Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jan. 23: Toxin of the Day ~ MSG & Friends

Everyone knows MSG is not good for you. A lot has been written about the terrible migraines that some people get from it. But there are a lot more side effects to MSG than migraines. Further, there are a lot of sneaky names for the substance so that "food" manufacturers can sneak it into their products without touting that they contain Monosodium Glutamate.

MSG is a flavor enhancer obtained by the fermentation of carbohydrates. Initially it came from the fermentation of wheat, but now it more commonly comes from corn, beets, sugar cane or molasses. It is an amino acid called glutamic acid.

The "food" industry uses MSG to mask lower quality (ie, cheaper) ingredients. Studies have been done regarding the addictive quality of MSG. The brain craves it after a while. It gives a new meaning to the ad slogan, "Betcha can't eat just one!"

Serious health concerns surround MSG. MSG is classified as an excitotoxin, which means that it triggers death in certain cells. Concerns include: Seizures, brain cell death, brain damage, allergic reactions, headaches and migraines, strokes, hypoglycemia, and brain tumors. Some studies have suggested excessive consumption could trigger brain issues like Parkinsons and Alzheimers. These studies have not been verified, but if it is a chemical that causes tiny changes in the brain of the consumer, it does not sound that far-fetched. Asthmatic allergic reactions are frequent.

Studies in Asia have concluded that the consumption of MSG may be correlated to a higher BMI. The reason for this? Have you ever had a big Chinese meal and then 2 hours later you are starving? That situation is so common it is almost cliched. It happens because the MSG causes an surge in the production of insulin from the pancreas. The insulin is there to consume sugar, but MSG is not a sugar. You become so ravenously hungry because your body becomes extremely low on sugar.

All of these effects are more pronounced in infants and children. Their little systems can't handle it. Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills says that there is "overwhelming evidence" that MSG can cause obesity and metabolic syndrome in children. Studies on young rats showed lesions on the brains of MSG fed rats, and the inability to learn their way through a maze. Yet, if the labels are read, some BABY FORMULAS even contain MSG hidden under other names. In the 1960s, after a series of Congressional hearings, they baby food manufacturers finally stopped putting MSG in their harmless looking little jars of baby food.

The FDA allows MSG to be in our food. They have added the caveat that the label must state that the product contains MSG. So the "food" industry has bypassed that by inviting MSG's friends to the party. Every label is like a veritable costume ball. First, here is a list of items that are MSG:

Monosodium Glutamate
Hydrolized Vegetable Protein
Autolyzed Yeast
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Plant Protein Extract
Sodium Caseinate
Calcium Caseinate
Yeast Extract
Textured Protein (including TVP)
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Corn Oil
Now, if that list does not contain enough aliases, I have a couple more lists. These are items that "sometimes" contain MSG or "may" contain MSG:
Malt Extract or Flavoring
Stock Flavoring
Natural Flavors
Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
Whey Protein and Concentrate
Soy Protein Isolate
Soy Protein Concentrate
This begs the question: If MSG is safe, why do the manufacturers feel the need to hide it under so many different names? Why must I keep a list with me when I go to the grocery store of all the names it may be hidden under? I think this is all quite suspicious.

Because it is a fermentation of natural products the FDA does allow MSG to be considered a "natural flavoring". It IS natural. Natural does not always mean good for us. If it has to be brought forth in a lab and separated, then added to our food, it is not food the way nature intended.

I have to go read some labels in my cupboards now. I think some of this nasty snuff may have snuck into my house under the guise of a natural flavoring.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jan. 21:Toxin of the Day ~ Sodium Nitrate & Nitrite

Today's lucky toxin winner.....SODIUM NITRATE/NITRITE!

Nitrates and Nitrites (first cousins in the preservative family) are preservatives that are widely used. They are most prominent in processed meats. They add a pinkish color to the meat, which would otherwise be an unappetizing brown or gray. They also inhibit the growth of spores that could potentially cause botulism. They are present in most smoked and cured meats, including but not limited to: ham, bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, bologna, salami, dry sausage, and fresh sausage.

Nitrates and -ites on their own are relatively harmless. The problems occur when the body goes to break those chemicals down. As they are metabolized they convert to NITROSAMINES, which have been proven to be extremely dangerous. Nitrosamines are linked to stomach cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and esophageal cancer. In babies, nitrates can lead to a potentially fatal condition called methemoglobinemia. This means that it can cause an issue in the child where the blood is not transporting oxygen to the body's tissues, which can lead to oxygen deprivation and cyanosis.

One extremely alarming study undertaken by the Cancer Prevention Coalition in Los Angeles County stated that children that consumed more than 12 hot dogs per month have 9 times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia. The statistics were also poor for children whose fathers consumed 12 hot dogs per month during the time of conception. If their mothers consumed hot dogs more than once a week during pregnancy the child's risk of brain tumors doubled.

