Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reading Labels - a Necessity for Health

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

If you have a sense that it is not as easy to achieve or maintain health today as it was even 10 years ago you are correct. The number of factors affecting health is increasing on a daily basis.

As a naturopathic practitioner I have found one of the most consistent and annoying factors is food. There are just so many variables that come into play - organic versus non-organic, the "hidden" aspect of genetically modified food, the pesticides and herbicides and antibiotics used on  or added to food, food allergies and sensitivities, and the chemicals and additives used in the preparation of food.

Many of the food factors are difficult to deduce unless you are inclined to do a lot of research, which can be a worthwhile and eye-opening exercise, but is not practical while shopping. Reading labels on everything you buy is an easy way to identify and eliminate the chemicals, preservatives, additives and fillers that are added to food. Any food that comes in a box or package is going to include some of these. Getting into the habit of reading the ingredient list of all food is an essential part of achieving and maintaining health.

Food labels include the calories, fat, protein and sugar content as well as key electrolytes such as salt or potassium. This is important information especially if you are managing diabetes, cholesterol, weight or other health issues. What is equally, or even more important, is the ingredient list. The ingredient list is what conveys what has been added to the food. You will be surprised how much of the "food" that is sold on store shelves are actually "chemical cocktails" that contain additives and fillers that negate the health benefits of the "real food". For information on the health impact of food additives and colourings check out the these links:


Often when people are "doing the right things" like avoiding food sensitivities such as dairy and wheat, they are actually substituting foods that have a lot of chemicals and additives.  There is growing concern that many chronic health complaints are associated more with the additives and fillers than they are with actual food sensitivities. For example, there is a link between food colourings and ADD/ADHD behaviour.  The website for genetically modified food looks at the link between genetically modified foods, such as soy and corn, and the rise in gluten sensitivity. Some individuals with a gluten sensitivity find that by cutting out genetically modified foods they are able to handle wheat and other food sensitivities improve.

I encourage you to adopt a "Label-Free Diet" for awhile and get a sense of how your body responds when it  is fed only "real" food. At a minimum you want to avoid the following:
  • soy lecithin
  • carrageenan
  • xantham gum
  • MSG
  • nitrates
  • sulfites
  • all food colourings
For more information on this topic contact our clinic at 905-940-2727 and talk to one of our naturopathic doctors who can guide you to health.