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the top five ingredients you avoid

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
on another forum an article with a similiar title was presented and 'experts" gave their one thing they won't eat. I was extremely dissapointed to find out it was both very commercial and not very applicable to a large number of people in that it didn't address some of major things that (I think) are making the majority of people sick. I think it was irresponsible and pretty naive to tell people to avoid corn fed beef but not say a word about MSG that is in practically everything in the mainstream diet. i feel the article was primarily about self promotion (depending on how you define self)

considering that most people are in a position that they purchase most of their food and dont' have access to some of the organic options that would be ideal, it seems far more prudent to talk of reducing or eliminating some particularly bad offenders that are still very prevalent in many peoples diets rather then harp on some of the finer points of food production and its resultant shortcomings related to the health of end food products.

I have a somewhat mushy priority list in my brain of things to avoid and the top five don't even touch on some of the more complicated food options based on what animals eat or how they or crops are raised.

partially hydrogenated oils (mono and diglicerides are sorta in this category)
soy products and additives
artificial flavors, colors, taste enhancers and artificial preservatives, sweeteners.
high fructose corn syrup
homogenized milk products

I argue with myself sometimes whether some of the worst offenders as far as pesticides go should take precedence over the homogenized milk products. what it really boils down to for me is availablity in that regard. I won't have a fresh milk source again till april so I am buying store milk but I make it a point to buy organic spinach for example. not that I consider that an exchange of sorts just pointing out that actual options affect the list somewhat.

it seems only prudent for people to eliminate those things from their diet before they worry about gm foods, organic status, grass fed whatever.....

I know most of you guys are probably already mostly on board with my top 5 or have similiar ones that leave us free to search for other healthier options. but when opportunities arise for us to put a grain of information into others brains who have perhaps put less thought into their diet at that point in their life, I think we should remember that debating raw milk or the fatty acid content of beef becomes a bit lost on many people who are nowhere near there in their current diet.

what ingredients or additives are on your list?


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1911
Location: PNW Oregon
You are right, people are in different places in their understanding and practices regarding food, ect.  And to speak strongly from a developed place of understanding will over burden those not there yet, but then not speaking at all will never inspire others to dig deeper.  So this process of 'sharing one's beliefs and knowledge' requires encouragement and acceptance so as not to offend - a very hard balance indeed.  A very good point to be made Leah.

Mine are not so much ingredients, because my main focus was to take back the control and processing of my food -, so I buy as close to the natural state, in bulk and organic if possible.  If I buy processed food it is from the health food section of my grocery store from a company aware of the same things I am (msg, etc.).  For example, when I am not able to buy raw milk and make my own yogurt I buy Nancy's organic whole milk yogurt.  These are the trade offs I make.

My, longer list, would read:
No box, mix, or canned foods -  this takes care of many of the ingredients you mention.  My exception to this is condiments, which I buy from the health food isle like I've already mentioned.   I want to start making my own condiments some day (lofty goal for me, so it may never happen).

For my own cooking - NO white sugar, white flour, table salt, margarine, imitation anything.   Of course I have healthier substitutes for all of these.  We don't live without them, we just live around them    I spend $350 a month for myself and two teenagers.  I believe this is reasonable budget for today, I'm not advocating deep pockets for healthy eating.

And we do make exceptions - when friends bring food over or what to go out to eat, so our choices are easy to live with.  Food/ingredient choices must be doable, enjoyable and not burdensome.

Alison Thomas

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
My top 5 have changed so dramatically in the past three years that I'm scared to write anything down.

Eg I believed the hype that butter was bad for you and only bought marg - then found out about trans fats so dropped the marg as well.  Butter remained off-limits unless in tiny portions in cooking as it was a fat 'baddie'.  Then I got Nourishing Traditions and wised up.

My #1 for many years has been no artificial additives E numbers etc etc.  I got REALLY ill on diet drinks when I was a teenager due to the aspartame.

In the last 7 years I've always tried to buy organic but now I'm becoming sceptical of that movement too as the Big Boys move in.  We're aiming for self-sufficiency in fruit and veg here and that feels good - truly organic in its original meaning.