Also cooking foods containing nitrates using extreme high heat cooking methods like frying can cause the conversion to a more harmful chemical to occur. If you MUST eat hot dogs or pepperoni, boiling is preferable to high heat baking, grilling or frying. (Boiled pepperoni?)

Many vegetables also contain nitrates and -ites. However the vitamins C and D present in vegetables inhibit the metabolizing of the chemical into nitrosamines. So that means our veggie supply is safe.

Strong recommendations have been made against the consumption of nitrates and nitrites, particularly in pregnant or breast feeding women and young children. Some of the organizations making these recommendations are:

The Cancer Prevention Coalition, Health Canada and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition

After researching this, I have to say, bacon has lost a great deal of it's appeal for me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jan: 20 ~ Inertia

One of my favorite quotes is Newton's First Law of Motion.

Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.
Doesn't that just sum up not only weight loss, but life in general?
The properties of inertia have been hard at work at my place recently. I copped out and took the week of Christmas break off of working out. Friends warned me it would be tough to get started back up but I scoffed at them. Well, I have just managed to get started up again on Jan. 19th! My one week break turned into a month and for no other reason than INERTIA!!! I just plain old got out of the habit and had to make a very concentrated effort to get back into the habit. The side effects? My energy was dwindling, I was depressed and cranky and I was NOT dealing well with the stress life has been throwing my way.
Now for the positive side. My goal is to get on the bike or elliptical for 10 minutes. That's it - just 10 minutes! Nothing too strenuous or time consuming but I had to really bargain with myself to get on it for that amount of time the first day. But I did and the TV program I was watching proved interesting enough to keep me on for 20 minutes.
This morning, I did the same thing - stuck it out for 20 minutes instead of the 10 I had promised myself. However, the afternoon found me full of energy and I walked over to surprise my daughter after school. It wasn't a long walk but 20 minutes each way brings today's activity up to 40 minutes. See? Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion! The dog, by the way, liked the walk way better than watching me pedal the bike to nowhere.
Today's Eats:
M1: WW toast, natural pb, apple
M2: 1st attempt at hm baked potato chips, chopped sirloin, mushrooms
M3: trail mix
M4: Herb roasted turkey breast, maple roasted sweet potatoes, garden salad w/ Newman's OV dressing
M5: Popcorn or fruit
Once I perfect my homemade potato chips, I will post them on here. I MUST find a viable substitute for chips when PMS strikes!!! Chips are the last holdout from my old junk food life that still hold appeal for me. Today's experiment wasn't bad but I'm going to tweak it before posting it. They were overcooked in some places and not crispy in others. I'm going to try it with lower heat next time.
Remember inertia the next time you are tempted to slack off on your workouts or clean healthy eating!

Jan. 20: Toxin of the Day ~ Olestra

Today let's shine the spotlight on Olestra, which is being promoted as a dieter's best friend in the US. It is a fat substitute that actually has no fat, no calories, and no cholesterol. Sounds great? Research tells us that the side effects may not be worth a few fat free potato chips. You make the decision based on the information I have found.

Olestra is created by adding fatty acids to a sucrose molecule. The molecule is too large to be absorbed through the intestinal walls. It therefore, cannot be digested so does not add to the fat or caloric value of the food that contains it.

Proctor and Gamble currently holds the patent on Olestra. From 1971, when it was rejected by the FDA, they have been performing research and applying political pressure, and finally got the approval they desired in 1996. In 2000, the FDA mandated the following warning label on products containing Olestra:

The FDA removed the warning requirement in 2003, despite the fact that they had received over 20,000 complaints during that time, citing a study conducted by P&G on 3000 people who reported nothing more severe than increased bowel movements.
Health Canada has reviewed Olestra and has banned the product from food in Canada. Great Britain has also banned the product.
In the US, the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), a non-profit organization, paints a very different picture of the side effects than P&G. They noted side effects like:
severe diarrhea
abdominal cramps
explosive uncontrollable bowel movements
explosive sudden vomiting
bloody stools
The CSPI has been lobbying the FDA to ban Olestra, or at the very least, return the warning label to the front of products containing Olestra.

Fat free products are big business, and you can read a million studies on any product and pull information to support either side. The fact that several governments have looked at this and decided it was unsafe makes me lean strongly to the side of avoidance.

The foods that have Olestra added to them are not part of a healthy diet either before or after the chemistry project. However if I am going to eat chips, I am going to make a homemade olive oil version or I am going to just go for the gusto and grab the regular store bought kind. Either way, I know I won't be suffering some of those horrible sounding side effects like uncontrollable bowel movements. There is no chip in the world worth that!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jan. 19: Comfort Food - new and improved!

