Know What's in Your Food

Promoting awareness and change about the food we eat, and where it comes from.

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Food Hero- Dr. Vandana Shiva

When it comes to awareness about the food we eat, and how we are being duped by our government and  corporations, there are a few names that come to mind. Do you have a favorite food hero?

Dr. Vandana Shiva:

“I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself

English: Vandana Shiva, noted environmentalist...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

creates new potential. And I’ve learned from the Bhagavad-Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world, and you shape your actions and take full responsibility for them, but then you have detachment. And that combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me to take on the next challenge, because I don’t cripple myself, I don’t tie myself in knots. I function like a free being. I think getting that freedom is a social duty because I think we owe it to each not to burden each other with prescription and demands. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.”

― Vandana Shiva

In 1987 Dr. Vandana Shiva started saving seeds as a result from attending a conference called the Laws of Life. She says in this conference lead biotech companies vowed to be a total of 5 companies in the future that would control agriculture and pharmacy.  Their plan involved three steps:

1. Acquire other companies

2. Perfect genetic engineering

3. Acquire patents.

She says the biotech companies claimed the World Trade Organization would be their instrument in carrying out their three-step plan. Dr. Vandana Shiva recognized the danger of this plan and began to save seeds. The seeds are saved in a seed bank and are distributed to farmers in need. This helps keep seeds from disappearing and becoming extinct and farmers becoming dependent on biotech companies.

Dr. Shiva has been successful in getting patent reversal on a pesticide made from neem. The patent was held by the U.S. Department of Agriculutre and chemical company W.R. Grace. She was victorious in her eleven year fight with the U.S Department of Agriculture and W. R. Grace. Dr. Shiva has taken on companies successfully such as Coca-Cola.

She speaks around the world in an effort to educate on the destructive nature of biotech companies and the dangers of GMOs. She continues to be an activist for farmers around the world.

Dr. Shiva is a food hero 🙂


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The Truth About Vitamin Water

vitamin water

I recently took a closer look at this vitamin drink at the store the other day. The front of the bottle boasts that it is acai-blueberry-pomegranate flavored.  Have you noticed when there is a new nutrition buzz word like acai, blueberries, or pomegranate you see labels with these words trying to lure us in to buying the product? Food marketers are well aware of health buzz words, but they don’t always provide what they advertize. If we look closely, there are times when these ingredients don’t actually exist in the product at all, or in the case of vitamin water it is a very small amount.

Vitawater At look at the ingredients reveals (after water) the  most abundant ingredient is sugar… but yet they call it Vitamin….water. Did sugar become a vitamin and I didn’t know about it ? 🙂  After sugar, the label tells us that all other ingredients are equal to 0.5%..or less!  That is an incredibly small amount. This includes the extracts of pomegranate, acai, blueberry and vitamins which they plaster on the front of the label!

Vitamanwater nutrition

The label says there are 32 grams of sugar in one bottle. I was curious to see how much 32 grams of sugar was. ….

Amount of sugar in vitamin water 32 grams. The hight of 18 pennies

As you can see 32 grams is a lot of sugar for one “vitamin” drink. I think I counted a total of 18 pennies..but I could be wrong 🙂

As for the vitamins that are in here, they may be equal to 100% if the daily allowance, but to give you an idea of what small amount that occupies the bottle, keep this in mind:

2.4 mcg is recommended daily allowance for vitamin b12 in adults.

There are 1000 mcg  in 1 ml.

1/2 of a teaspoon is equal to 2.5 ml.

Think about how small of an amount 2.4 mcg is when you think a 1/2 of a teaspoon is equal to 2.5 ml. This would be the tiniest drop of vitamin in the bottle. That is all the vitamin b12 that is in that big bottle of sugar-water they are trying to sell us.

Thirsty (Day 41)

(Photo credit: spookyriggs)

When I played outside as a kid, we drank from the water hose if we were thirsty. In school, we drank from the water fountain. To get a soda was a rare treat. Today it seems like everyone is drinking anything but water….espcially our kids. There is a lot to be said for drinking plain water. According to Web MD, drinking regular water helps energize your muscles, keeps fluids balanced, helps your kidneys eliminate toxins, keeps your skin looking refreshed, and helps to control calorie intake.