Complicated issues and hard to explain to those that still want/need/don't know/don't care about 'real' food.  I'm already marginalised by the rest of my family for extended b/f, co-sleeping, cloth nappying, home-educating, wood-fired range-cooking, recycling, so why not give them sommat else to brand me as a weirdo    Lonely place though.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I also prefer to buy my food whole and put it together myself. I can be a bit of a stickler when out to eat or at someones home though. although I do not want to offend people or draw a bunch of attention to myself. I do ask questions that tend to make people ask me questions. if I am at a resteaunt I will ask if they use real butter or margarine and decline it if it is margarine or ask for them to not put any seasonings on my meat (because they so often contain msg). if I am at someones home I won't hesitate to ask to see, for example, the seasoning mix they used for making chili. I get horrible headaches from msg and I will avoid it everywhere. I also make it clear that my daughter is not to recieve anything with artificial sweeteners. I have had to in some instances educate people to some of the clues and ingredient definitions on labels when I watched them about to "break my rule". some people don't understand that if something says "sugar free" or "lower sugar" it usually means the sugar has been replaced with artificial sweeteners and I point out the name of the sweetener on the ingredients.  my inquiries often bring questions from others and it is easy to go off into some of my other opinions and perspectives regarding the food available to the public in general or delve a little deeper then people are ready for. so this thread is to address those who also find themselves in this same position. I want to do the most good without alienating people. 
Kathleen Sanderson

Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
Because my daughter and I both have celiac disease, and I have diabetes, plus the fact that we raise quite a bit of our food, my list of things I avoid isn't going to be what I would give to someone living in town to avoid. 

We avoid first, anything with gluten in it. 

Second, carbs.

Third, artificial fats -- we use mostly butter for fats, because I wasn't raised on olive oil and don't like the flavor much.  (Odd, because I love olives.)  Because my dairy animals are goats, it's hard to make my own butter, so I do purchase that.  Unfortunately, on one acre, we don't have room for a cow.

Fourth, commercial dairy products -- since I have goats and can make my own.

Fifth, farmed fish and fish products.  Actually, I don't buy much fish at the store -- we were raised on what we caught and canned ourselves, and store-bought just isn't very good compared to that.  Have been thinking about trying an aquaponics set-up so I could raise fish and have some control over what they eat.


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I tend to buy only organic unless it's a ridiculously good bargin (like, free is good), and only ingredients because I make very nearly everything for us from scratch, so.....this list is going to be redundant.....

1-Just about anything in a box, premixed or with excess packaging- vetoed.  Maybe sometimes I'll indulge in some organic cookies...but that has gotten to be less and less often.  If it's in a box AND organic, it's also generally prohibitively expensive. 

2-Non-organic meat of any sort

3-Tropical fruits and things that come from really far away in general - apples from new zealand, for instance (we've got our tropicals down to coffee and chocolate and sometimes coconut oil, but we prefer butter)

4-Conventional corn or soy or wheat anything - gmos scare me and make me feel bad in the guts tho I don't have any particular allergies.

5-Non organic and free range eggs - they smell bad to me and I just can't stop picturing de-beaked birds in cages....

I want to stop eating restaurant food altogether, as any meal eaten out immediately breaks probably all my food rules.  But if we don't eat out when we go to town I have to cook and pack food for us, and honestly sometimes I just want a day off of being the chef, I want to sit and have someone serve me!

When I'm in someone else's house, I eat what's put in front of me.  If I had allergies I would probably be more proactive about asking what's in the food.  I try and focus on the spirit of eating together, even if we're not eating what I think is healthy food. I would rather invite people over for dinner and show them how I eat rather than tell them.  I've offended a couple of people by trying to offer "help" or "advice" regarding their diet, however gently it's worded, and I've decided it's not worth it. 
Jocelyn Campbell

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 3119
Location: Missoula, MT
Wow, great topic! I didn't mean to spend so much time in the forums just now...

These are numbered, but not really prioritized:
1. hydrogenated oils
2. high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) - largely due to this article
3. soy products
4. gluten (and most grain carbs)
5. sugars (preferring stevia, agave, maple syrup or honey to cane sugar if I am cooking with them)
6. cow's milk products (goat's milk is not so great for me either)
7. artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners
8. msg, nitrate or nitrites and other preservatives

Hm, that's more than 5! I try to eat all organic and local and whole foods as much as possible (though I do succumb to fast food and junk food at times). Also recently read about (commercially) canned tomatoes being in the top ten of foods to avoid (along with non-organic potatoes and apples and other things), but can't find that article just now, dang it! I've been using a lot more organic coconut milk lately instead of my cheap standby of organic rice milk, with lovely results.

Hands-on workshops in all shades of green - Cascadia & Seattle Eco Events Calendar | QuickBooks Consulting and Accounting Services -
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I love seeing the answers! everyone obviously has to tailor their "list" according to their own priorities, allergies and what they already have removed entirely from their diet and dont' have to think about anymore.

this has been at the top of my mind lately as I have had trouble motivating myself to cook like I usually do. I haven't been baking my own bread etc.... and by the time dinnertime rolls around I am lucky to make a bowl of oatmeal for myself before taking myself and my aching back and belly somewhere to lie down! 

