If you had trouble pronouncing the last word in the title of this article, you are not alone. It’s quite the tongue twister. In fact, it sounds like the name of an industrial chemical used in the plastics and rubber industry. Oh wait, it is. So why do I care about it? Because the same chemical is also used in the baking industry for things like hamburger buns and bread.
Commercial bakeries use azodicarbonamide to bleach the flour, making it whiter. In addition, this additive changes the structure of the dough, strengthening it and adding elasticity. Apparently, these are desired traits for Big Food companies like Subway, Sara Lee, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Arby’s and Starbucks. This issue with this chemical is whether or not it’s actually safe to consume. The US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) classifies this additive as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and allows it in baked goods and flour up to the limit of 45 part per million. Sounds like a miniscule amount; but then again, if this additive might cause respiratory issues and possibly even be a carcinogen, should there really be ANY of it in my food? The European Union, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand all think this food additive is not worth the risk and have banned it’s use as a bleaching agent.
Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe, did a little investigation and found that Subway uses the additive in at least eight of their popular sandwich breads including: 9-Grain Wheat, 9-Grain Honey Oat, Italian White, Italian Herbs & Cheese, Parmesan/Oregano, Roasted Garlic, Sourdough, and Monterrey Cheddar. It is interesting to note that Subway does NOT use this additive in their restaurants overseas because they can’t (because they’re banned!). This really got under the Food Babe’s skin, but what really pushed her over the edge was when the First Lady, the American Heart Association and several Olympic athletes began touting Subway as “fresh” and “nutritious” meals. After repeated requests for a response, she decided to launch a full-scale petition to get Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.
We give kudos to the Food Babe for launching this campaign and for pointing out the hypocrisy of Subway having two versions of the same breads (the crappy one from all us Americans and the “clean” version for those abroad). Click here to sign the petition and ask Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.
Unless you’ve been living far away from civilization, you’ve probably noticed a trend of folks avoiding grains or more specifically, gluten. While we can debate the merits or harmful effects of gluten/grain consumption, one thing is certain, there are those that simply can’t eat gluten. Who are these people? Well, two of them are my friends; a mother and daughter, who for years suffered from unexplained stomach, digestive, and other “IBS” systems. Last year, they were finally tested and and low and behold, were diagnosed with celiac disease. For those of you who may not be aware, here is what celiac disease is:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten…Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.
- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
Um, I don’t know about you, but the thought of a bagel causing my body to “punch itself” sounds downright miserable. My friend on the other hand, is feeling better than she has in years. Even though it is difficult finding her way through living a life and raising her daughter without gluten (aka pasta, beer, bread, pastries, cookies, cake and essentially every other addictively delicious carb), finding an explanation for all her intestinal issues is such a relief. Note that people with celiac cannot tolerate any gluten. Even a few crumbs can have an effect and trigger an internal attack.
I have a family member who is also gluten-free. He doesn’t have celiac disease, but notices a marked difference when he eats gluten and when he doesn’t. He’s always been prone to having nose-bleeds and won’t have one for months, accidentally eats some gluten and voila, his nose starts dripping. He has chosen to skip the gluten completely and since he visits regularly, I’ve gotten used to checking packaging for hidden gluten.
Apparently, I’m not there quite yet. We needed some more garlic salt and picked up this jar at Whole Foods. It is their store brand, 365. On the label is says “Garlic Salt,” which to me, should be mean garlic and salt. One would think it would be so simple (remember my Lawry’s Garlic Powder post awhile back? What is it with this seasoning!). Here is the actual ingredient list on the Whole Foods 365 Garlic Salt jar:
Ingredients: sea salt, garlic, breadcrumbs (unbleached wheat flour, calcium carbonate, salt, leavening [ammonium bicarbonate]), onion, silicon dioxide (to prevent caking), parsley.
Sea salt – check. Garlic – check. Breadcrumbs – check…wait, what the heck? Why oh why would there be breadcrumbs in garlic salt? The only reason I can think of is it is cheap. It’s a filler, one that makes this 6oz jar look like a great value. Except, I’m not really getting garlic salt, it’s more like I’m buying ground-up garlic bread. While it irks me that I’m getting bread in my seasoning, it makes me more annoyed that people like my brother and especially people like my dear friend and her daughter, could be eating gluten without realizing it due to sneaky practices like this. The Whole Foods garlic salt is only one example of hundreds of “hidden” gluten sources in packaged foods. This reminds me yet again, that the only true way to know what you are eating is to make it from scratch, grow it from seed, and only buy from farmers/vendors/sources you trust and always, always read the label.
Quick Tip: Buy plain garlic powder (be sure to check the label!) and mix in your own sea salt to make basic garlic salt.
The dairy industry is in the process of making an attempt that may or may not surprise you: asking that the “artificially sweetened” label be dropped from dairy products when they contain sweeteners such as aspartame. In this day and age, it seems as though companies and industries are becoming sneakier and sneakier with the ingredients placed in their products. However, if this specific measure is approved by the FDA, serious implications could occur.
Ever been to a restaurant and wonder how even a simple salad tastes so much better than what you make at home? Chances are, it’s the homemade vinaigrette. Store bought salad dressings, even the supposed healthy ones, are still loaded with oils you don’t want (canola and soybean), thickeners you don’t need (guar gum, xantham gum) and unnecessary sweeteners (sugar). All these additives help to make the product shelf stable, but don’t do much for taste or your health. So what’s the solution? Make your own. Today’s recipe is one of my personal favorites, although both our cumin lime and honey mustard dressings are pretty awesome too. When people come over for dinner, they always ask how we make our dressing and I figured it was time to share.
