy, strength and will also make sure that you do not freeze in winter like most of the population. As bone broth simmers, collagen from the animal parts leaches into the broth and absorbs easily to help restore cartilage. One of the most valuable components of bone broth stock is gelatin. Gelatin acts like a soft cushion between bones that helps them “glide” without friction. Studies show that gelatin is beneficial for restoring strength of the gut lining and fighting food sensitivities (such as to wheat or dairy). It also helps with the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut and supports healthy inflammation levels in the digestive tract. Collagen also maintains healthy skin.

So instead of using stock cubes, pods or granules as a base of your soups, which apart from artificial flavour doesn’t have much to give, start making your own soup base. Check your local butcher, usually you won’t need to pay anything or a small amount of money for a giant bone. You’ll get couple litres of broth you can use as a base for the soup, half and half with water (broth is usually quite strong and thick, depending of the part of the bone you use to make it).

9. Eat fermented foods

One of the biggest benefits of fermented foods comes from probiotics. The digestive tract is teeming with some 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms, says Dr. David S. Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Changes to the population of gut microbes may create an imbalance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria, leading to many health problems. When the digestive tract has an unhealthy mix of organisms, it can actually lead to a weakening of the walls of the intestines, which start to leak their contents into the bloodstream — a condition referred to, not surprisingly, as leaky gut syndrome. Chronic exposure to these substances leaking out from the intestines has been linked to a host of health problems, ranging from asthma and eczema to schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to Dr. Ludwig.

With fermented foods you can not only prevent from getting autoimmune diseases, but also built your immunity to different bacteria and viruses. Have a look at this post where I’m writing about Dr. Jean Bousquet Professor of Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Montpellier in France was looking for association between consumption of fermented vegetables and COVID-19 mortality at a country level in Europe. Also check this recipe for homemade sauerkraut juice and couple informations about its healing properties.

10. Give yourself a fast day

Long time ago people did not have continuous access to food, so fasting was a natural state for the body. In the modern world, when we have continuous and unlimited access to food, it happens that we spend most of our day eating. In such a situation, our body is forced to constantly digest the food we eat and it is not possible to “focus” on regeneration. All energy is used for digestion – if you provide your body with processed food, difficult to digest and stuffed with chemicals and toxins, the body accumulates them, without having enough time or energy to get rid of them.
Even though there’s been already researches about benefits coming from intentional fasting, there’s still a lot of disinformation and controversy around this subject and doctors who advocates to natural medicine, fasting and other alternative to modern medicine widely used and recognized as effective.

There are different types of fasting:

  • eating window (intermittent fasting) – for 6-8 hours a day you eat meals, the rest of the time you fast, giving your body time to digest and regenerate,
  • one-day fasting – e.g. once a week,
  • multi-day fasts – from 48 to several dozen hours.

Benefits of intermittent fasting:

  • increases insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for health, because insulin resistance, i.e. poor cell sensitivity to insulin, contributes to the development of many chronic diseases,
  • normalizes the level of ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone”, thus reducing the feeling of hunger,
  • improves blood sugar management,
  • increases the production of human growth hormone,
  • inhibits inflammation and reduces oxidative damage,
  • supports autophagy and mitophagy – natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cell renewal and function,
  • accelerates fat burning, improves metabolic efficiency and body composition, including by significantly reducing visceral fat and body weight in obese people,
  • prevents the development of type 2 diabetes and slows down its progression,
  • improves the functioning of the immune system,
  • reduces the risk of heart disease,
  • reduces the risk of cancer,
  • regenerates the pancreas and improves its function,
  • protects against neurological diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease through the production of ketone bodies,
  • eliminates carbohydrate hunger.

I highly recommend Dr. Berg’s publications on his YouTube channel – the source of vast knowledge presented in an accessible and understandable way. Not only about intermittent fasting, but also plenty health problems, with holistic point of view.

I hope you’ve managed to read up to the end, and somehow you find it useful. I would be very happy if any of these tips and habits would help you to feel better in your body. If you have other habits that are helpful for you, please write them in the comment section below.

Source of knowledge:

https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/11/2814.full

https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/1/281.long

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7796781/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10656352/

ttps://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-food-additives-you-should-avoid

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316571266_Pharmaceutical_Perspectives_of_Spices_and_Condiments_as_Alternative_Antimicrobial_Remedy

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4227268/

https://irenamacri.com/7-herbs-spices-powerful-health-benefits/

https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/coriander

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-644/oregano

https://draxe.com/nutrition/gelatin/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fermented-foods-can-add-depth-to-your-diet

https://www.mercola.com/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.4161/auto.6.6.12376?needAccess=true&

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fonc.2016.00242/full

https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/research-intermittent-fasting-shows-health-benefits