Food companies are getting smarter with their packaging, adding millennial and women targeted customers to their lineup. With the rise of misleading food labels if it looks “green” and “healthy” chances are we are more likely to buy it. Greenwashing is as much as a psychological component as it is physical. Design is everything and lately, the design of the exterior is getting a lot more attention and effort than the design of the actual ingredients.
How to Separate the Green From the $reen.
This does not mean what I think you think it means. (The Princess Bride reference here!) Natural just means it contains a natural source, not in fact that it is ENTIRELY natural.
Show me the USDA Organic Label! Certified organic prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering but certainly does not mean your eggs are cage-free playing in a field of dreams.
Smaller farming communities often cannot pay to become certified and still follow all the rules we as consumers want from the marketing and thought process that has been pushed on us that organic is always better. Think again, Sally!
It’s okay to seek out local and sustainable farming communities and get to know how they grow and process their crops.
Calorie and fat reduction usually happen at the cost of adding more sugar or salt for taste.
This just means multiple grains…which are probably refined unless it says Whole Grain! #Greenwashed:(
These foods are typically watered down versions of the original. Guaranteed a whole bunch of extra has been added to make it “light”.
Nutrients have been added which in itself is not a bad thing. In developing countries, Vitamins are added to rice to aid in nutrient distribution in less fortunate environments and can save lives. In the US, that can mean it’s been processed and nutrient depleted from the beginning.
This is one of the worst ones nowadays. It may be gluten-free but soy, unhealthy fats, and extra sugars might have been added. I once picked up a gluten-free bread that contained corn. I love corn… organic nonGMO corn, but not in bread.
No High Fructose Corn Syrup
This is the truth they have no high fructose corn syrup in this product but turn it over and you might see a fruit juice with added sugar instead. Back to my point of why natural sweet products need added sugar for “taste”!?
No Artificial Sweeteners
Also true packaging, but that still doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Check all the ingredients to double double-check.
Less than Green Ingredients Found in Food
Sounds harmless enough right? Think again. Derived from the palm fruit from the African Oil Palm Tree this harmful oil is usually found in snacks from chips to nuts. The worst part of palm oil is not in consumption but it in the effects it has had environmentally, globally, and humanely.
Palm Oil has been the subject of many animal, environmental, and human rights regulations with links to deforestation and driving orangutans and other endangered species like tigers and rhinos into extinction. It is incredibly hard to track the sustainability of this large profit oil venture but even worse out of the over 3 million palm oil workers thousands have been found to be children taken through child trafficking or family debt bondage.
I don’t buy products with Palm Oil because I like rainforests and children and I know real change starts with affecting the money system. Aside from all of Palm Oil’s less than honorable dealings, it’s also just not good for you.
Palm Oil is a trans fat that can spike your cholesterol levels. No thanks.
Made from the guar bean, guar gum is all too frequently found in green or natural products as a preservative. As preservatives go, it’s the lesser evil to corn starch or locust bean gum, probably to keep costs down but unfortunately, the health detriments fall to the consumer.
Guar gum is used to thicken, emulsify or stabilize the texture of foods. While it is low in calories and high in fiber, guar gum can cause digestive issues and that pesky old leaky gut. Absorbing large amounts of liquid in the digestive system, it can throw off the natural balance of your gut bacteria and create blockages in the intestines. If you are on any inflammation diet best to stay away.
There is some knowledge that says guar gum might be beneficial for balancing cholesterol and blood sugar levels but with the above knowledge, I would probably find another more friendly source to do the same job.
*Another similar one to avoid …xantham gum. (Although many debate this ingredient as well)
Also known as Sodium Nitrite, these compounds show up in lunch meat and processed meats a bunch, functioning as preservatives to prevent your meat from turning brown. While the science isn’t clear on whether or not they cause cancer the debate goes on as to the necessity of usage. Nitrites are typically found in processed foods which usually have little to no nutritional value and can cause inflammation among other health-related issues.
The research shows nitrites can be linked to Alzheimers and diabetes while affecting brain and insulin health as well as a link in causing pancreatic cancer.
The main reasoning for avoiding nitrites is their ability to inhibit oxygen transportation which affects your cells, which then affect your blood, which affects your circulation, which then affects your overall and highly important health. If you have any auto-immune issues, getting oxygen to your cells so they can remember how to function properly is a huge concern.
But it comes from the rocks of the Irish coast! Carrageenan is a highly purified form of a compound found in Algae (Irish moss). The issue is it might have been contaminated due to growing in heavy metal contaminated waters. Both synthetic and bioengineered carrageenan may still have some heavy metal residue. There is also talk about digestive problems- oops no thanks.
Nonnutritive sweetener and sugar alcohols
First of all, nothing needs added sugar unless you are baking a cake and using organic sugar or molasses and I’m getting a piece… then fine. Fruit already has natural sugar so adding extra sugar to juice for taste is insane to me. We have become a society who has aestheticized to their taste buds. Food tastes good in its natural state or with limited ingredients.
Sucralose, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, fructose, and inulin all raise a flag. It is not so much what they are but how they are used. Because often times these “sugars” are used in large quantities of everything we eat our body cannot process them. It’s harder to metabolize these substitutes and can cause a number of gut and digestive issues. Nonnutritive sugars have no value and are linked to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. We just don’t need them folks and definitely not in the capacity they are used.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener and sugar substitute often sold under the brand name Splenda. Often appearing in baked goods this substitute is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
I am not on the no sugar ever train, unless you are on the AUP diet or an inflammation diet, but use sense and science and enjoy in moderation. Typically moderation means you make it yourself so you can control your ingredients.