Yesterday I was at the grocery store and I came to the strange realization that the phrase "comfort food" has really changed for me over the past couple of months. Things that I would have considered "comforting" before - oreos, chips, large unhealthy meat and potatoes meals - they no longer hold the same appeal. I don't have the slightest urge to keep those foods in my house. The only thing out of that list that is even tasty to me now is the chips! It was like another epiphany kind of moment to breeze through the store without needing to read any labels - nothing I purchased HAD a label!

So this week's comfort food menu?

Turkey burgers on ww buns, sweet potato oven fries
Chopped sirloin steaks with mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes, salad
Boneless turkey breast, mashed sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli
Homemade broccoli & chicken pizza

That all sounds so delicious and healthy, doesn't it?

It is a nice feeling to get in the zone of eating clean - I realized that now it is requiring way less thought than when I started out on this lifestyle.

Now to my challenge: I am having a lot of trouble getting my butt in gear to work out. I have made a promise to myself to get on my stationary bike for 10 minutes - just 10 minutes every day this week. So this morning, I dragged myself, still in PJ's, onto my bike and began to pedal. Ten minutes passed and what-do-you-know Dr. Oz had subject matter that was interesting enough to keep me on it for another 10 minutes! So today, victory was mine - 20 minutes of cardio. Maybe this "suck it up for 10 minutes" plan will get me into gear. I want to LOVE working out! It is not in line with my goals to lay on the couch in PJ's - that will not get me to where I intend to be.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan. 18 ~ Toxin of the Day: Sucralose

Sucralose is the primary ingredient in the most popular artificial sweetener sold today. It is touted as a healthy artificial sweetener because it is derived from sugar. Does that make it natural? Does that make it safe? Let's see with the research says.

If you are to ask the company who is the number one producer of a sucralose-based sweetener, they will tell it is a SPLENDID way to sweeten your beverages or baked goods. This particular company was sued by the sugar industry for promoting their sweetener as a natural product. The suit was settled out of court.

Sucralose is created when that parts of sugar that are broken down by the body are removed and replaced with chlorine atoms. Chlorine, as we know, is poisonous to humans. When the carbon is removed from the sugar it becomes a chlorocarbon. Other chemicals you may have heard of that are chlorocarbons are DDT, Lindane and Chlorodane. Chlorine is included in such things as bleach, disinfectants, hydrochloric acid, and poisonous gas used in WWI.

Animal studies have suggested that chlorocarbons can negatively affect the liver and kidneys, since those are the organs of the body that filter out the toxins. It has been shown to shrink the thymus gland, which houses the body's immunity. This can trigger an incurable disease called Polychemical Sensitivity Syndrome.

Extensive research is still being done on Sucralose. One fact is very evident: it is NOT natural. It is a chemical that is created in lab by removing and adding atoms from something that is grown.

The people making money from this chemical continue to insist it is safe. Many scientists doing research on it insist it is not. I found this link very informative.
The scientist whose work is examined in this link suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease,which he believes was caused by aspartame poisoning. He refers to artificial sweeteners as "minute doses of nerve gas". His story is disturbing and eye-opening.

Jan. 18 ~ Speaking in code

I have received a cyber-slap for using the names of certain companies in my Toxin of the Day feature. In the future due to legal reasons, I will be referring to these company names in code that my readers get to figure out. I am going back and editing out the proper names of said companies, so you will see the changes in the blog. Don't worry, nothing bad has happened - but I do want to avoid those cyber-slaps in the future. As I think of clever code names I have realized, Hey - this could be fun!

From this point items will be referred to by code or chemical names only!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jan. 17 - Another Little Victory

I've written before about celebrating the little victories. I have one that I'd like to post today!

According to my BMI, as of today, I am no longer obese! I am merely overweight!!!! I know, it sounds kind of silly to celebrate being overweight, but I want to enjoy each step towards my goal. I refuse to be one of those people who is not happy until I get to my goal. I want to embrace this process and learn from it!

I've done lots of plotting and planning today. This week I am going to start working out for real. I have been giving it some half hearted effort but I want to go all the way with it. I've been searching around for inspiration and will start tomorrow. I'm going to start out doing body-weight exercises and cardio.

Then next month, assuming I am gainfully employed by then, I will use my tax return and pay for a full year's membership at a nearby gym. If it's paid for I am cutting out one of my most oft-used excuses (I don't have the money). The other excuse (I don't have time)will be out the window since they have classes from 6:15 in the morning until 7:30 at night. I can't wait! I am going to spend the rest of this month learning some of the movements and increasing my cardiovascular endurance so I don't feel like an idiot when I start at the gym. (and that polishes off excuse #3!)