I cheerfully commented the other day to my husband that he has lost some weight. his response......."well, I guess thats what happens when you stop eating dinner".  ops: normally I have a "real" dinner sitting on the table at 6:30 sharp. but that hasn't happened on any consistent basis for months and he is getting skinny! 

anyway. I decided to start trying to buy some "convenience" food for dinner so that we actually have dinner. seeing how difficult it is to find any sort of non-whole food at the grocery store that doesn't contain the worst offenders (imo) in processed food is scary! 

as pointed out earlier in the thread, things that qualify for "convenience food" and "organic" usually equal cost prohibitive. so I have been picking through standard grocery store fare looking for the "best of the worst" alot lately trying to find stuff that will qualify as dinner for DH but not make me shudder at the thought of anyone in my family eating it.

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Ok, I have to add that I don't buy sea food anymore.  The farmed stuff is just as bad as any feedlot meat, and I can't contribute to the over-fishing of wild stocks anymore.  I made this decision kind of recently, and it was very hard.  I was born in alaska and raised on crab, salmon, lobster.....  I cry sometimes thinking about the dams that prevent the salmon from spawning in this state (the globe, for that matter).  The river nearest us used to have the third largest salmon run in california.  Never more. 
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1911
Location: PNW Oregon
Marina, that is sad and such a shame.   I do not buy fish anymore, or any meat for that matter.  We purchase 1/2 organic, grass fed beef once a year and freeze it.  I butcher my own birds, and eat meat sparingly, mostly using the juices and fat to flavor other dishes. 

We take fermented cod liver oil taken from norther waters, made by the company Green Pasture Products, which manufactures fermented high-vitamin cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil. 

I miss my fish and kippers, and we do buy imported (from the north) salmon on very rare occasions when I trust the source and harvest practices.

Leah - a suggestion for easy dinner

Buy large packs (bulk) of mixed frozen veggies.  Then In the day, during a time when you have your most energy, throw some meat (frozen even) in the crock pot with some water and spices, on high.  A half an hour before you want to eat throw in your desired amount of veggies from the package.  If you like your veggies well done add them sooner.

By dinner time this will be done - very the liquid and you can have stew, just pull apart the meat.  Add more water and you can have beef soup, add rice or noodles and your dh will gain his weight back    and the only modern fast food you bought was pre-cut, frozen veggies, assuming you have some 'clean' meant on hand.

Another quick and easy recipe can be found here: ; Cooks in the time it takes to prepare spaghetti (Spaghetti Al'olio) it takes a bit more work than the first recipe, but it tastes better the longer it sits, great for leftovers.  My daughter took grand champion at fair in the food prep contest making this ♥ enjoy!

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
thanks jami! I was actually putting together a bit of a list of "easy" dinners yesterday. crockpot stuff is great. anything I can get done and cleaned up before I reach that magic hour where I get hit with a complete lack of motivation is good! I am doing lentil soup in the crock pot tonight. which will barely qualify as a meal to dh 

I am actually pretty easy to please. To me dinner can mean oatmeal and a slice of cheese and a hardboiled egg. I can't get down much in one sitting right now anyway. my dh on the other hand expects a "meal" not that he is being a jerk and expecting me to cook for him, its just always been my role and custom and I think he is a bit lost!

he went to the store the other day and I asked him to pick up some butter too. he came back with his item......butter........and a 12 pack of coke and a big bag of Doritos.  I hate to leave him to his own devices in the food department! I'd like to have him around for a while
Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
I don't cook with salt, never have.  If my cooking needs salt, it is missing something.  There is enough salt in most processed foods that the addition of more salt will ruin the dish.

Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
People hate when I say things like this, but there's a lot of naturally occurring glutamate in parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and lots of fermented foods.

Glutamic acid as a food additive is usually made by fermentation (because that's cheaper), and MSG is just the sodium salt of this acid.

There are things that I try to avoid for health reasons, though:

Hydrogenated oils
Foods cooked in Teflon at high heat
non-fermented soy (I'm OK having edamame in the portions a sushi bar would serve)
Meat that has been grilled without marinade
Food with health claims on the packaging

"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
as well as meats.

there are lots of things that exist natural amounts.....that are fine in our foods and our bodies. the key for me is natural forms and natural amounts so that our natural systems can accomodate them. insulin, oxytocin, adrenalyn and glutamates are normal and fine in the human body....unless there is too much. so I'm afraid that, for me anyway, the argument that its naturally occuring so it isn't a problem doesn't hold any weight because it isn't placed in perspective or context. the "its naturally occuring" is used by industry to debunk the naysayers who attribute potential risk to msg but they conveniently leave out the details.

