Fried chips and sauce

When food changes your life

In Health and Nutrition by LivingNowLeave a Comment

It’s an old line – fraying around the edges – but it still holds. You are what you eat.

Our bodies are fueled by the food and drink we consume. Plenty of water, fresh fruits and vegetables, organic grains and antibiotic-free dairy products, are all good for us. The daily coffee or even the glass of red – are okay in moderation. But what happens to our mind and soul when we embrace a less wholesome diet? Giving thought to food and our culture motivates us to encourage consciousness among us about just where food comes from.

Too many people still think their food is made in the back of the grocery store.

Productivity has changed our lifestyles, forcing us to ‘eat on the run’ and reach for ready-to-go meals. However, if our food preferences have been reshaped, we need to stop and wonder what part our lifestyle choices are playing in this.

Diet is having an enormous impact upon our health and we are now facing an increase of medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, infertility, heart disease, and cancer. With food additives becoming such a large component of our diets, it is hard to dismiss their role in contributing to these.

We tend to live in an obesogenic world – where it’s hard to move, but easy to eat

What are food additives?

A food additive is any substance not commonly regarded or used as food, which is added to, or used in or on, food to affect its shelf life, texture, consistency, taste, colour, alkalinity or acidity. There are approximately 3,800 different additives in use today. It has been estimated that about 75% of the Western diet is made up of various processed foods. Each person is now consuming an average 4kg of food additives per year

Over the long term, food changes and additives such as trans fatty acids interfere with your body’s ability to ingest and utilise the good fats and play roles in fuelling hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovarian disorder, fibroids, endometriosis, PMT, menopausal symptoms and low libido.

So how is the harm done? – Trans fatty acids

Trans fatty acids impede insulin’s potential to bind with the cell, causing it to stay circulating in the blood. This excess of insulin in the bloodstream triggers low energy, light-headedness, mood swings and tearfulness.

  • TFAs can also interfere with the production of prostaglandins causing PMT, painful periods and endometriosis.
  • Evidence suggests that excess insulin increases ovarian androgen production resulting in a lack of ovulation and increased facial hair – imbalances found in women diagnosed with PCOS.

Research has shown that TFA interferes with the absorption of Omega-3 fatty acids which are physiologically important for brain function. This contributes to mood changes in adults such as anxiety, depression, aggression and poor concentration. They may also contribute to the rise in the new generation of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children.

Other additives and their side effects

Additives derived from soybeans, etc., can slow down your thyroid, lowering your energy levels and generally make you fatter!

Over the past decade, soy foods have become Australia’s favourite health food. Many articles have been published promoting ‘natural’ soy food to be the key to disease prevention and maximum longevity.

The possible benefits of eating soy should be weighed against the proven risks. Indeed, recent studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown and thyroid dysfunction, to name a few.

The problem is, we are consuming soy in its ‘unnatural’ form. Most soy consumed by Australians is in the form of sausages, tofu cheesecake, packaged soymilk, soy ‘energy bars’ or other soy products that have infiltrated the marketplace.

Processed soy goes by several names including textured soy protein, soy protein isolate (SPI), and soy isoflavones. These ingredients are added to many health food products and protein supplements. Soy is a primary ingredient of ‘low-carb’ diet foods and protein bars. It is added to frozen meals, ice cream, breads, and canned foods.

Problems with processed soy

  • Depresses thyroid function
  • Disrupts sex hormone functions
  • Blocks calcium and other mineral absorption
  • Linked to diabetes

Soy is one of the main allergens that causes immediate hypersensitivity reactions such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, hives, diarrhoea, difficulty swallowing, and anaphylactic shock. Delayed allergic responses are even more common and occur anywhere from several hours to several days after the food is eaten. These have been linked to sleep disturbances, bedwetting, sinus and ear infections, crankiness, joint paint, chronic fatigue, gastro-intestinal woes, and other mysterious symptoms.

Dyes and colourants such as:

Tartrazine (E102) – primarily used by the soft drink industry. It is one of the colours most frequently implicated in food intolerance studies. Diverse reactions to tartrazine include asthma, urticaria, rhinitis and childhood hyperactivity.

Curcumin (E100), used mainly in flour, confectionery and margarine, has been found to cause mutations in bacteria and, when fed to pigs, it increased the weight of their thyroid glands causing, in high doses, severe thyroid damage.

Sunset yellow (E110), used in biscuits, has been found to damage kidneys and adrenals when fed to laboratory rats.

Erythrosine (E127), used in candied cherries and children’s sweets, has been found to act as a potent neurocompetitive dopamine inhibitor. There is now some evidence that a reduced dopamine turnover may lead to childhood hyperactivity.

Preservatives and artificially derived antioxidants such as:

Benzoates (E210-E219), used mainly in marinated fish, fruit-based fillings, jam, salad cream, soft drinks and beer, have been found to provoke urticaria, angioedema and asthma. Furthermore, they have also been directly linked with childhood hyperactivity.

Sulphites (E220-E227), used mainly in dried fruits, fruit juices and syrups, fruit-based dairy deserts, biscuit doughs, cider, beer and wine, have been linked with pruritus, urticaria, angioedema and asthma.

Nitrates and nitrites (E249-E252), used in bacon, ham, cured meats, corned beef and some cheeses, have been found to cause headaches. In addition, these chemicals have been linked with cancer.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG, E621), a flavour enhancer, used in savoury foods, snacks, soups, sauces and meat products, has been associated with a conjunction of symptoms such as severe chest and/or facial pressure and overall burning sensations, not unlike a feeling that the victim is experiencing a heart attack. MSG has been also found to precipitate a severe headache and/or asthma. In children MSG has been linked with epilepsy-like ‘shudder’ attacks

Food additives and malnutrition:

Another form of risk posed by additives is the loss of the nutritional value of the food, which can result sub-clinical malnutrition. Pure sucrose, by definition, contains literally no nutrients, only calories; fat, on the other hand, contains few nutrients and is very high in calories. In addition, foods containing additives are mainly processed foods, which have lost a substantial proportion of their nutritional value through the processing procedure. Even though some vitamins and/or minerals are sometimes added to some foods after processing, the ratio of essential nutrients to calories is usually still quite inadequate, resulting in a high calorie, but a low nutritional, intake.


Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of MassAttack, is a practising naturopath specialising in the research and development of natural treatment programs for women with hormonal imbalances, which have contributed to such symptoms as weight gain, cravings, anxiety & mood swings. Reviewed by the Australian Naturopathic Practioners Association, Narelle was the recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. 

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