“Eating Clean” – Processed meats and food additives

food-additives

Avoid all processed foods wherever “practically” possible

“Eating clean”can mean different things to different people. To me it means eating fresh, unprocessed, natural foods. However, I live in the real world and, short of setting up my own organic pig farm, I accept that some compromises will have to be made..  

“Acceptable Risk”

We must all accept that there is risk in life. Whether it’s crossing the road, taking a flight to go on holiday or simply choosing what foods to put in your mouth, we are constantly making instinctive risk assessments and judgments. Unless you choose to wrap yourself up in cotton-wool, and stay indoors 24/7, that overall level of risk can never be zero. It is therefore down to the individual to determine what level of risk they are prepared to tolerate in order to a) function on a daily basis and b) live a happy, healthy, fulfilling and rewarding life.

When it comes to health risks and the food that I eat, I always look carefully at food packaging and read the labels. If there is an ingredient that I don’t fully understand, I will find out about it and WILL NOT consume anything that I don’t fully understand. I accept that when I’m away from home, I may be consuming some foods for which I have no information at all. Since this is the exception rather than the rule, this qualifies as an “acceptable risk” as far as I’m concerned, and well within the bounds of “common sense”.

My risk assessment is based on the following simple premise: ingredients/ food items that form the largest part of my diet deserve the closest attention, since eating more of something on a regular basis that contains additives/ preservatives will naturally increase your overall risk. Hence, applying this logic, and having looked carefully at ALL the food that I eat on a regular basis, I have determined that the 2 greatest risk items in my diet are bacon and coconut cream. Just about everything else I consume AT HOME is additive/ preservative free or is consumed in such small amounts as to be considered negligible risk. So let’s look at these 2 items in more detail..

Coconut Cream

This is something I consume regularly with berries and nuts, as well as other desserts. Surprisingly, this contains the stabilizers E407, E412 & E415. Unsurprisingly these are gums, incorporated to prevent the product from “breaking up” i.e. maintains a uniform texture. From what I can find, there is little or no health risks associated with these.

Bacon

Regular readers of this blog will know that bacon is one of my biggest staples, principally for breakfast. The bacon that I buy is no different from most other commercially available bacon in that it contains nitrates, added during the curing process and a known carcinogenic risk factor. So, why don’t I buy nitrate-free bacon I hear you all ask? Believe me, I’ve tried to find it, but here in the Nordics at least, it’s virtually impossible to find without breaking the bank! Hence, I have to compromise: My bacon consumption over the last few years has fallen anyway, in line with falling weight and constantly improving ketogenics. Hence, I’m now down to only 3-4 rashers/ day which is in “acceptable risk” territory. In short, the perceived benefits of eating bacon in these amounts now outweigh the perceived risks as far as I’m concerned. I also avoid burning the bacon or any other food that I prepare, since this is also carcinogenic.

Conclusions

Here is my advice regarding food additives, preservatives & processed meats:

  • Read ALL labels for the food that you buy for domestic consumption, in particular any “bulk” staples. Research & understand what they mean. If you don’t understand, don’t buy it!
  • When away from home, don’t get too hung up about things you are unsure of since they tend not to be a staple part of your diet, or at least shouldn’t be!
  • Reduce processed meats to levels that leave you satiated, no more, no less.
  • If you can get unprocessed meats at affordable prices then fill your boots!
  • Don’t burn your food.
  • In general, try to avoid all other foods, foodstuffs and additives that may lead to or are associated with inflammation, see here.. 
  • Finally, the worlds oldest woman who died recently, credited her longevity to a diet of bacon & eggs. If it was good enough for her, it’s good enough for me! Link to article..
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