Making salad dressing is not an exact science. Every time I whip up a jar, it’s slightly different since the ingredients available in my fridge, garden, and cupboard are ever changing. When we first committed to not buying dressing (one of the few resolutions that actually stuck!), we used one of the Good Seasons salad dressing cruets, the type with the measurements right on the glass. We followed the measurement markings, but instead of adding water and the “dressing packet” we sprinkled in fresh herbs instead. Things have evolved ever since, especially with the revelation that our garden produces thyme, oregano and rosemary year round. In preparation for this blog post I measured everything out so I could put together a coherent recipe to follow. I hope you love it as much as I do.
While this may drive some of you crazy, you don’t need to be exact with your measurements. I use a mix of red wine and balsamic, but you can use whatever vinegar blend you like. If you adore the sweetness of the balsamic flavor, go for just balsamic vinegar. For all the herbs below, fresh is best, but in a pinch, dried will work. If you use dried, you’ll need a bit more of each since they are are not as flavorful. In order to make this dressing “pop” and taste of restaurant quality, you will need at least 1-2 fresh herbs. If you are picking herbs from your garden or using fresh from the market, make sure to wash them thoroughly by soaking them in a bowl of clean water and letting the dirt sink to the bottom. Always get organic when you can. For the garlic powder, make sure it is pure garlic powder and not garlic salt or a seasoning with extra additives. If you don’t mind the raw garlic flavor, a small clove of garlic put through the garlic press works too. As far as the container, old salad dressing containers work beautifully. Really, any old glass jar will do as long as it has a tight-fitting lid.
Balsamic & Herb Vinaigrette
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, stems removed, minced very fine
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh minced basil leaves or dried basil
1/2 tsp fresh minced parsley leaves or dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground mustard (or 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp minced shallots, red onion or scallions
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chop all your fresh herbs very finely, especially the rosemary. Add ingredients into the glass jar in the order listed above, with the exception of salt and pepper. Put lid on the glass container and shake vigorously until powdered ingredients are fully incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. You can also do this in a food processor and pour in the oil in a fine stream while the processor is running. But this method involves more dishes and special equipment, which may scare some of you off and is really not necessary. This dressing is best after it has been sitting for 4-24 hours in the fridge, but can be used right away. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before pouring on your salad.
One of our followers on Facebook sent us this infographic, How Corn Syrup Made America Fat. It contained a few tidbits I hadn’t heard before. Anyone realize that your envelopes and stamps might be sweetened with high fructose corn syrup? This stuff is seriously everywhere! The huge missing fact on this pretty infographic? Corn is one of the major agricultural crops grown from genetically modified (GMO) seeds. And while we’re on the topic of GMOs, I have to give a quick shout out to my California peeps and remind you to Vote YES on Prop 37 in November.
Full infographic below. Take a look and tell us; did you learn anything new about corn syrup or HFCS?
How Corn Syrup Made America Fat: xFirstAidKits.com
As summer winds down, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to be packing in those lunch boxes, snack bags, and what you’ll be feeding the kiddos when they come bounding off the bus. First and foremost is to feed them a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast to start their day. And, no, a Pop-Tart doesn’t count. Those tasty pastries are essentially a giant candy bar filled with sugar, HFCS, trans fats, artificial colors and sodium. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them growing up, but the over 50 ingredients inside can lead to a myriad of health problems down the road and a sugar crash before they even finish first period.
A great start to the day could include a scrambled egg with whole grain toast, whole grain waffle with peanut butter, oatmeal with berries, or a protein smoothie (blend berries, whey protein powder, nut butter, spinach, yogurt, milk or milk alternative).
There are many prepackaged options out there for lunches, but be careful of dangerous preservatives, trans fats, excessive amounts of sodium and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that are often laden in those foods. The worst offenders are Lunchables, 100-calorie snacks, packages of chips, cheez-its and juice boxes. The winner for worst offender is the Uncrustable sandwich. It contains 38 ridiculous ingredients (5 of which are sugar and more than a dozen are chemicals) like HFCS, trans fats, sorbates, sulfates, and phosphates. A simple PB & jelly takes 1 minute to make – please make them from scratch. I’m disgusted that my children’s school offers these as alternatives to a hot lunch.
So, here’s my shopping list for the Back-to-School Pantry:
It’s important that lunch contain a protein item, a whole grain carb option, fruit and lots of water. Kids don’t need a sugary treat or cookie for lunch. Between all the treats and birthday parties at school, they get enough sugar! They need a highly nutritious meal that can carry them through the rest of the day for optimal learning.
Some of my favorite containers:
Top photo by o5com via Flickr
About the author:
Cindy Santa Ana, CHC
Cindy Santa Ana is a Certified Health Coach dedicated to helping clients discover the healing properties of real food. Successfully healing her own allergies, high cholesterol and migraines with health-promoting foods and exercise was the catalyst that transformed Cindy’s life, health and profession, and she is passionate about sharing this information with others. www.UnlockBetterHealth.com
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Newsflash: Corn sugar will not be the new name for high fructose corn syrup.
Back in 2010, the Corn Refiners Association (“CRA”) filed a petition with the FDA asking them for permission to use the term “corn sugar” as an alternate common name for high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”). After 20 months of waiting, the FDA finally responded and surprisingly, they gave the CRA a big fat no.