Be Sure to Read the Ingredients

Recently, I have fallen victim to not reading the ingredient statements listed on the back of food labels. I have a pretty good idea of how my body will react to certain foods, so I don’t bother. Recently, however, it has gotten me into some trouble.

Going to the bathroom more than usual after artificial sweeteners

I have been on a smoothie kick, so I went to the grocery store to get yogurt. Innocent enough, right? Wrong! I unknowingly bought a yogurt that contained artificial sweeteners - sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and aspartame. I was wondering why I was going to the bathroom more than usual, for several days.

Lucky for me, my fiancée is a food scientist and knows the ins and outs of ingredient labels. She went through the refrigerator and quickly identified the yogurt as the culprit of my bathroom woes. Little did I know, artificial sweeteners, such as those found in my yogurt, can have a laxative effect when eaten in large amounts.

Food triggers and not feeling well

I had been using this yogurt in my smoothies every day – no wonder I was not feeling well! Another trigger for me is high fructose corn syrup – this one pops up in all kinds of packaged, processed foods, sometimes in the places that you would least expect. You might think of it in soda and beverages, but not necessarily in snack foods or baked goods.

I called out high fructose corn syrup as a trigger for me in a previous article, and thought that I was keeping up with it, by no longer drinking soda (I switched to seltzer water). Little did I know, high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient listed in the deceptively healthy wheat bread that I had been eating (another catch by the food scientist fiancée).

What to look for in food labels

My fiancée has since taught me what to look for on a food label. Spoiler alert – all the important stuff is on the back of the label; the front is all marketing and graphics, designed to get you to purchase a particular item. There's the obvious – nutrition facts panel, religious and dietary claims, manufacturing and the company’s contact information.

Then there is the ingredient statement – usually in small letters, listed, again, on the back of the label, usually underneath or to the side of the nutrition facts panel. This statement tells you exactly what is in the product. The ingredients are listed in the order of predominance that they appear in the food; the highest amount is listed first, and so on and so forth.

If you don’t already know what foods disagree with you, keep track!

I would suggest keeping a journal of the foods you eat for a few weeks and seeing how your body reacts to different things. Once you know what your triggers are, it becomes easier to avoid those foods, especially if you pay attention to what you eat.

Don’t just grab things off the shelf at the store – slow down and take the extra time to read the ingredient statement on the back of the label. Oh, and if you are not sure of what an ingredient is or does, or why it’s in something – look it up.

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