Today's eats:
M1: ww toast w/ natural pb, apple
M2: 2 tacos filled w. bbq beef, lettuce and tomato
M3: hm iced latte
M4: thin crust pizza w/ chicken, mushroom and onion
M5: apple

Some reader questions:
Q: How do you put the ovoo on the popcorn so the parmesan sticks?
A: I spray it on with a spritzer bottle. I put the popcorn in a big Tupperware container with lid. Once I have sprayed the ovoo and sprinkled the parmesan on top, I put the lid on and shake it up.
Q: How do you do the bbq beef in the crockpot?
A: I will post the recipe below
Q: Could you do sucralose as a toxin of the day!
A: Definitely - look for it tomorrow!

Crockpot BBQ Beef
Beef Roast ( I used chuck shoulder roast)
1 cup of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
garlic powder and onion powder to taste
1/2 tsp dry mustard
You can also use a low or no sugar bottled bbq sauce for this
Spritz the inside of the crockpot with ovoo spray for easier cleanup. Put roast in crock pot. Mix all ingredients except roast in a bowl, then pour over the roast. Cook this in the crock pot on low for 8-9 hours for best results. If you don't have all day, you can cook it on high for 4 - 4 1/2 hours. When done, take the roast out and shred it using two forks. Return the roast to the sauce and stir well.
You can eat this on whole wheat buns or just as a protein serving. It also makes great taco, pita or wrap filling. Yesterday I topped a ww pita with it, then added mushrooms, hot peppers and onions and topped with cheese for a yummy gourmet pita pizza. Leftovers can also be mixed with pinto beans, jalapenos, chili powder and tomato juice for a spicy sweet chili.
Have a great day! Hope your weekend went well!

Jan. 17: A Rant About Excuses

I have to preface my rant with saying that I used to have a million and one excuses as to why I was heavy. I could still come up with a whole new pile. But what I have discovered on my journey thus far is that if we make excuses for ourselves, we will never succeed. You have to just take it to the mat every single day. Anytime you are successfully and obviously losing weight, people have a million questions. I've noticed they only seem to want the answers so that they can tell you how your plan does not work for them. Some recent examples:

Q: Wow, you've lost a lot of weight - what are you doing?
A: I'm doing the Eat-Clean plan. I don't eat processed foods at all - no chemicals, nothing artificial. If you are interested I could recommend some great books by Tosca Reno .
E: Oh, I don't have time for something like that right now, but you keep up the good work

Q: How do you eat out?
A: I don't, really. I can't know what is in the food served at restaurants and fast food does not fit in with my goals.
E: Oh, I don't have time to cook every day

Q: How do you find the time to make everything from scratch?
A: I prep most of my food for the week on the weekends - it never takes me more than 20 minutes to get a great dinner on the table during the week
E: My family won't eat leftovers

Q: How can you afford to eat all of that health food stuff?
A: After purchasing some initial staples, I have found that my monthly food bill has gone down dramatically. Initially I had to get some things like honey, organic sugar, natural peanut butter, and pure vanilla, for example, and that was a big bill, but know I just replenish the big ticket items when I run out of them. I have also cut money by not eating out.
E: Well, I know how expensive all that organic stuff is (Picture someone with their fingers in their ears saying, "lalalalalalalala!")

Q: How can you afford a gym membership?
A: I can't - I do the best I can at home. I have some DVDs, a stability ball and one set of dumbbells, and I walk the dog.
E: Oh, there isn't room in my house, I don't have any DVDs, and I don't have a dog.

So let me recap. I am a single mom, currently unemployed, and I live in a 1400 SF house. I have a pretty low income at this point, am very busy with two kids, job hunting and a business I am working to get off the ground. My kids have activities after school a couple of days a week, and I have obligations in the evenings too.

I do make nearly everything we eat from scratch, we eat high quality meat from local farmers that is hormone free and grass fed, and I buy organic when I can. We have a nice family dinner nearly every night of the week.

I work out at home 4 times a week, and am really looking forward to spring so I can take it outside.

I did NOT wait until after Christmas, after New Years, or after my best friend's brother's birthday to start. I started the day I got the book and decided to make a change in my life.

If I eat one bad meal, I try to do better the next meal. If circumstances are out of my control and I have limited options, I do the best that I can and get right back on the plan as soon as things are within my control.

I read every single label and if the food contains chemicals, it goes back on the shelf. I don't say, just this once or I don't have time to make that from scratch. I find a wholesome option or I do without it.

I spent a lot of years making excuses and all it did was get me up over 200 pounds. If you really want to change your life you have to do it immediately because the perfect time will never come. The opportunity isn't going to come knocking on your door. Make your decision to change your life and do it immediately - it's the only way.