Fit Facts: Modified food unhealthy


By Blake Glosson

If you want to be healthy, it’s important to know what you’re putting into your body.

In the last century, the food industry has made our foods more visually appealing, longer lasting and cheaper. Unfortunately, in the process, the number of colors, preservatives and genetically modified ingredients added to our food has greatly increased.

Research continues to suggest certain additives are harmful, making it essential to read ingredient labels before purchasing food.

The good news is the Food and Drug Administration requires companies to include ingredient lists on packaged foods. The bad news is the majority of students aren’t chemists, making many ingredients foreign to them.

“On occasion, I look at [the] ingredients [in foods], but usually the names are so complicated that I wouldn’t know what they were unless I googled them,” said Joshua Damler, junior mechanical engineering major. “The amount of time that it would take to figure out what all these things mean” stops people from reading ingredient lists.

In addition to the confusion caused by additive nomenclature, companies often rename ingredients on nutrition labels to make the product seem healthier.

Some companies “still use high fructose corn syrup, but they got around the terminology [by listing it as] glucose-fructose syrup and people aren’t freaked out by” that name, said Judith Lukaszuk, dietitian and associate professor of nutrition and dietetics. “It’s … deception.”

You may never have a comprehensive understanding of additive terminology, biochemical interactions and the implications these processes have on your health. That’s fine. Instead of striving for what’s unattainable, purchase products with fewer ingredients — fewer additives means less risk.

Even in foods with fewer ingredients, there are still red flags to be wary of. Foods that have been genetically modified are near the top of that list.

“More studies need to be done, but [there’s evidence] that genetically modified foods could be part of the cause of leaky gut and a lot of gastrointestinal issues and the increase in food allergies that we [have seen] over the last [few] years,” Lukaszuk said. “The best way for [students] to avoid GMO ingredients is [to] read the labels, obviously. If it says corn or soy, cottonseed [or] canola in it, it [has] genetically modified ingredients. If it’s organic, you’re fine.”

Look for products with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic seal. Other organic certifying agencies might not follow the same standards as the department, making their claims and ethics somewhat unclear.

Of course, organic foods and products with fewer ingredients tend to be more expensive. To alleviate the financial hit, start by aiming to make one organic meal per day. One organic meal per day means 365 fewer meals per year of exposing your body to potentially harmful additives.

Protect your health with a strategic diet; consuming unprocessed foods with minimal ingredients is a great way to start.