 I think I will stick to drinking just plain water. I will get my vitamins by eating fruits and vegetables that come straight from Mother Nature. It seems to me this is the way to go! I will leave this sugar-water on the shelf. 🙂

Sources: Web MD


Potatoes Flavored Any Way You Like Them

full ruffles potatoes

A friend of mine was eating her lunch and had this bag of potato chips. I quickly grabbed the bag for a quick review of the ingredients. She knew right away, when I started taking pictures of the bag, what I was up to.  She asked me to use the name “Veronica” to protect her identity of the person eating this fried, fake,(processed) food. So…full disclaimer, the name of the individual has been changed to protect the guilty 🙂

“Veronica” loves cheese or foods that are flavored cheese. I assume that is what attracted her to try these chips.  I pointed out that they were cheddar & sour cream “flavor.”  While I am sure few of us would expect potato chips to be healthy, I am amazed at how many of our foods are “flavored” to delight our senses.  I have seen hot dog, steak, barbecue, chicken & waffle etc. flavored potato chips. Since when is a potato supposed taste like a chicken or a waffle? Shouldn’t a potato taste like a potato?

Here is a look of the ingredients:

ruffles ingredients

The good news is the first ingredient is potatoes, and that is about where it ends.

Oil- Sunflower, Corn, Canola. Some of these oils are listed more than once. Corn and Canola are both big GMO crops. You can read my post on GMOs by clicking here.

Right after potatoes and oil we see, “Sour Cream Seasoning”… I am sorry, but what the heck is that?  I have never seen sour cream seasoning in the store… have you?

Maltodexterin – Made from corn.. another GMO possibility.

Monosodium Glutamate- So many products have hidden forms of MSG. This one just says it flat-out. You can read my post about MSG by clicking here.

Natural and Artificial Flavors- The source of natural flavoring can be disturbing.  Artificial flavoring comes from just plain old chemicals made in a lab by flavor scientist. These chemicals are designed to make you crave the taste, so that you continue to eat more. In a word, addiction! You can read my post about flavoring by clicking here.

Yeast Extract- A hidden form of MSG.

Yellow 5&6- both of these artificial dyes are derived from coal tar…yuck.

Less than 2% of this product contains real cheese and sour cream, but that is what they advertise on the front of the bag in big letters. The potato chip bag  reserves the small lettering for the word, “flavored.” I also find it appalling that they use a picture of cheese on the front and they want to tell that is made with real cheese…..ummm yes,(sigh) this product is made with less than 2% cheese.

I would have told “Veronica” to skip the fried, salty, chemically inflamed, goodness, but she already knows my thoughts on such foods. 🙂

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Oh Baby! What’s In That Formula?


I maybe a little bit bias, but my cousin, Karen, has the cutest baby boy. I was so proud to hear that she is making her own baby food with the Baby Magic Bullet. Just a couple of weeks ago, she was tossing out some brand name baby cereal and baby food. Way to go Mom!!  This prompted me to take a look at infant formulas out there on the market.  It has been a long time since I have had a little one, so on my most recent trip to the grocery store I took a closer look at some well-known infant formulas.

I noticed a lot of formulas contain DHA. I researched added DHA to infant formulas and found that it might be just a clever way to market baby formula, as opposed to having any real health benefits.

Geber Goodstart part two

Gerber Good Start Formula Ingredients..

DHA can be found in the ingredient list as Mortierella  Alpina Oil or Cryptheciodinum Cohnii Oil. Many labels simplify this by noting it as M. Alpina Oil or C. Cohni Oil.  DHA occurs naturally in breast milk. And is important for brain development. The DHA that is put into formula is not the same that occurs naturally in breast milk. The DHA in infant formula comes from algae and soil fungus produced in a lab. The DHA is grown in a lab by fermentation conditions. They use a solution of glucose (sugar) and yeast extract (hidden form of MSG). Algal DHA and Fungal ARA are produced by a Bioscience Corporation called Martek.  Martek ferments the algae and soil fungus in a lab in order to produce an oil.

