Inflammatory foods to avoid
Much of the literature out there is very Western-focused, so we’ve taken it upon ourself to hit the ground, do the research, read the labels and customise this list for Asian kitchens. With our help, we hope that you and your family can gain a deeper and better understanding of how to make wise choices, re-stock your pantries; and eat with confidence!
**No brands are mentioned in this article, but we do present recommendations that you can easily follow by checking the labels.
What’s in your pantry?
We’re not suggesting you go berserk and Marie Kondo your pantry, but what we do suggest is re-opening your eyes to healthier choices.
Why is less processed, best?
Just as how scientists now recommend against consumption of swordfish due to accumulated mercury levels from marine pollution, much of the new technologies used in processing food today use chemicals, solvents and additives whose safety is not 100% proven. While manufacturers claim that they completely remove these solvents and chemicals after using them to process the food – how sure can you be?
It is true there aren’t many published studies and research on some of these chemicals and solvents, apart from factual statements that they are also used in the leather, plastic and electronics industry and have poisoned workers who deal with them… It doesn’t mean that these processing methods are safe, it means that no one out there is funding these studies (this is true for anything when there is no profit to be made, only angry multi-conglomerate enemies).
Much of these new technologies were created only in the 20th century – so this is a new problem that families of today are dealing with. It’s also part of the reason why mortality and the incidence of diseases are going up, instead of down, despite huge advancements in medical science. Biologically, we haven’t evolved to breakdown these new processed foods without suffering some side effects yet.
Why is fruit juice bad?
The juicing process strips the fruit of all its dietary fiber, which is a huge part of the reason why fruits are good for us. It does however, leave all the fructose intact.
Fructose accelerates aging. When dermatologists and chemists test out anti-ageing products, they often use fructose, as it has been proven to reduce the skin’s elasticity and softness.
One glass of orange juice is equivalent to eating three whole oranges¹. Any one would hesitate before eating three entire oranges, but fruit juice makes excessive consumption much, much easier.
Surely one sugary drink a day won’t hurt?
(source: Sugar tax, warning labels, ad curbs in other nations, Straits Times, 23 August 2017: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sugar-tax-warning-labels-ad-curbs-in-other-nations )
If manufacturers are claiming their drinks have as little as one teaspoon of sugar, how bad could it hurt?
Ask yourself – how are the drinks still sweet, if the sugar content has been drastically reduced? The answer lies in artificial sweeteners. When we say artificial, it means something created entirely chemically. It is not found in nature, nor extracted from natural sources.
Artificial sweeteners may cause “overstimulation of sugar receptors… which may limit tolerance for more complex tastes” – i.e. you will soon begin to find other foods that aren’t as sweet, less appealing; and foods that aren’t sweet at all, unpalatable². You find yourself slowly but surely, eating less vegetables, because they taste bad, choosing more processed meat, because normal meat tastes bland… making choices that you don’t realise are tied to your intake of artificial sweeteners.
In fact, researchers noted that those who consumed artificially sweetened drinks had a higher tendency to gain weight than those who didn’t, as they generally chose sweeter foods over more nutritious foods.
In addition, artificial sweeteners have been found to send confusing signals to the brain, making you think that you’re still hungry; and may cause imbalances to our gut bacteria.
Manufacturers are only concerned about the direct and immediate impact of their foods; but our lives and bodies, are not that simplistic.
The top 5 artificial sweeteners you can look for on labels include: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.
Swopping out White for Wholegrain
We’ll be talking about this in our next podcast but in a nutshell, white flour, white rice, white bread – these are all refined processed forms of the base product, wheat or rice. In its natural form, wheat and rice (the “brown” or “red” variants), contain high fiber bran and high nutrient germ. Once it is processed to the white form however, they lose all their nutrients and only retain the starchy white endosperm.
Due to how our bodies process and break down the starchy white endosperm into glucose, regular overconsumption can reduce the body’s sensitivity to spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to health conditions such as diabetes.
Dieticians estimate that the glucose our body breaks down from one bowl of rice, which is about 150 g, or 8 and a half tablespoons of cooked rice, is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Do you know that the production of vegetable oil is at least, a 10-step process?
Although the process of extracting oil has been around for thousands of years, the techniques with which we extract oil has vastly changed. Imagine going around squeezing nuts and seeds to get oil to cook your daily meal!
We won’t go through the nitty gritty of explaining the chemical processes, but what you need to know is minimally processed oils will still contain much of the nutritional content and flavour of the original oilseed. However, such oils are less stable (e.g. cold pressed olive oils should not be exposed to sunlight), have a shorter shelf-life and may be unable withstand very high temperatures for long periods of time.
Traditionally, humans have extracted oil from various nuts and seeds for their distinct flavour and smell, which added different complexities to each dish. That practice however, has been lost and we now add extra flavourings and additives to food to achieve the same depth of flavour, on top of using highly processed vegetable oils.
Oils that have been refined, bleached and deodorized result in an oil that is indistinguishable in taste, colour and possesses a greater stability. In other words, while a dish may taste the same, the food of today has a lot more “invisible ingredients” than it would have, if cooked traditionally.
[Above: Samples of bleaching clay, from https://extension.psu.edu/processing-edible-oils ]
The use of Hexane and other chemicals in the extraction process are also another point of concern – besides oil extraction, hexane in particular is used in the formation of glues for leather goods, as a cleaning agent for furniture and used in electronics manufacturing.
There is currently no regulation on the presence of trace contaminants of these chemicals in vegetable oils.
What is corn syrup; and why is it bad for me?
Corn syrup? You are probably thinking you don’t consume this but it’s everywhere – in your sauces, in your medicine, sweets, ready-made food, drinks… Corn syrup’s strengths lie in its ability to maintain food’s freshness, soften texture, add volume, enhance flavour and come very cheap.
Corn syrup contributes an unnecessary excess of fructose to your diet – and fructose has been proven to be an effective at aging, as we’ve mentioned earlier!
It also puts you at risk of health conditions such as fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes; and has been linked to inflammation, which can lead to gout and cancer.