Thursday, November 09, 2006

Junk Food

Over the last couple of months I have become more aware of what I put in my mouth and now that I am eating for two, I am even more so.

I worry sometimes when I read food labels. There are so many additives, colourings and preservatives put in foods these days that I begin to wonder what’s real or natural about it in spite of a huge label which assures you that it’s ‘100% Natural’.

Have you ever read the label on a loaf of bread? If you haven’t then I’ll enlighten you. In an innocent looking loaf of store bought bread you’ll find it contains the following:

Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt, Vinegar, Soya Flour, Vegetable Fat, Emulsifier (Mono and Diacetyltartaric Acid Esters of Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Fermented Wheat Flour, Flour Treatment Agent (Ascorbic Acid).

If that isn’t scary I don’t know what is. What the hell are all these things? All I wanted was a loaf of bread. Not a chemical time bomb! It seems that the word ‘Junk’ is not being confined to KFC or McDonalds only.

Even things that you think are fresh and natural and ‘straight off the farm’ – say for instance a head of lettuce – are not as fresh and natural as you might think. How natural can a head of lettuce be that can sit in your fridge for two weeks and still look as green and crisp as the day you bought it two weeks before? Back home (Naija), you’d be lucky if you can make a head of lettuce last for more than three days in your fridge. And anything which has a label on announcing ‘Sugar Free’ or ‘No added Sugar’ I avoid like a plague because although they don’t contain any sugar they sure contain a lot of sweeteners such as Aspartame. For information on Aspartame and pregnancy go here and for general info on Aspartame go here.

Granted, Nigeria may not have the huge variety of foods on offer (which coming to think of it may not be such a bad thing) that they have over here but one thing I must say is that the food in Naija, in my opinion, is much healthier. Most things are fresh and meals are more often than not cooked from scratch. Vegetables are (mostly) organic and most importantly, the food tastes better. I bought a mango the other day but had to put it in the bin because it tasted of nothing – absolutely no flavour to it whatsoever. And I remember when I first got here; I used to think the fresh chicken (you know the 2 for £5 ones?) was off because it had such a curious smell. It took me a long time to get over that smell, which I think is caused by the feed that the chickens are given. To this day I only eat that chicken if it has been heavily spiced.

So what alternatives do we have? Well, we could go Organic although that could work out to be quite an expensive endeavour. What I tend to do though is work out the difference between ‘normal’ food and ‘organic’ food and if the difference isn’t too much I go for the organic alternative. For example, the difference between ‘normal’ Weetabix and organic Weetabix is 50p – a difference which doesn’t break the bank. And I don’t know if it’s psychological or not, but it does taste different.

The other option is to buy your vegetables from open/farmers markets. They may not always be convenient to get to but most cities have them. I personally think the vegetables are better quality (if not organic) and far cheaper than the store bought ones.

And finally, although time consuming, cook your food from scratch. Fortunately this isn’t a problem for me as I always cooked this way back home. If you can’t stand to cook each and every day (or are too busy to do so) then cook over the weekends and stick it in the freezer (at least you know say NEPA no go strike).

So I encourage you to please be more aware of what you eat. You just might be saving your life.

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Anonymous d said...

the fatty acids aren't dangerous, they can be found in extra virgin olive oil, and it's derived from fatty oils to work as an emulsifier.

an emulsifier binds water and oils together so they don't seperate. probably an advantage when baking bread that's to be sold commercially.

the ascorbic acid is a vitamin too. i think. and is probably working as a short term preservative.

1:30 pm  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

@ d: Phew! Good to know, still scares me though.

There was talk ealier on in the year about the government wanting to make it mandatory for bread manufactures to put Folic Acid in their bread. I think that idea was shot down though. Thank goodness. I'd like to be the one to make the choice of whether or not I take a certain vitamin (e.g ascorbic acid - I think this may be Vitamin C, not sure though)and not have it surreptitiously being put into my bread (or any other food).

BTW, do you have a blog? I've tried searching for you with no success.

1:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i feel u o! am pregnant as well (11 weeks) and for the first time in my life im actually looking at the content before i buy stuff.... now i dont even know what to buy anymore, we eat so much junk and we dont even realise it! On Monday i was at the maternity ward and the consultant was talking to me about nut allergies ..... i was like wat!! What happened in the days of my grandmothers as im sure they used to eat epa. Pregnant shopping for food has now become a very planned affair for me and i take my time before i drop anything into the shopping cart. My husband isnt much help as he eats just about anything and mainly judges by how it looks on the cover! im so jealous of pregnant naija women whose bodies will be full of nutrients. well im sure we'll survive. Any tips of food shopping in bham?

5:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

preach it! we need to pay attention to what our kids are eating as well. God will help us

7:59 pm  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

@ anon: Hey, good to connect with you more so because you are pregnant as well - we can exchange tips! Do you live in B'ham too?

In terms of shopping, for vegetables and meat I tend to go to the indoor market (meat + fish) and to the outdoor market (vegetables)- the outdoor market doesn't open on mondays though.

And as you probaby know already, most of the big supermarkets stock a wide range of Organic foods. I am also exploring the possibility of having a vegetable box delivered to me once every two weeks - the vegetables are organic, you order what you want online and then your box is delievered to your doorstep. As I haven't researched it indepth, I am not certain what the cost will be. For inspiration, I am hooked on a new TV programme called The River Cottage Treatment (Channel 4, Thurdays @ 8pm) - tells you all about your food, where it comes from and most importantly whats in it.

For Naija food, I tend to go to Dudley road where there are loads of Asian shops who stock ethinic food.

Hope this helps.

9:41 am  
Blogger Marin said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

BTW, I can confirm that Ascorbic acid is indeed vitamin C. And fatty acids are derived from fats and oils, like d said.

You might be interested in reading this discussion on NVS-

5:57 pm  
Anonymous d said...

no blog, i guess i know about these things cause i make my own skin and hair care products, so i do a lot of research.

one of my good friends anita grant sells her products online.

check her out

i love reading product labels. it's my nerd thing.

10:39 pm  

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