Here are commonplace culprits like emulsifiers and invert syrups that slip under the radar, even as noodles go to the lab. In light of a global food giant seeking to defend its reputation following reports by regulators that packets of its noodles contained excess lead, it is a good idea to take a closer look at food labels in your kitchen cabinets.Packaged foods labeled their ingredients on their sleeve but consumers are easily misled by jargon that flaunts unhealthy ingredients in plain sight. Is the luxury of a quick fix meal worth sabotaging your health? Customers should be conscious about how food products are marketed. “If sunflower, groundnut or olive oil is marketed as cholesterol-free, then it doesn’t add any value to the product. All oils derived from plant sources are anyway cholesterol-free,” says Bina Chedda, registered clinical dietician at Cumballa Hill Hospital.
Mirror spoke to nutritionists about ingredients that sneak onto your plate. Here’s a cheat-sheet:
REFINED WHEAT FLOUR
During the process of refining wheat, the outer husk, the main repository of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, is removed. “Lack of fiber can lead to constipation. Without fiber in the diet, one doesn’t experience the feeling of fullness. This leads us to consume more calories,” explains Chedda. Refined flour is full of empty calories and most commonly makes it to biscuits, baked goods and types of cereal. It is devoid of fiber or vitamins. The real threat though is that refined flour is high on carbs and leads to a sugar spike. Be prepared for a rush of energy followed by a lull fairly soon after. Over time, regular consumption of refined flour can lead to weight gain and obesity.Nutritionist Niti Desai makes a special note for diabetic patients who should altogether stay away from refined flour.
Alternative whole wheat flour, multigrain – bajra, nachni, jowar.When eating out, skip the naan and opt for tandoori roti instead.Chedda also adds red and brown rice, unpolished rice, quinoa, traditional grains like millets to the list.
White sugar is essentially refined sugar, explains Chedda. The body has no real need for sugar. It is not a nutrient so it doesn’t need to be replaced. Natural foods already contain sugars that the body breaks down. Adding sugar to food is, therefore, only for flavor. Alternative Honey is a natural alternative. Sucralose can be used for baking on high temperatures.Stevia is another natural herb that’s becoming increasingly popular in India and can be added to juices or tea. Jaggery can be an option too, says Chedda.
When reading labels on packaged food products, look out for ingredients that begin with sodium.Consuming large quantities of sodium products will lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.Baking soda is one of the big sources of sodium. Apart from baked goods, baking soda is also used to make savory Indian snacks like idlis and dhoklas. Some restaurant kitchens even sprinkle baking soda to keep vegetables looking fresh and green.Papads, Pickles, ketchup all have a high sodium content. People with sedentary lifestyles should be especially wary of consuming sodium, as it is one of the main causes of bloating. Alternative Yeast, sour buttermilk can replace baking soda. Salt can be replaced with basil, spinach, ginger-garlic. Rock-salt is a healthy option due to the presence of minerals like potassium and magnesium.
Emulsifying agents are usually added to hold oil and water together in mass produced food products like ice-creams and mayonnaise. Emulsifiers increase the shelf-life of packaged food. Alternative Go homemade. It’s the surest way to beat the mass produced additives. To make mayonnaise, simply whisk eggs well to ensure the oil and water hold together without artificial agents.
This is a sneaky one. It can also be labeled as high fructose corn syrup or cane syrup. Simply put, it’s another form of hidden sugar found in packaged cereals, sherbets, squash and juice. Prolonged consumption can cause lifestyle diseases like obesity and diabetes, not to mention hefty bills at the dentist. Alternative The healthiest way to sweeten snack is by adding dry fruits like dates, figs, and raisins.Instead of adding sugar to milkshakes or cereal, crush a couple of figs. Instead of traditional sweets, opt for a fig or date barfi.
Desai warns against buying packaged products that mention artificial coloring on the labels. Look out for terms like E11, E17, Tartrazine. Additional colors do nothing but add aesthetic appeal. It can cause liver damage, seconds Chedda. You also risk hyperactivity and hypersensitivity in children. Those who exhibit allergic tendencies should stay away from colored food as it is likely to trigger symptoms of wheezing and asthma. Alternative If you must make food look appealing for children, try adding dark chocolate. Beetroot is a natural coloring agent.