Avoiding processed, chemical- and drug-laced food is vital to wellness and longevity and, thanks to consumer demand, healthy food is easy to find and less expensive. But modern food phraseology can be confusing, so here’s your New Nutrition Glossary.
Alkaline. Clean-eating advocates link inflammation in the body – caused by refined sugars, processed foods and meats – to premature aging and chronic illness, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, even cancer. An alkaline diet includes organic whole foods.
BPA. An industrial chemical (Bisphenol A) used to make plastics and resins that line cans to prevent a metallic taste from seeping into food and drink. Research has linked BPA exposure to increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, ADHD, cancers, infertility and obesity. Purchase soup in glass or cardboard packaging.
Bulletproof. MCT-infused coffee, a huge trend, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts energy and mental clarity and staves off cravings. Blended in your morning java, it comes out frothy as a latte. Perfect for breakfast skippers.
Cage-free and Free-range. Cage-free means the chickens are kept in a building with no access to the outdoors. Free-range means they’re allowed out, the building has a door, but no assurance they use it. Look for pasture-raised and organic eggs if the treatment of animals and top-quality eggs is a priority.
Carcinogens. Alcohol as well as processed and red meats are the ingestibles with the greatest links to cancer. Also, charred meat and very hot drinks (above 65 C). Alcohol and processed meat are classified as Group 1 carcinogens – with alcohol a greater risk for women as it raises estrogen levels, which are associated with breast cancer. (Lean red meat can be an important source of iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein, so less risky than the other two.)
EFAs. Essential fatty acids are sourced from foods like fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and oils. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are critical to cell regeneration, stimulating repair, decreasing inflammation and cholesterol, boosting brain development and blocking infection.
Factory Farmed. Corporate agriculture livestock treated with growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics and raised on a chemical-, pesticide- and fertilizer-rich diet. Instead, purchase meat from a trusted local source and ask if the animals are grass-fed and how they deal with sickness. Cows that are grass-fed are naturally leaner, have fewer calories and contain higher levels of omega-3s. For poultry, the gold standard is raised on “rotated green pastures” and organic feed.
GMO. Genetically Modified Organisms. While the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that GMOs don’t pose any health risk, products labeled Non-GMO or GMO-Free mean they do not include any organisms that have been genetically manipulated or lab-altered.
MCTs. Medium-chain triglycerides support the immune system, thyroid, nervous system and skin, increase metabolism and – unlike long-chain fatty acids – are immediately absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. You can buy MCT oil and use it in recipes. Coconut oil is also a good source.
Natural Salts. Iodized table salt is stripped of its natural nutrients, then bleached white. Choose a pure, healthy option. Himalayan Pink Salt, for example, contains more than 84 minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron.
Nitrates. A harmless essential nutrient that plants and grains absorb from soil, nitrates are used, at elevated levels, as a preservative for cured meats. When cooked, nitrates convert in the digestive system to form nitrosamines, which are associated with cancer. Cut back on cured meats but if you need the salami, bacon or hot dog, down it with some fresh antioxidant citrus.
Pesticides. The toxic chemicals used in agriculture to kill crop-damaging pests. Fruit and veg are porous, so washing is not 100 per cent effective. It’s best to buy organic. In lieu of that, the Centre for Science and Environment advises cleaning produce in a two per cent salt solution of cold water to remove most of the surface.
Superfoods. High phytonutrients – natural bioactive compounds found in plant foods that offer a megadose of nutrients – the best sources include blueberries, goji berries, avocados, kale, coconuts, maca, spirulina, salmon, sweet potatoes and bee products.
Whole Foods. Those that are entirely or almost entirely unprocessed and unrefined and do not contain sugar, salt, fat or chemical additives.
Whole Grains. Including the entire grain seed – the bran, endosperm and germ – whole grain products are an excellent source of fibre and nutrients. Processed for a finer texture and longer shelf life, the outer layers are removed for refined grains (white flour) and don’t include any fibre, iron and B vitamins.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2018 issue with the headline, “Eating Clean,” p. 62.