The oil is known as hexane. According to a report by the Cornucopia Institute, hexane is a petroleum-based product.

“To obtain DHASCO, microorganisms such as Crypthecodinium cohnii are first grown under tightly controlled fermentation conditions in a nutrient solution containing glucose and yeast extract. They are then harvested, and the oil is extracted by blending the dried biomass with hexane, a toxic solvent that is a petroleum by-product of gasoline refining, in a continuous extraction process. The hexane is removed from the oil by distillation techniques, using conventional oilseed processing equipment, to perform the filtering, separation, and distillation.”

Clearly, this DHA is far from naturally occurring. To date there has been no conclusive study that shows the addition of DHA and ARA to infant formulas improves brain and eye development. Similac Formula boast that their formula is, “Closer than ever to breast milk.” If it is closer than ever, I hate to think of what it was before…

Furthermore, Martek did its own studies to prove the safety and efficacy of DHA. This information was sent to the FDA. The FDA requires that Martek be responsible for its own testing for safety. When corporations pay for their own scientific studies, the results tend to be bias. According to the report from the Cornucopia Institute such was the case in 2006:

“In 2006, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation investigated
a renowned scientist at a Canadian university and uncovered a
pattern of scientific fraud that involved, among other topics,
infant formula. The scientist, Dr. Ranjit Kumar Chandra, had
been hired by Nestlé to prove certain claims regarding their
infant formula. Articles were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that were later found to be completely fabricated.
Quite predictably, the results of these faked studies were exactly
what the corporations had hoped for—and paid for. When
fictitious results supported Nestlé and Mead Johnson’s infant
formulas, but not Abbott Laboratories’ formula, the scientist
explained: “Well, [Abbott] didn’t really pay me enough to do
[the study] correctly.”

You can read the full report from the Cornucopia Institute by clicking here.

Gerber Good Start

So many infant formula’s advertise using the same key words as Gerber does on their “Good Start” formula. “Brain & Eye” “DHA & ARA”  words like “protect.” Parents want the best for their children. With this kind of marketing, it is easy to see why a parent would choose this product.  In addition to  DHA & ARA, the ingredients in Gerber’s Good Start formula (as well as others) contains hydrolyzed whey protein. From the Gerber website:

“Only Gerber® Good Start® has the Comfort Proteins® Advantage

100% whey protein partially hydrolyzed – our unique process to break down proteins into smaller pieces designed for your little one. Our Comfort Proteins may be more accepted by baby’s immune system than the whole (intact) proteins found in other routine formulas.”

Partially hydrolyzed protein is a hidden form of MSG. Other questionable ingredients :

Corn Maltodexterin- Sugar derived from corn. Probable GMO.

Neucleotides- Synthetic nutrients Cytidine 5′- Monophosphate, Disodium, Uridine 5′- Monophosphate, Adenosine 5′- Monophosphate. Neucleotides . These are synthetic ingredients that are not required in infant formula by the FDA.

Taurine- Synthetic nutrients not required in infant formula.

Neucleotides in infant formula are produced by two biotech companies, Dalian Zhen- Ao-Bio-Tech from China, and Yamasa Corp from Japan. You can read their petition to the USDA to allow necleotides into infant formula by clicking here.

Between Martek, Dalian Zhen-Ao, and Yamasa these companies are getting rich by promoting their questionable, and not required,  ingredients in infant formula. We must ask ourselves the question, are our babies part of a large uncontrolled science experiment?

Sources:, Cornucopia Institute, USDA


A Closer Look at Kellogg’s Pop Tarts

Wild strawberry

You wouldn’t think you would have to check to see if your pop-tart is vegetarian, but if you are eating Kellogg’s pop-tarts, you are not eating a vegetarian pop-tart. In addition to not being vegetarian, these things are loaded with a bunch of chemicals and other questionable ingredients.

A closer look at the ingredients of the” Wild Strawberry” flavor reveals an interesting find.

full ingredients of wild poptarts

Wild Strawberry? More Like Wild Ingredients..

