Better School Food’s: List of Unhealthy and other Food Additives to Avoid when Raising Healthy Children

Author // Pathways Magazine

Labels: NutritionIssue #23
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Better School Food’s: List of Unhealthy and other Food Additives to Avoid when Raising Healthy Children
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Better School Food, an organization devoted to promoting healthy meal choices in our nation’s schools, researched and compiled this list of common lunchtime foods. Each ingredient is defined and listed with some of its known side effects. We hope you’ll work to remove these ingredients from your school cafeterias, vending machines and any other areas where food is involved. For further information, visit the Internet resources listed and search the suggested websites for each specific ingredient.

1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Semi-solid shortening made from liquid oils (such as canola and soybean) by reacting them with hydrogen • Contains high levels of trans fats • Gives baked goods and snacks a longer shelf life • Used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S. according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) • Trans fats increase harmful LDL cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol; both effects contribute to heart disease

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2. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

BVO is an additive created by mixing vegetable oil with the element bromine • Gives the flavoring oils in soda the same density as water • The emulsified flavor oils stay suspended in the drink, boosting flavor in many citricbased fruit and soft drinks • Causes a significant increase of triglyceride and cholesterol content in both heart and liver • Residues accumulate in body fat, damaging organs, including heart, liver, thyroid, testicles and kidneys

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3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

HFCS was developed in the 1970s because it was cheaper than cane and beet sugar • Easier to blend into beverages; maintains sweetness better; prevents freezer burn; reduces crystallization; keeps baked goods soft and helps them brown • With a high glycemic index, it converts to fat more readily than any other sugar • Alters the metabolic rate in a way that favors fat storage • Research suggests that it is a major factor of obesity • Increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, and cancer • Not easily metabolized by the liver For more information:,,

4. Artificial Colors & Flavorings

Artificial colors are chemical compounds made mainly from coal-tar derivatives • Food coloring is used to give color, lost during processing, back to food to make it more attractive • Artificial colors have been linked to allergic reactions, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity, headaches and fatigue • Artificial flavors are cheaply produced chemical mixtures that mimic a natural flavor • Artificial flavors also linked to numerous sensitivities

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5. Benzoate Preservatives: BHT, BHA, TBHQ

Benzoates are antioxidants normally used as sodium, potassium or calcium salts and their derivatives • Benzoate preservatives are phenolic compounds often added to foods to preserve fats and prevent the fats from becoming rancid; also used as a de-foaming agent • Often used in cereals, butter, meats, baked goods, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes and beer • Can result in hyperactivity, asthma, urticaria, rhinitis, dermatitis and angiodema • Believed to cause tumors in lab rats • Benzoate preservatives are (weakly) estrogenic

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6. Caffeine

Caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant • Increases heartbeat, respiration, basal metabolic rate, gastroenteric reflexes and production of stomach acid and urine • Affects the kidneys, increasing urination, which can lead to dehydration • Metabolized by the liver • Can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, heart disease, jitteriness, headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, possible birth defects and depression

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7. Artificial Sweeteners

Acesulfame-K: commonly used in sugar-free baked goods, chewing gum, gelatin desserts and soft drinks. • May be a carcinogen • Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet): can cause sensitivities resulting in headaches, dizziness, and hallucinations • Saccharin: has resulted in cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels and other organs in lab rats; may cause bladder cancer • Sucralose (Splenda): artificial sweetener used mainly in diet foods; made by chemically reacting sugar with chlorine • Sorbitol: a sweetener used as a thickening agent; maintains moisture in dietetic drinks, foods, candy, shredded coconut and chewing gum; commonly has a laxative effect

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8. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

MSG is an amino acid flavor enhancer • Flavor enhancers are believed to stimulate the appetite, contributing to obesity • Used mainly in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soup and chips • Sensitivities to MSG include headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensation and difficulty breathing • Flavor enhancers destroyed nerve cells in infant mice

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9. Olestra

Olestra is an indigestible fat substitute used mainly in foods that are fried and baked • It is a non-absorbable lipid-like substance that inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients • Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence • Olestra can collect and assimilate fat-soluble vitamins present in other foods, reducing their ability to be absorbed. Long-term use of Olestra can reduce fat-soluble vitamin (including E, A, D and K) absorption.

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10. Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate

Preservatives used in preserving, coloring and flavoring cured meats and fish • They prevent botulism and are a color fixative • Nitrites/nitrates can combine with chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamine, a highly carcinogenic substance

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About Better School Food

Better School Food is an organization of concerned parents, educators, and health professionals devoted to improving the diet of our nation’s youth in the place where they come together and do much of their eating: at school.

The group works with communities to provide better meals and increase awareness of the connection between good nutrition, good health and the ability to learn and retain information. Seen this way, lunch isn’t something kids do between classes—instead, a healthy lunch is an essential part of the education process.

Better School Food was founded by Dr. Susan Rubin as a way to provide resources and guidance to parents and educators who wanted to improve the health and nutrition of the children in their care. Some of the resources included on the organization’s website (betterschool are tips and instructions about starting a school garden and farm-toschool programs. Both approaches bring fresh, whole foods into the educational ecosystem. School gardens, in particular, give students hands-on experience with planting and growing their own food— experience which enriches every meal.

Among the changes the organization would like to make in school food are the following: eliminating the use of partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup; providing a vegetarian option every day and serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans; shrinking portion sizes to reasonable levels; and allowing more time for students to eat lunch. These changes would result in healthier, happier students, with body chemistries more conducive to learning.

Pathways Issue 23 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #23.

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