The deal with corn

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One of my favorite Food Rules from Michael Pollan’s latest book is “Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.” Now how could anyone argue the fact that that rule just makes sense? I am trying to remember why I ever even thought it was okay to feed my kids (and my husband and myself) foods that contained things like maltodextrin, cellulose, ethoxylated diglycerides, and polydextrose. Oh yeah, I remember how that happened…because I wasn’t even reading the ingredients to know this random stuff was in there! At least it is never too late to change.

corn field

One of the most disturbing things about all of these food additives is that a great deal of them are derived from corn (and if it’s not corn, then it’s probably soybeans). Corn is perfectly fine to eat as a whole food or even a whole grain, but food scientists are tasked with coming up with other purposes for this overproduced, highly subsidized, cheap grain. According to the movie Food, Inc.  “30% of the U.S. land base is used to grow corn” since thanks to our government policy, farmers are paid with our tax dollars to overproduce corn. So scientists sit in their labs and use corn to come up with highly refined food additives that according to Pollan will “extend shelf life, make old food look fresher and more appetizing than it really is, and get you to eat more.” Is this making you hungry yet?

Just think about this quote the next time you consider eating from a fast food restaurant like McDonalds. According to Pollan:

“Corn is the sweetener in the soda. It’s in the corn-fed beef Big Mac patty, and in the high-fructose syrup in the bun, and in the secret sauce…The chicken nugget—including feed for the chicken, fillers, binders, coating, and dipping sauce—is all corn. The french fries are made from potatoes, but odds are they’re fried in corn oil, the source of 50 percent of their calories. Even the salads at McDonald’s are full of high-fructose corn syrup and thickeners made from corn.”

So if you typically eat foods out of boxes, bags, and packages you may want to browse this list of food additives and products that are all made from corn. Oh, and this is just the short list…there are many more that I didn’t even take the time to include.

  • Cellulose
  • Xylitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Alpha Tocopherol
  • Calcium Stearate
  • Ethyl Lactate
  • Saccharin
  • White vinegar
  • Polydextrose
  • Ethylene
  • Sucrose
  • Gluten
  • Baking powder
  • Sorbital
  • Xanthan gum
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Fumaric acid
  • Vanilla extract
  • Citric acid
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Di-glycerides
  • Margarine
  • Fructose
  • Starch

“Whether or not any of these additives pose a proven hazard to your health, many of them haven’t been eaten by humans for very long, so they are best avoided” says Pollan. The moral of the story is that you should be able to understand and pronounce the names of the ingredients in the food that you put into your body! It is that simple.

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