  • First, in the ingredient list we see enriched flour. This is flour that has been stripped of its nutrients and has had artificial nutrients added back in. The artificial nutrients are the vitamins listed right after the enriched flour.
  • Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and sugar. You can read about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup from one of my previous post here.
  • Soybean oil is most likely from a GMO source. Soybean oil is listed twice in the ingredients.
  • Palm Oil- Most palm oil that is harvested destroys the rainforest.
  • TBHQ – This is a food preservative ,used to extend shelf life, that comes from butane. The FDA allows the use of this food preservative in the amounts of 0.02%. It is a very small amount, and as you might guess, it doesn’t take a lot to cause harm. As little as 1 gram of this additive can cause side effects ranging from nausea, ADD symptoms, delirium, and asthma. It is also suspected of causing estrogen hormone disruption in women.  Estrogen hormone disruption can be associated with weight gain and cancer.
  • Dextrose- Another form of sugar.
  • Wheat Starch- Plain and simple, starch.
  • Salt- Salt
  • Dried strawberries, pears, and dried apples. Just keep that in mind for a moment and I will get back to that…. 🙂
  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate- Another shelf life extender. Consumption of phosphates have been linked to osteoporosis.
  • Monocalcium Phosphate- A preservative that extends shelf life. This is another form of a phosphate.
  • Milled Corn- Most likely a GMO source.
  • Gelatin- Made from animal hooves.
  • Modified Corn Starch- A hidden form of MSG. You can read my post about MSG byclicking here.
  • Soy Lecithin- Most likley from a GMO source.
  • Modified Wheat Starch- A hidden form of MSG.
  • Red 40 & Yellow 6- The Center for Science in the Pulic Interest had this to say about Red 40 and Yellow 6:
  • “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens … Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.”
  • Carmine- Derived from ground up beetles. You can read my post about carmine by clicking here.
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor- Natural strawberry flavor maybe made from a beavers anus. You can read more about natural flavors by reading my post  by clicking here.

Wow! What a list of ingredients!!!

I was curious about the little disclaimer just below the ingredients list that reads, ” Filling made with equal to 10% fruit.”  Made with equal to 10% fruit??

So what is fruit filling actually made of?

This question prompted me to call the good people at Kellogg’s to find out.  The first customer service representative was adamant that this meant it could contain as little as 6% fruit or as much as 10% fruit depending on the actual amount of fruit inside the filling. She claimed they were allowed to label it that way based on FDA guidelines. I got off the phone …not convinced (even though she sure was). My research into the FDA yielded nothing.

I called the Kellogg company back and ask the same question. The representative that answered the phone admitted she didn’t know what it meant, and the wording did sound strange. She agreed to have a specialist call me back. I did receive a call back with in 24 hours. I was told that dried fruit (listed in the ingredient list) is equal to 2% or less, and is hydrated with water to make it equal to 10% fruit. ..that sounds more like it.

So after a long list of shelf life extenders, GMOs, ground up bugs, carcinogens, and MSG… they have the nerve to call this product,”Wild Strawberry.”  The dried fruit used to make the filling is 2% (or less)  total.  The 2% of dried fruit used isn’t all strawberry. Some of that 2% is from dried pears and dried apples.

I also inquired from the Kellogg’s company if the product was vegetarian. They said it was not because of the gelatin and carmine. I asked about the source of a natural flavor and they claimed it was proprietary information….doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Sources: Center for Science in the Public Interest, Live Strong, Mercola.

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English: Space filling model of monosodium glu...

Model of monosodium glutamate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)  is an additive that we often associate with being in American Chinese food, but did you know that  MSG is a common food additive in many of our processed foods? MSG is used by food producers to enhance food flavors. It is an inexpensive substitute  that allows food producers to skimp on real food ingredients for flavor.

MSG has been shown to cause neurological damage in lab mice, but yet it is still considered safe by the FDA to use in our food.  MSG has been found in infant formula and in baby foods such as Gerber Graduates  Lil Entree’s. You can read my post on Gerber Graduates Lil Entree’s here.