why does a can of chili with tomatoes and beef in it need msg added? (for instance) why aren't the natural glutamates enough? its added in salsa, soup, flavored rice and potato type mixes, chicken stock, chips, crackers, salad dressings, dips, prepared meats such as sausages and lunchmeats, its used as seasoning on fresh meats and fish steamed vegetables etc....

from the above link......"[i]Broths and soups with added MSG had Glu contents of 92.7–341 mg/100 g. The highest amounts of Glu in foods with no added MSG were found in products containing hydrolyzed proteins (up to 129 mg/100 g)."[/i][b]

so if I am reading this correctly...according to this source and their tests......the highest amounts for food without added msg was 129mg per 100g of food. the lowest amount for msg added food (soup) was 92.7mg per 100g with the highest being 341mg per 100 g.

so taking the highest values for both (which seems fair since they didnt give a lower amount for the "no msg added" food and it is presumably zero of course) we are talking about free glutamic acid *natural amounts* (*as if adding hydrolyzed protein would be natural right?) being up to 129mg/100g  ........but the "added msg soup" is 341mg/100g!!!

129mg vs. 341mg.............that is 2.6 times the amount of free glutamate when comparing the msg soup with a food that admitedly has hydrolyzed protein in it which contains free glutamate and is often added for flavor enhancement because of the free glutamate it posseses. (they don't have to label it has msg in it if the msg is in the hydrolyzed protein).

to me that is a serious "yikes".

if my interpretation or math is wrong help me out......I am not being sarcastic either! I sometimes screw up the math especially and botch terms and such which sometimes screws with my interpretations .

some other interesting things.....
[i]"Glutamate appears to be remarkably potent and rapidly acting neurotoxin"[/i]

"High doses of glutamate, aspartate or related excitatory amino acids given in isolation to neonatal rodents produce acute degeneration organs."

" Obesity was induced by MSG administration (4 mg/g, each other day, from birth to 14 days old) After 14 from drug administration, " talking about rats here but still...
Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Hydrolyzed protein is natural in parmesan cheese (and other cheeses where enzymes have sat awhile in the presence of milk protein), soy sauce (and marmite/vegemite, miso, etc.), and in the small intestine, where trypsin is secreted to hydrolyze any digestible protein.

Rocquefort seems to have a pretty high glutamate content, compared to what you're talking about.

In principle, I agree with you: adding so much MSG fools your body into thinking it's eating extremely nutritious food. Ramen might only have MSG and some gluten in it, even though it tastes like it would have the nutrients rocquefort would provide.

Similarly, the article cited purportedly about HFCS really compared pure fructose to pure glucose. Cane sugar is 50/50 glucose and fructose, HFCS might be 55/45 or 42/58, but is comparable to cane sugar in its fructose content, and neither is anywhere near the sort of sugars studied in that research.

I don't think something essential in HFCS is bad for us.  The reasons to avoid HFCS are (IMHO) very, very similar to the reason to avoid MSG: our instincts see we're eating a mix of simple sugars with food acids (citric, malic, lactic, maybe phosphoric) and assume we're eating fruit, when we're really eating candy or drinking soda. Plus, boosting the profits of food processors is bad for our worldwide food system.

I think that many people get stuck craving something that would be in fruit or meat, and over-eating foods that simulate those flavors. And many people get stuck in situations where only processed foods are available. But purchasing decisions I make to prevent that are mostly political to, and aren't about avoiding ingredients that would be bad for me personally.

[Thumbnail for msg.png]

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
i know we are basically on the same page here but for others sake.....and....
just for grins...I kinda get into figuring on this stuff...I guess I am just weird......and also since I am sitting here eating leftover pasta with parmesan.......

i want to figure up free glutamate estimates comparing parmesan and canned soup with msg using the figures I found.

I have to lay out all the numbers cause I might mess 'em up  if anyone sees where I botch the math please point it out......I am also using my calculator on my touch phone which rather increases the odds of me making a math error not even including my possibly faulty logic and entry!

the grated parmesan container has 227g . parmesan and "powdered cellulose to prevent caking". I am just using the package to get an idea of what a serving of parmesan is though so the anticaking agent isn't relevant.

it contains 45 "servings"

227/45 = 5(.04)

so a serving of parmesan is 5 grams.

100g of parmesan contains 1200mg (free glutamate)  (thats what wiki says too and has the the same for roquefort as the chart joel found also)

so..uhm...i forgot what i was doing ......oh yeah

1200/100g = 12mg of free glutamate per 1g of parmesan. right?.....

that means a 5g serving pf parmesan cheese contains 60mg of free glutamate (12x5=60).

now for the soup estimate......

