Friday, July 19, 2013

Are You Eating This ''Cancer-in-a Can'' Snack ?

Yes....I'm writing about the ubiquitous Pringles. To understand the nature of Pringles and other stackable chips, forget the notion that they come from actual potatoes in any recognizable way.
The Pringles Company (in an effort to avoid taxes levied against ''luxury foods'' like chips in the UK) once even argued that the potato content of their chips was so low that they are technically not even potato chips!

So if they are not made of potatoes, what are they exactly?  Well...the process begins with a slurry of rice, wheat, corn, and potato flakes that are pressed into shape. This dough-like substance is then rolled out into an ultra-thin sheet cut into chip-cookies by a machine. The chips move forward on a conveyor belt until they're pressed onto molds, which give them the curve that makes them fit into one another. Those molds move through boiling oil, are then blown dry, sprayed with powdered flavours, and at last flipped onto a slower conveyor belt in a way the allows them to stack. From then on, it's into the cans....and off towards the innocent mouths of the consumers.

I hate to tell you this, as we all grew up loving the taste of potato chips, but they are clearly one of the most toxic processed foods you can eat--whether they're made from actual potatoes or not. Actually, one of the most hazardous ingredients in potato chops is not intentionally added, but a by-product of the processing. ACRYLAMIDE, a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical, is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted or toasted. Some of the worst offenders include potato chips and French fries, but many foods cooked or processed at temperatures above 212 degrees F (100C) may contain acrylamide. The chemical is formed when food is heated enough to produce a fairly dry and brown/yellow surface.

If you think you can avoid the health risks of potato chips by choosing baked varieties, which are typically advertised as being ''healthier'' think again. Remember, that acrylamide is formed not only when foods are fried or broiled, but also when they are baked. And according to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on acrylamide levels in foods, baked chips may contain more than three times the level of acrylamide as regular chips!  Interestingly, the same trend holds true for other foods, too, which suggests that baking processed potatoes at high temperature may be one of the worst ways to cook them. So keep in mind, that ALL potato chips contain acrylamide, regardless of whether they are natural or not, baked or fried. Likewise, they will ALL influence your insulin levels in a very negative way.

A three-year long EU project, known as Heat-Generated Food Toxicant (HEATOX), published findings that discovered that you are far less likely to ingest dangerous levels of the toxin when you eat home-cooked foods compared to industrially or restaurant prepared foods. Additionally, the HEATOX findings also suggested that although there are ways to decrease exposure to acrylamide, it cannot be eliminated completely. However, like a modern-day search for the Holy Grail, chip manufacturers keep searching for methods to improve the image of their health-harming but profitable snacks. For example, since 2011, about half of Pepsi's potato chip range of snacks has been reformulated with all-natural ingredients. The reformulated chips may end up being less bad for you than the original originals but chips will never be truly healthful. All-natural chips may be the lesser of the two evils.

The Way I See It.....if you consume this snack foods regularly, they will still push your health in the wrong direction. There's no getting away from the fact that modern plagues such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes have a dietary component, and potato chips and French fries will always be a losing bet if you want to avoid becoming another disease statistic. By opting for foods that will benefit your health, such as raw, preferably organic and/or locally-grown vegetables, grass-fed meats, healthy oils (rice & coconut), nuts and seeds, you can  change your health for the better.

Remember, eating fresh whole foods is the ''secret'' to getting healthier, losing weight and really enjoying your food. It's unfortunate that so many are under the mistaken belief that it's ''next to impossible'' to create a meal without processed foods. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough tackle this issue head-on in their book Real Food Has Curves (Simon & Shuster), which is a great starting point to ''relearn'' the basics of how to enjoy and prepare real food. Once you get used to it, you'll find you can whip up a healthy meal from scratch in the same amount of time it would have taken you to drive down the street to pick up fast food. The main difference will be greater satisfaction, both physically and mentally, and perhaps even financially, as processed foods typically end up being more expensive than cooking from scratch.

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