GMOs, Labeling & Processed Foods: Separating Truth from Fiction

What’s in a label?

By Dr. Dhai Barr

From definitions to dyes to GMO labels, people need the facts to make the best nutritional choices. Here at the Center for Traditional Medicine we take good nutrition seriously. We know that good wholesome food is the foundation for our vitality, health and nourishment. Therefore it is very important for our bodies to receive the best possible foods out there. Let us explore what we know and help unravel some of the confusion.

Dr. Dhai Barr, aesthetic medicine and naturopath in Portland, Oregon

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Processed food has a bad rap. If you go to Wikipedia it directs you to another page, Convenience food, without even giving you a definition. Processed means by definition to perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations in order to change or preserve it. That means we make processed foods in our kitchens when we prepare fresh food into our meals each day. Processed foods are more than our boxes of cereal and potato chips. They also include ready-made fresh salsa and hummus.

In June 2014 the American Society of Nutrition wrote an article telling how important processed foods are in providing adequate nutrition to Americans. This statement created quite a controversy in mainstream media and amongst the medical profession. The article maintains that processed foods make up an essential part of the American diet in order to provide adequate nutrition. What it failed to do was distinguish between highly processed foods like a box of mac and cheese or packaged green beans. The authors lumped all processed and packaged foods together, highly processed to minimally packaged.

The name we really need to look at is packaged foods and what their nutritional content. All packaged foods are required to display a nutrition label that contains information about the caloric content, the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates, essential vitamins, and the ingredients.  Look for nutrient rich items, which contain higher vitamin and minerals and not many calories. Seek out low fat, lean meats and fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

CAN I GET THAT IN RED?

Rodale News published an article in May that discusses the dangers of artificial dyes and chemicals found in highly processed foods and drinks. They reported that just one serving of some of these foods was enough to set off behavioral problems in children. Having as little as 30 mg of dye can trigger allergic reactions. While you might not consume highly processed foods very often it might be worth your while to read those labels if anyone in your family has known allergic reactions or behavior issues that could very well be linked to even small consumption of dyes.

Our concerns over food dyes causing cancer has some merit, but over the years many food dyes have been banned after research and the public demanded the FDA do so.   There are only seven dyes that are allowed in our foods today. The bottom line is try to avoid artificial food coloring. Children are at the highest risk because the food manufacturers use these dyes to make their product more attractive to kids.

Here are some color facts:

Red 40
• Allergy-like reactions
• Possible hyperactivity in kids
• Most common food dye used in America

Yellow 5
• Allergy-like hypersensitivity reaction
• Allergy-like reactions tend to be worse in people also sensitive to aspirin
• Hyperactivity in some children
• Sometimes contaminated with cancer-causing benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl

Yellow 6
• Adrenal gland and kidney tumors in animal tests
• Occasional, sometime severe hypersensitivity reactions
• Sometimes contaminated with carcinogens

OMG, Go GMO?

Then there is the GMO issue. Oregon and Colorado have initiates on the November 2014 ballot to label GMO foods. California is already setting the stage for the next election, and several other states are making it known that the people want labeling of what they are eating. 64 countries besides the United States require all packaged foods to be labeled for GMO. When we read the label we know what chemicals have been added but not whether the food has been genetically altered.

GMO crops were first introduced with the lofty notion that it would be the answer to world hunger. That has not been the case. The problems that have arisen are that now our foods have to be sprayed with ten times as much pesticide and herbicide because the weeds that grow around GMO crops as well as insects have become continually more resistant to pest and herbicides. That means that we are eating ten times more pesticide and herbicide than before! The safety to our health in consuming of GMO foods is unproven as well as its effect on our environment.

SO WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

At the Center for Traditional Medicine we encourage a diet of real, whole and nourishing foods. Your choice should always be organic and non GMO whenever possible. Always be grateful for the nourishment you get from your foods, no matter what the source, because your body hears what you think!

Dr. Barr is a naturopathic primary care doctor with an emphasis on endocrine and hormone balancing, weight loss, and medical aesthetics.  She improves the lives of her patients by altering their diet and exercise programs, treating and balancing their hormones, and helping them find their inner and outer beauty using the most natural, cutting-edge methods available.

 

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