I have two different size cans of soup in my pantry. one contains 411g the other contains 527g. they both state they contain 2 servings.

so for simplicities sake I am going to say that a "serving of soup" is 240g.

so.....where was I?......a serving of soup is 240g (my estimate)

according to that one source a serving of "msg added" soup would contain from

222.48 to 818.40mg of free glutamate (92.7mg - 341mg per 100g)

those figures acheived by 92.7 x 2.4 = 222.48 and 341 x 2.4 = 818.40

the "2.4" figure is from the fact that a serving of soup is 2.4 times higher then 100g which is the amount tested for free glutamate. er...yeah.....

for the comparison.......

a serving of parmesan contains 60mg free glutamate

a serving of "msg soup" contains 222.48 -818.40mg of free glutamate

a serving of msg added soup has 3.78 to 13.64 times the amount of free glutamate as does a serving of parmesan cheese.

parmesan, often being sited as containing large amounts of naturally occuring free glutamate,  is a good comparison (IMO) showing that processed foods containing added msg likely contain significantly larger amounts of free glutamate then naturally occurs in food....

adding to that the quantity that is consumed of those products......yikes again!

I know that hydrolyzed protein occurs naturally too. but once again the question becomes is it "natural" when its added to things that wouldn't ordinarily contain it at all or in those amounts, just as msg. I wonder if their "MSG added soup" was compared to "hydrolyzed protein added" items or if they used naturally occuring hydrolyzed protein products? 

I was hoping to find something that would show the free glutamate levels for instance....

in a standard can of soup and a comparable soup that was completely "unadulterated". I suppose that it would be impossible to calculate in any meaningful fashion due to the enormous variation in how things are prepared.

in the abstract....the comparison of "msg added" and the rather hazy "other foods" is not particular enough for i have made my own comparison.

next I would like to compare natural free glutamates in things typically eaten eaten in larger quantities then parmesan, such as meats and tomatoes. but my brain hurts too much now.......


Joined: Jan 07, 2010
Posts: 13
Hello, I'm Koka and I live in a cabin on a mountain in Colorado and I love it!  I've been watching this forum for a few weeks now and it seems to be a wonderful and cooperative group of people.  I hope you will welcome me as I'd like to participate.

Now, to get started......things I avoid.

1. I don't purchase items with a lot of ingredients.  I like scratch cooking.

2. I buy less mean and chicken, but when I do, I buy better product.  Anti-biotic and hormone free meats.

3.  I don't use a micro-wave.

4. No corn syrups or corn based sweeteners.  I LOVE molasses - guess that comes from being a dyed in the wool Maine person for half my life. 

5.  I use a good grade (at least I believe it to be) of sea salt.  No processed salt in my pantry or on my table.

There, my first post - all done, and I'm glad I joined y'all. 

Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
Welcome Aboard, Koka.

I grew up in Bangor, spent a lot of time downeast.  There's an intro thread around here somewhere.  Stop on in.  Always good to hear about who you/we are.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1911
Location: PNW Oregon
Ditto on the Welcome Koka!

I agree with your foods to avoid list, great to having you weighing in.
Jocelyn Campbell

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 3119
Location: Missoula, MT
I'm not gonna touch the math or other issues around the msg, but I am intrigued by Joel's comments about HFCS and fructose versus glucose. I guess I got sucked into the anti-HFCS media stuff and thought agave was better--until just today. And I have a comment about non-stick pans.

I was using agave nectar because a friend was singing it's praises to me, and it didn't seem to bother me as much as other sugars. Today, however, I just read an article claiming agave actually contains more fructose than HFCS - a whopping 70%! (Article says HFCS is 55% fructose.) I don't have time to drill into the source documents for this article, but it appears quite a few are listed.

I'm going back to basically low to no sugars, except a few whole fruits, as my preferred plan.

About non-stick pans. I have a friend who had some older non-stick pans and was still occasionally using them on low heat to avoid the fumes. One night, she made dinner, sauteing on low heat, and later that evening, closed up her cockatiel and parakeet for the night. The birds enjoyed a large terrarium with a big tree-like roost sticking out of the top that they accessed during the day, but were closed in the bottom area/surround at night. Both birds were dead in the morning. Necropsies showed lungs filled with blood and the vet confirmed no other signs of illness nor any other reason for the lung damage. My friend tossed out all her non-stick pans after that.

And, yes, welcome to Koka, and wonderful contributions from everyone all around!

Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Good comparison, there. And I take your point on the ridiculous levels of the stuff, but my understanding is that the real harm it causes is in the behaviors people develop around that sort of food. For instance, I tend to eat two servings of soup at a meal, but four or five servings of parmesan cheese. 

I'm not sure how deep this reaches into our history, but I understand it's common to spike soups with fermented something-or-other. I mentioned miso, but I'm told in Germany there's a product (I think called Maggi?) that is similarly used for soup, made of fermented grains with all the proteins hydrolysed plus lots of salt.

