I know, I know — some of these are summer «classics». I’m not saying you need totally abstain, but being aware of some of their nasty ingredients might help you curb your consumption and protect your health. Your summer (and your family’s) will be healthier if you do!
These foods contain nitrites and nitrates — two closely related chemicals used for centuries to preserve meat. Less serious symptoms include hives and itching, but once they enter your digestive system they mix with chemicals in your stomach to form nitrosamines, a carcinogenic substance linked to cancers of the pancreas, bladder and brain.
They contain aspartame — a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Known to erode intelligence and affect short term memory, this toxic sweetener is linked to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumors and diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, mental confusion and seizures. They are also addictive and interfere with our body’s satiety mechanisms — increasing cravings. Never let children have them.
They often contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), a flavor-enhancer that can affect the nervous system and make you feel hungrier than you are. MSG is also an excito-toxin and regular consumption can result in depression, disorientation and obesity. It may also trigger migraines.
To avoid it read food labels carefully. MSG is listed as: Yeast extract (yes, marmite!), gelatin, textured and hydrolyzed proteins, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate. Even packages that say «No MSG» or «No MSG Added» can sneak the substance in disguised as any of the ingredients above. Avoid fast food too.
The artificial colourings they contain to make food look more appealing can trigger hives, asthma and generalized allergic reactions. They are also linked to behavioral problems in children (ADD, ADHD) and reduced IQ. Animal studies link food colourings to cancer.
Opt for good quality artisanal ice cream that uses only natural colourings and avoids those that are artificial. On packages artificial colourings are listed as: tartrazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110), amaranth (E123), erythrosine (E127), and quinoline yellow (E104). Be aware that many sweets and soft drinks also contain these toxic chemicals.
They’re toxic. Adverse reactions include bronchial problems, asthma, flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock.
Choose red wine over rosé and white (it has less). These chemicals are listed as: sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, sulphites. Choose fresh fruit instead of dried. Dried fruit often has sulphites added. Drink fresh juices and avoid commercial ones. Be aware that vinegar may also contain sulphites. Opt for organic.
So now we’ve talked about «what not to eat», let’s focus on what we can. Knowing what foods and drinks to choose (and why) allows you to plan ahead — so you’re not tempted to make unhealthy choices that you’ll regret later. Here are some my all-time summer favorites.
Plain, unsweetened cultured yogurts offer a good source of protein and are very satisfying. Choose a brand that does not contain added sugar and aim for organic. Compared to other fruits, berries are lower in natural sugars and won’t have a drastic impact on your blood sugar levels. Berries are also a great source of antioxidants that help the body recover from stress and exercise. Perfect after a workout.
The great thing about green smoothies is that there are so many different ingredients and combinations you can use. Aim for a good green base — spinach is the easiest to use as it has a delicate, mild flavour. Herbs provide an additional green boost — parsley and coriander both work well. Banana makes the smoothie creamy and adds sweetness. Apples and pears are also great. Lemon works well to cut the grassy greens. Your base can be filtered water, coconut water or any non-dairy milk — unsweetened almond milk is my favourite. Superpower your smoothie with your choice of flaxseeds, hemp protein powder, maca powder and chia seeds. Chlorella or spirulina for an extra immune boost!
Not only sweet and luscious, almond butter is high in nutrients such as vitamin E and other protective antioxidants. Since all nuts are high in calories, many people who are watching their weight tend to avoid them. However, almonds are high in protein, fibre, and monounsaturated fats — all of which help keep you feeling fuller longer. Studies show that people who eat nuts are less likely to become overweight than those who avoid them. Almond butter goes particularly well with fresh celery sticks.
Fresh, raw vegetables provide loads of nutrients and vitamins, plus complex carbs and fibre to help fill you up. Hummus adds some protein and healthy fats to increase staying power and its creamy texture blends well with the cool crunch of raw vegetables. For a sweeter alternative, try hummus with raw apple slices. Hummus is such a nutritious and practical snack, it’s a good idea to always keep some handy in the fridge. Great with wholegrain crackers too.
Quick & Easy Hummus
2 cups chickpeas — rinsed well (usually about 1 large jar)
2 tbs. tahini
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 tsp. cumin ground powder
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp. Himalayan salt or sea salt
Put all the ingredients into the blender and slowly pulverize until a smooth consistency is reached. You might need to stop a few times and scrape down the sides and stir the mixture, add some water if it’s too thick.
Enjoy with gluten free quinoa crackers or raw chopped vegetables. Refrigerate in an air tight container and it will store for up to one week.
Try adding some roasted red peppers and shallots or a handful of coriander, parsley or fresh chilli for a variation.
Choose a nice large romaine lettuce leaf. Sometimes you can find bags of individual leaves in the salad section. Fill it with hummus. Top with chopped tomato and onion. This is a wonderfully satisfying snack that will keep you feeling light. Perfect for summer entertaining with friends!