Another preservative to avoid. Jellies, jams, and soda are all foods that contain sodium benzoate. After ingesting, your kidneys and liver rapidly absorb and metabolize this preservative which is then secreted by the kidneys. They have been known to trigger allergic reactions and hyperactivity.
Sulfates are mineral salts containing sulfur.
Take note sulfates are naturally present in safe levels in many foods we eat so in the whole they are not necessarily “bad” but some people do report allergies or irritation because of them in byproducts. Foods such as peanuts, eggs, vinegar and other fermented foods, black tea, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, garlic, onions, chives, leeks, and cabbage all contain naturally occurring sulfates.
Sulfites have a similar argument as sulfates. Everyone sit down for this, but naturally occurring sulfates are found in all wine…and beer and cheese. That is not to say people are not sensitive to them. Sulfites occur as natural part of the fermentation process to protect glorious wine from certain yeast and bacteria that will destroy wine. Ah, our savior!
Well not really though because in 1986 the FDA classified sulfites as an allergen so unless they are at super low levels naturally, sorry sulfites but you are also definitely not on the “green” list.
What you consume is as personal as what you buy friends.
No F*$@ing way! So that’s obviously my stance on artificial and synthetic food coloring.
Food coloring has been pretty clearly linked with hyperactivity and allergic reactions even cancer and tumors make this list.
Blue # 1 and #2, Yellow #5 and #6, Red # 40, etc are all synonymous with sugary, processed, unhealthy vegetable oil-based products so it’s a good base meter to know what to leave on the shelf if they contain any of these colors.
Eat organic as much as possible and pick up an activated carbon or nano-filtration water filter or system.
Soy is somewhat tricky as it affects some and not others. Pick up any 5 products in the grocery aisle and I bet 4 out of 5 would contain soy. Needless to say, it is in everything and is definitely considered a mono-crop. Monocrops grow in the same place, year after year.
Most crops will take replenish vitamins and nutrients from and to the soil but soy is a taker and not a giver like every bad relationship we’ve all been in. Soil erosion and soil health are a problem here and while most farmers and crops will rest soil in an effort to replete the nutrients, soy can’t rest when it’s sole job is to continue making money for mass ingredient distribution.
Soy is eaten and enjoyed all over the world in moderation but the US has really messed with the quality and nutritive value of what was once a wonderful healthy option for many. Make no mistake the US primarily grows corn and soy. I have traveled our country extensively and I was shocked. It is easy and cheap to grow and therefore is a viable option for a non-agriculturally based society. Not to mention they are also riddled with pesticides and then fed to farm raised animals as another cheap feed alternative.
I rarely eat soy but I am also not 100% against organic soy.
Potassium Sorbate is a polyunsaturated fat that is commonly used as a food preservative. There is a large synthetic production machine that brings these into your food to prevent bacteria and mold.
When used externally it may cause an allergic reaction but is typically regarded as safe and non-toxic.
Ingredients that Sound Bad but are Okay-ish
There are two sides to the wax fence and really, in my opinion, comes down to how you use it. Native to Brazil, carnauba wax is harvested from the palm leaves of the Copernican prunifera. The wax which is beaten off the leaves falls off in flakes. Carnauba wax is safe when ingested in its natural form but can cause irritation when used for mascara and eyeliners.
Unlike Palm Oil, only 20 leaves are removed per tree to sustain the trees and their ability to grow. I personally haven’t had any irritation so for me this is a green go.
Potassium Sorbate is a polyunsaturated fat that is commonly used as a food preservative. There is a large synthetic production that can make its way into your food to prevent bacteria and mold.
When used externally it may cause an allergic reaction but is typically regarded as safe and non-toxic.
How To Make Sure My Wellness Buy isn’t Greenwashed.
1. Turn the item over.
The front is meant to draw you in because most people don’t make it to the back or side. Do not get tricked by the colorful flowers.
2. Check the order of ingredients
This is the golden rule of ingredient checking: Whatever ingredient is first, has the largest quantities in the product. That doesn’t mean that the most nutritive ingredients are the largest it just means they are somewhere in there.. even .01% worth.
3. Read the packaging.
Trust no one. I’m not even kidding I read the packaging on everything. I’m not obsessed I just don’t want certain in things my products because I’m sensitive to them or I know they are harmful. I don’t necessarily fault companies who sub-natural ingredients for harmful chemicals because this is an economic landscape where money is meant to be made and this is America. And thanks to my American education- I read everything.
4. Know what to avoid.
Reread the above list and make your choices. If you are on a health special diet of any kind it’s usually best to avoid all preservatives because that will usually keep you away from processed and nonnutritive foods.
5. Check serving size.
Serving size is not the same as portion size. Serving makes the product look healthier, portion size makes you unhealthy.
6. Ask yourself if you would feed this to or put on your baby.
Sounds crazy but if it isn’t pure enough for a perfect baby then it’s probably not pure enough for me.
We are all making efforts to become a little more holistic in our households but with that comes the responsibility of making sure we aren’t being greenwashed. We must be diligent in making sure that we are not only putting the best ingredients in our bodies and our families bodies but that we aren’t getting swept up by gorgeous wellness product design that is anything but.
Check out my post on beauty greenwashing to make sure your beauty products are as green as the packaging suggests!green beauty products!