I also recall several sources wherein a soup pot or cauldron is kept from ever emptying completely, for decades: raw stuff is added, and soup served, but like fermented foods, some is always retained. Accounts like this tend to report unusually tasty soup, which I would attribute partly to well-developed flavors and a rich balance of spices and ingredients, but partly also to the hydrolysis that would break down proteins and starches over time.

It's fascinatingly complicated.
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17444
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
Fructose is not your enemy.  Or, more accurately, if there is a problem with fructose, I don't know what it is.  Fructose occurs naturally in a lot of the foods we eat.  If I remember correctly (and this is digging into some 15 year old memories), prunes are loaded with fructose and if you eat too many prunes, there is a well known side effect and (old memory) it is the fructose that is the root of that side effect.  Same for eating too much of any fruit (fruit is loaded with fructose).

HFCS:  I've never been sure of what the root of the problem is here other than the enormous chemistry/processing involved to extract it.  And the weird thing is that the side affects appear to be the opposite of fructose.  So, maybe it is some sort of left-handed fructose? 

Based on what little I know at this time, agave nectar is probably still quite good for you (provided you don't eat too much at one sitting) - because of the fructose. 

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Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
from my limited understanding there are a few proposed potential problems with hfcs.

#1 - is that normal sugar (sucrose) is broken down by your body by sucrase (sp?). hfcs is already broken down. its a bit more like mainlining sugar rather then digesting it and your body can't regulate its absorption as well. this can supposedly affect a whole host of bodily functions and metabolic issues. true or not? I dunno. there appears to be conflicting reports..surprise surprise.  amount consumed would be the key here. normal amounts such as occur naturally in fruit or crazy high added amounts that replace normal sugar.

#2 proposed problem is that some of the scary stuff that is used to create the hfcs might remain in the finished product in some form.
"The samples were found to contain levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 to 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. Average daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup is about 50 grams per person in the United States. With respect to total mercury exposure, it may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations."
"FDA has established an acceptable daily intake for mercury of 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day"

"In 2001, EPA validated the current RfD for mercury of 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day that was established in 1996. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have recommended regulatory levels that are significantly less stringent than EPA’s reference dose"

now.... mercury is "the big bad contaminent" right now.  its very popular to be afraid of mercury. how that affects the science, research and the available information, I don't know. but...

using my rather slow brain and phone calculator again......and once again inviting people to check my math with absolutely no hard feelings if you find an error........(fyi - I have come up with some pretty outrageous and totally wrong figures before...later coming back to check my own work and not being able to figure out how in the hell I came up with "that number".... )

an "average joe"150lb person(approx 67kg) makes the "acceptable" daily dose of mercury about 26.8 micrograms for "joe".

(I am using the higher fda's acceptable dose of .4 microgram per kg not the epa's of .1 microgram per kg ........figures according to the previous link which I haven't researched.)

if the average american consumes 50g of hfcs daily (according to link) and each of those grams contians .570 micrograms of mercury each that means that an average daily dose of mercury that could be received by our average joe from hfcs is 28.5 micrograms. with our "average joe" exceeding the fda safe dose by by almost two micrograms. not much room for other sources for sure. we know that babies in utero are much more sensitive also. 

apparently mercury levels in food additives are not monitored.

now as is always the case it seems, moderation is the key factor here. eating a box of cookies and a coke containing hfcs one day isn't a disaster. but frequent consumption could be a problem. and it certainly isn't a neccesary ingredient in our diets. so, for me anyway, avoiding it is prudent from a health standpoint.

some people also have serious issue in that it is basically a government subsidized sweetener given that it comes from corn.


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
I agree with most of the "avoid" lists here, except I am vegetarian so I don't eat meat or dairy.  I do eat relatively a lot of soy products --but I try to avoid the GMO soy products (nearly all of the processed ones).  I am looking forward to getting a soy milk maker so that I can use organic soybeans to make my own soymilk and tofu.

I keep track of my blood sugar and recently it has been in the normal range.  One serving of boxed cereal though with the high fructose corn syrup and processed "whole grain" will put me back on insulin.

One rule I do follow is that if there is corn in something where it doesn't belong I avoid that product.  Recently I read the label on my soymilk and found that it has cane sugar in it.

Soy milk with sugar plus processed cereal is a day with my blood sugars off.  Poison at the super market.  You sure have to read the labels just to stay healthy.

Joined: Jan 24, 2010
Posts: 32
I avoid things when I don't know what they are. Sometimes my white-bread and bologna American heritage calls to me and I want... Fruit Loops, or cookies, or bagels! Luckily for me I got into a habit a long time ago of reading ingredients list and that usually means I put it back on the shelf.  When the list gets too long or the names of the stuff in it get less and less recognizable...