Some of the effects of MSG :

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Changes in heart rate

Some hidden forms of MSG borrowed from Truth in Labeling website:

  • Glutamic acid (E 620)
  • Glutamate (E 620)
  • Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
  • Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
  • Calcium glutamate (E 623)
  • Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
  • Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast extract, Torula yeast
  • Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Whey protein
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Soy protein
  • Soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Anything “protein”
  • Anything “protein fortified”
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Protease
  • Anything “enzyme modified”
  • Anything containing “enzymes”
  • Anything “fermented”
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto
  • Umami

The effects of MSG on the body are disturbing. Dr. Russell Blayock who wrote the book ,Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Says in his book,

“Many studies have shown that glutamate plays a major role in how the brain is formed during development. There is a programmed rise and fall in brain glutamate levels during brain formation, which occurs in humans not only during intrauterine life, but until the age of 27.

This oscillation in brain glutamate is very critical, and any disruption in glutamate levels has dire consequences. It has been shown that during pregnancy, a diet high in MSG increases the developing baby’s glutamate levels to those twice as high as the mother’s. This can significantly alter how the baby’s brain forms and functions.

Very high MSG intake (of any excitotoxin) can cause abnormal learning, addiction risk, and behavioral, emotional control, and endocrine problems later in the baby’s life.

We now know, for instance, that glutamate is the main control neurotransmitter for the hypothalamus. This section of the brain controls most of your hormones, eating behavior, temperature control, pain regulation, and sleep habits, as well as the autonomic control of your heart, GI tract, lungs, and bladder. When animals are fed MSG early in life, they develop severe abnormalities, which include a short stature, small endocrine organs (pituitary, adrenal glands, thyroid, ovaries, testes and pancreas), and a high risk of seizures and impaired learning.”

According to Mercola, food producers want to use MSG because it is cheap and it enhances the flavor of food. MSG is also a known contributing factor of obesity since the 1960’s. Whether we are consuming MSG or the hidden forms of MSG, it doesn’t matter. We don’t need it, and neither do our children.

Sources: Food Renegad, Mercola, Truth in Labeling

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Is That Apple You’re Eating Vegetarian?


Apples in stores usually look nice and shiny. That is the way we like them, but that is not the way they grow in nature. Food producers use shellac on fruits, such as apples, to make them look more appealing. The shellac that is used is made from the excretions from the Kerria Lacca insect. The Kerria Lacca insect creates an encrusted resin to cocoon itself within until it reaches maturity. Once matured,  it mates within the cocoon. This encrusted resin is scraped off of the trees and used to make shellac.

When apples are cleaned they lose any natural shine they might have had. The shine is restored by spraying them with shellac. It makes me feel reassured when I buy organic fruits. But there is a problem, even organic fruits can be sprayed with shellac, and still be considered to be organic. That just doesn’t seem right, now does it?

I never thought I would have to look at an apple and wonder if it was vegetarian or not.  The good news is, if you buy a vegetable scrubber and put some elbow grease into it, you can get rid of the shellac on your fruit.

The use of shellac doesn’t end there though, it is also found in candy that is shiny. Think of jelly beans, gum balls, and other shiny candies. That glossy shine that makes you want to eat them comes from shellac.

This is a picture i took for the Candy article.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am sure several candies come to mind when your really think about it. The best way to avoid this is to leave the artificial bug infested stuff on the shelf. Most of it is filled with high fructose corn syrup anyway. You can read my post about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup here. When looking at food labels look for ingredients such as, confectioner’s glaze, confectioner’s resin, candy glaze, resinous glaze, pure food glaze, and natural glaze. I love the last one …”natural” glaze. I suppose that this bug byproduct is natural. Food makers love to use the word natural to make us think of health.

Here is one example of a store bought candy I came across today. A friend asked me to look at the ingredients. It contains confectioner’s glaze.

Sugar Babies Candy Box Ingredients Of Sugar Babies

I can see how a processed food can contain some unsavory things, but is it really necessary for food producers to mess with our whole foods? Everyday I learn something new about the importance of knowing what is in my food.

What you can do to make a difference:

  • Don’t eat store-bought candy.
  • Wash your fruits with a little extra vigor.
  • If you are not sure if the product you are eating contains shellac, call the company and ask. They may try to give you the run around, but it is important to let them know we are reading the labels.

Sources: Gentle World, Health Magazine