It’s about that time for spring cleaning! If you’re organizing everything else in your life, why not also spring clean your pantry? There’s something so rewarding about this practice of de-cluttering, deep cleaning, and preparing for a fresh new season. It’s also great to take this rite of spring and apply it to our kitchen pantries, getting rid of those items that aren’t ideal for our health.
Holistic nutritionist and contributor, Kara Stout, is here with tips on how to clear out the junk to make room for the nourishing foods that will help you feel vibrant and full of energy this spring season.
I would recommend decreasing and/or avoiding foods and drinks that contain these controversial ingredients listed below. My hope is that clearing out any processed and packaged foods with these harmful ingredients will be a game-changer for you.
These food additives are listed in no particular order. You want to ideally have a limited amount of packaged and processed foods in general in your home. This list doesn’t cover every harmful ingredient. However, it’s a great place to start cleaning out your pantry.
I encourage you to continue to learn, do your research and read labels and ingredients lists. If you don’t recognize what’s in it, there’s a great chance it’s not good for you. Look for whole ingredients you actually know and can pronounce.
Schedule a day over the weekend to spring clean your pantry out of these items below:
1. Artificial Sweeteners
Although these sweeteners are without the calories of sugar, they are in no way natural. The best approach to healthy eating is consuming foods that are as close to nature as possible. These sweeteners are a combination of chemicals that can have serious short-term and long-term effects on your health, according to more and more research that is, fortunately, being provided. Research has shown that some side effects can include and are not limited to: anxiety, depression, headaches, skin conditions and rashes, disruption of our metabolism, poor sleep, and digestive problems. These sweeteners may also cause an addiction to sweet foods, which in turn can lead to overeating and weight gain. It’s just not worth the risk.
Please also know brands can be tricky in their marketing. One yogurt brand in particular states, “Aspartame-free” on the front, giving the impression that it does not contain any artificial sweeteners, however, if you read the ingredients list, it contains Acesulfame K, an artificial sweetener not too many people are familiar with. So, they sadly playoff this.
To stay in the know, here are the five artificial sweeteners currently allowed in our food products:
- Acesulfame K (or acesulfame potassium)
2. Artificial Colors
Artificial colors are typically synthetic chemicals and are often derived from coal tar. They are created in order to make a food or drink more appealing—again, not natural whatsoever. When looking at a list of ingredients, the most common toxic food dyes include blues, reds, yellows, and greens, all with a number followed after. Research has shown that many of the most common ones you see are contaminated with carcinogens. You can find artificial colors in sports drinks, cereals, juices, candy, baked goods, snack foods, yogurts, and even so-called “healthy” foods like certain salmon. They are found in children’s food and drinks, so be especially on the lookout if you’re a mama. Also, crazy enough, many artificial colors can have up to 10 parts per million of arsenic and lead.
3. High-Fructose Corn Syrup
You’re probably already aware of the issues with HFCS. However, I still wanted to include it on this list just in case. High-fructose corn syrup contains a very large amount of fructose and sugar and has been linked to increased risk of cancer, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. It can also lead to weight gain and increased consumption of sugar. It has chemical toxins and contaminants that can be dangerous to our health, and research studies have found mercury in some samples. Additionally, some studies have shown that hyperactivity in children could possibly be due to HFCS and general sugars, as well.
You need to be on the lookout for this ingredient, especially in “healthy” items. And I say this because this is an ingredient most people are still unfamiliar with. It is a pretty common food additive, but it provides no nutritional value. And remember, we are going for nutritional value up in here!
It’s often used as a thickener, and you can find it in certain yogurts, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, ice cream, baby formula, and cottage cheese, to name a few. Studies have shown that this food additive can lead to inflammation, and chronic inflammation can trigger serious diseases and conditions, including digestive problems, heart disease, and cancer. It can also negatively affect our immune systems.
5. Partially Hydrogenated Oils
This right here is one you have to especially make sure and read the ingredients list, and here’s why: food companies can state 0 grams of trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label and still have trans fat in the product if it’s less than .5 grams of per serving. Not cool. But, here’s what you can do. Make sure to read the ingredients list, and if you see the words “partially hydrogenated [oil],” there are trans fats in the food.
Trans fats are the worst fats out there. They increase LDL “bad” cholesterol and lower HDL “good” cholesterol and are associated with weight gain, heart disease, breast and colon cancer, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and increased cholesterol. It can also cause you to overeat.
You can find trans fats in fast food and many processed and packaged foods, so make sure to go through your pantry and read through the ingredients lists.
6. Sodium nitrate and nitrite
While not exactly in your pantry, I still wanted to include these on this list for you to clean out of your fridge. You can find these preservatives added to processed meat products. They are used to add flavor and increase the red color. Unfortunately, these can convert into nitrosamines in the stomach, which are cancer-causing agents. Some side effects are dizziness, vomiting, headaches, digestive issues, and damage to your blood.
I would suggest when purchasing meat, opt for organic, grass-fed meats and, if packaged, look for those that state sodium nitrate- and sodium nitrite-free.
7. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
You, I’m sure, have seen the non-GMO hype, but it’s for great reason. These are plants or animals that have had their DNA modified. Most of the soybean and corn crops are currently genetically modified, and these are found in a large majority of the processed food found in the U.S. Studies are showing GMOs may affect our immune systems, digestion, and overall health, along with infertility. They are also harmful to our environment, polluting our water and harming animals.
8. Refined Sugar
I included this last for a reason. I do recommend limiting and reducing your refined sugar intake. However, I’m an advocate for a sweet treat every now and again, especially while on vacation or out with friends! But a good tip would be to try and limit the amount of sugar you have in your home.
According to the American Heart Association, women shouldn’t consume more than 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day. And stats show that on average, Americans are consuming 142 pounds of sugar per person per year. Check all your processed foods and drinks to see the amount of sugar included. Sugar creeps in everywhere, and too much sugar can be detrimental to your health. It can suppress the immune system, interfere with the absorption of minerals, cause headaches, and can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, depression, certain cancers, and accelerated aging.
After you’ve spring cleaned your pantry, it’s time to add in those healthy, nourishing foods.
If you’d like some guidance on this, I’ve got you covered with the article I wrote sharing my Go-To Grocery List!