Plus no animal products. And no hydrogenated oils.

Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
I forgot to add artifical sweetener to the list.  Eating artificial food is not a good idea.
tel jetson

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3328
Location: woodland, washington
[quote author=marina phillips]I cry sometimes thinking about the dams that prevent the salmon from spawning in this state (the globe, for that matter).  The river nearest us used to have the third largest salmon run in california.  Never more.

a little late on the uptake here, but don't despair, marina, those dams will come down one day.

I have all sorts of foods I avoid, but I find myself playing the role of saving other folks' leftovers from the garbage can fairly frequently and my dietary rules go right down the tree bog if I'm hungry enough.

find religion! church
kiva! hyvä! iloinen! pikkumaatila
get stung! beehives
be hospitable! host-a-hive
be antisocial! facespace

Joined: Feb 11, 2010
Posts: 6
Luckily, there's nothing I have to avoid absolutely, but if I eat a raw hazelnut my mouth will complain for an hour or so.
I always cook from scratch, though, and will seldom - if ever - use packet mixes or seasonings. I buy whole spices and grind them when I need them; if I need mayo, I make it.

Humans are omnivores and do best on a varied diet;  allergies and intolerances apart, we should resist being picky about what we eat; if the whole diet is diverse, a few artificial additives here and there won't hurt anyone.  Too much salt and sweetening desensitises  us to these desirable flavours.

If you have ethical issues with any aspect of food production, and lots of us do, surely the right response is to use the power of your wallet and don't spend money on unethical food. Being a picky eater and an ungracious guest doesn't help at all.
Kristen Lee-Charlson

Joined: Feb 13, 2010
Posts: 56
paul wheaton wrote:
Or, more accurately, if there is a problem with fructose, I don't know what it is. 

Based on what little I know at this time, agave nectar is probably still quite good for you (provided you don't eat too much at one sitting) - because of the fructose. 

Fructose is tough on your liver.

edibleMISSOULA, a quarterly publication, endeavors to create and grow community through our connection to local foods.

Joined: Dec 01, 2009
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
Kristen, you really don't need to link the same article on five different threads. That feels spammy to me and I don't like it--it fragments discussion. If people want to talk about your link, that discussion will end up all over the place instead of all together where we can actually see what everyone is saying.
Kristen Lee-Charlson

Joined: Feb 13, 2010
Posts: 56
Kerrick wrote:
Kristen, you really don't need to link the same article on five different threads.

Sorry about that. Point taken.

Joined: Mar 19, 2010
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
My top five items to avoid are:
In no particular order, just one must be first and one must be last.
1.  Hydrolyzed oils.
2.  Artificial Sweetners
3.  MSG
4.  GMO products
5.  Over processed items, I prefer as close to homegrown and natural as I can get.

My goal for 2010 is to raise at minimum 25% of all items that my household eats, and 100% of the tobacco that we smoke.  You think food has additives, you should google what is in cigarettes, cigars, etc. 

In addition to my garden, which is increasing rapidly, I raise my own free range chickens, and milk goats.  We also hunt and fish.  Occassionally we will raise a calf or pig, but not real often.  My goats are bred to boer goats this year, and buck kids will add to the freezer.

I am also learning to make homemade soap and using more natural and healthier cleaners.
I am interested in learning ways to be less and less dependent on the commercial stores.  And simply live with what I can produce right here.
Is there a substitute or way to make baking soda?  I know we can make vinegar, and I am also looking into soap plants.  Did you know that all legumes have saponins?  Saponins are what makes suds.. now to put that together in some useful way for cleaning... hmm?

Talk to your plants!   If your plants talk to you...Run!
Emma Olson

Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 155
Why is MSG bad for you? I did some preliminary research online and came up with few results. My brother lives in a very health-conscious, vegan co-op in Berkeley and they actually have it as a flavor enhancer in their kitchen. Does it have detrimental affects on your health or is it just bad because you're adding false flavor to your food? Thanks.
Jocelyn Campbell

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 3119
Location: Missoula, MT
MSG can cause headaches in certain people and it is frequently recommended to avoid it when you are pregnant. 

I stayed away from it when I was first pregnant 22 years ago. (Oh, I am aging myself!) I remember being surprised at how many canned soups contained it.

You're right, Emma, a quick review of internet information seems inconclusive as to why and whether it is bad for you. It is a highly refined, engineered food. That and the anecdotal stories are enough for me to continue to avoid it all these years.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1911
Location: PNW Oregon
Here is a search on the dangers of MSG -

Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
when i found out that my "so called" healthy diet of whole grains fruits and vegetables was killing May..I have not only drastically changed my way of eating and what I eat but my way of thinking

it is better that I not recommend foods to anyone at this point as i'm still experimenting, however I am checking my blood sugar and blood pressure constantly  and am at normal now

i suggest watching the film  FATHEAD available from yoiur library and reading the book

Good Calorie Bad Calorie by Gary Taubes and making up your own mind, but i feel the information I have gotten from these two sourceds have changed my  life

i also agree to stay away from fake industrialized food and stick with the real thing as much as possible


Bloom where you are planted.
Mekka Pakanohida

Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
Hey everyone, I don't normally have time to post.  I am working my own 3+ acre permaculture food forest SOLO without mechanical equipment.  However, this is one subject I couldn't pass up.

What I avoid:

Fish - Like the plague.  Mercury is only a small part of it.  In areas were DDT has been used in the past (which is now allowed to be used again thanks to the World Health Organization) does show up in fish.  Not to mention if you want to learn about mercury poisoning and its effects on people, watch the movie, "The Cove."  WARNING - THE MOVIE IS VERY DEPRESSING.

HFCS - I can't begin to state how much I hate this product and what IMO has become of the US infrastructure because of it.

MSG - I know the debates going back and forth and free glutamate and MSG, etc.  For me, here is 1 report that made it hands down to be avoided.

Prior to the 1970’s, MSG was routinely added to baby food before the practice was stopped following government suggestions. Commenting on this issue, Dr. Olney, at the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University states,

    According to an NAS (National Academy of Science) Subcommittee, in considering the safety of added MSG in baby foods, one must remember that the levels added are small - not higher than 0.6 g%.... This means that one small jar of baby food (130 g) would provide about 0.78 g of MSG or 0.13 g/kg of body weight for a human infant weighing 6 kg. Based on our finding that an oral dose of 1 g/kg in the primate or 0.5 g/kg in the mouse is sufficient to destroy hypothalamic neurons, this leaves a 4 to 8 fold margin of safety for a human infant eating one jar, a 2 to 4 fold margin if two jars are eaten and so forth. This is substantially less than the 100-fold margin generally recommended to accommodate contingencies such as species or individual differences in susceptibility to the mechanism of a toxic compound.

    In support of their assumption that human infants are invulnerable to MSG-induced brain damage, the NAS Subcommittee pointed to absence of behavioral manifestations in human infants given intravenous infusions of protein hydrolysates providing 0.3 g/kg/day of free glutamic acid. Our demonstration that MSG destroys hypothalamic neurons in monkeys as well as mice at intake doses lower than those required to produce acute behavioral manifestations points to a serious flaw in this line of reasoning. The subcutaneous injection of protein hydrolysate (0.2 cc) produces, in 10 day old infant mice, a hypothalamic lesion unaccompanied by behavior disturbances (22)."

As an avid surfer & beach rat that has had multiple injuries to my body and skull, I think I am gonna avoid this before even more damage is done.

What Else
- Pretty much anything not organic.  I am trying really hard to grow 100% of my own fruit, veggies, cooking herbs, and medicine plants as well as libations.  ((If a town in France can declare all its food must be organic for schools & senior citizens, then why can't I?))

A year ago my wife had a radical surgery and in the course of her surgery we learned about what is really going into our food & water.  Everything lead me here, to help both of us return to a healthier lifestyle outside of the big city.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1911
Location: PNW Oregon
Great post Pakanohida, hopefully you can get more breaks in the future and post more of your insight on the forums.

All the best to you!

Joined: Sep 13, 2010
Posts: 148
Location: South Central Idaho
The leading cause of heart attacks .. other than side effects from pills .. is lack of silicon in your flour .. it is bad for the heart and veins.

Best #1 Herb .. Capsicum or Red Chili Pepper in a gel cap .. 40,000 btu once a day. Will take blood work to normal in people recommended to have a quad .. in six weeks.

Buy a hand mill and grind your own flour .. I prefer soft white spring as it has won all the taste test. What's on the shelf? Hard Red Winter .. it has the longest shelf life.

When you eat something .. especially just before bedtime .. notice how you feel and react during the night.

Met a truck driver at a diner .. he had seven brothers .. his dad back in the 40's followed deer to a deer lick .. dug some dirt and mixed it with a glass of water and made each boy drink a glassful each morning.

They are all alive and healthy .. he was 78 .. not one cavity or broken bone in the group.

A deer lick beats a Vitamin Store

If you get too far from the stone age .. things go haywire.
T. Joy

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
Number one is meat. I just don't like it.
2 hydrogenated oils
3 weird chemically stuff, guess that means anything in a can, box or carton.
4 colours
5 eggplant and bananas. I know that's two but those both make me throw up or badly nauseous.
subject: the top five ingredients you avoid