Nov 5, 2014

Tzatziki Sauce

This is a basic Greek sauce used for gyro/pita sandwiches. It also tastes great on fish or for a salad dressing.
  1. Peel and cut cucumbers in half and de-seed (unless using long skinny English cucumbers which are fine with peel and don't have big seeds). 
  2. Then shred and squeeze out excess water. Add salt and let sit for at least a half hour to keep getting the excess water out. Frequently squeeze and drain--or it will be runny.
  3. Then add sour cream/yogurt and a dash of garlic powder. I usually do about about 1 cucumber per cup (so 2 total). But more or less if fine. Add a dash or olive oil if desired.
  4. Optional to add dill at the end.

Oct 9, 2014

Whole Grain Blender Pancakes

Charise sent me this recipe and her tips for it awhile back, and I thought I'd post it. I've made it many times with adjustments, so I've put in my changes on this recipe. If you want to exact original you can ask her for it.
It uses soaked grains...just soak over night (for easier digestion) and then you can make them in the morning. (see hint at end about freezing it)
1 c whole wheat (spelt or kamut)
1/2 c flour
1 c milk (I use water and a tablespoon of yogurt)
2 tsp. baking powder 
2 eggs
2-3 T oil (melted butter or melted coconut oil)
1/2 c buttermilk (I just use water until desired consistency)
1 tsp. salt
2 T sweetener (rapadura or honey)
1. Rinse, and soak 1 cup of whole wheat kernels in purified water with 1 T of plain yogurt, buttermilk or kefir (lemon juice or acv also work) for at least 12 hours (I do a full day) on the counter.  
2. Rinse again before putting into the blender.
Next day:
3. Blend soaked whole grains, flour, milk on high speed for 5 minutes.  
4. While blending, add eggs, oil, buttermilk, salt and sweetener.  
5. Add baking powder in last minute.
6. Cook on a hot greased griddle till bubbles form then flip to cook the other side.  

Makes 18-20 pancakes. (If doubled...I use three eggs, not four.)

Hint:  I like to add a little whole grains at the last minute so they don't quite blend fully to add some texture to the pancakes.  If you want the batter more thick, add more flour but this consistency works great for us.  We double the recipe for 8 people.

Also.... First I rinse the grains, then soak about 10 cups of mixed grains (kamut or spelt and barley and oats) in a large bowl with 5 T of Kefir or yogurt for 24-48 hours.  Then, I rinse the grains again.  I then put 2 cups in each zip-lock bag and put in the freezer so they are ready to put in my blender pancake recipe.  It works out great because you are locking in the nutrients and the pancakes are somewhat sourdough but not exposed to the heat of dehydration after the soaking process and you don't have to have a sourdough start.  It is also very easy to dump in all ingredients into the blender!  
from Charise

Sep 18, 2014

Easy Healthful Muffins

These muffins are great because they are easy and versatile and have no white flour or gluten flours as well as no dairy or sweeteners, besides fruit.

1 1/3 c Oat Flour (rolled oats ground in blender)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 c applesauce (optional)
2 bananas (or 1 1/2 plus a little water)
1/4-1/2 c walnuts
Handful raisins
A few tablespoons of ground flax, optional

1. Mix wet ingredients in one bowl and dry in another bowl.
2. Combine wet and dry and bake in greased muffin tin at 350 degrees for 25 or so minutes.
(We do 30 minutes at 325 for our little convection oven)

I've done lots of variations of these and they work great:
Apple craisin (shredded apple, sub craisin for raisin)
Pumpkin chocolate chip (pumpkin in place of applesauce) add a little maple syrup

Jul 26, 2014

Chia Breakfast Pudding

If you want a quick, power-packed breakfast, this simple pudding allows for lots of variation.

2 T Chia seed
1 cup liquid (we like milk or a milk alternative)
2 T chopped nuts and seeds (we keep a container of chopped nuts in the fridge and grind flax)
1 T maple syrup or other sweetener (I try to use extra fruits so i don't need this, or stevia, but it tastes best with maple)
Handful of fruits (I love blueberries or raspberries and grapes, plus shredded coconut)
Optional toppings (we use wheat germ, wheat grass or alfalfa powder as a multivitamin alternative)

Just put all together and let sit five minutes for the chia seeds to thicken the milk into a pudding. 
You can make this the night before, but it is so fast and easy there isn't really a need. Although some people soak their oats the night before and then put the chia in the morning to make their oatmeal (hot or cold). So you could try that.

Jul 17, 2014

Bohemian Medley - Cereal

We love to eat this because it's so light and healthy. It's not a hard fast recipe, but flexible. And It is our cereal replacement.

grated apple
chopped nuts
seeds (optional...we just add a little ground flax or something)
granola (optional: or sweetened, cooked quinoa)
berries (raspberries are my favorite)
applesauce (optional)

My husband likes this without applesauce, but I think it's a little dry without it. But he loves granola.
You don't need granola. I typically don't add it in. The nuts and shredded apple make this.
If I do add cooked quinoa, I put in maple syrup. And I process the chopped nuts one day and keep them in a pourable container in my fridge for that week.

It'a also nice that different family members mix in however much they want of each into their own a build you own cereal. I don't know why we call it Bohemian Medley...we just made it up because someone once called our kitchen table style bohemian-ish.

Jul 9, 2014

Fruit Slushy

3/4 c. water
1 lemon, peeled and quartered
1 t. lemon zest (I don't always use this)
1/4 tsp. stevia (or 1/4 c sweetener of choice)
2 c. ice cubes

This tastes like a lemonade slushy. If you swap out some ice for frozen strawberries, it tastes like strawberry lemonade slushy. It may get thick. 
Also, you can swap out the lemon for watermelon instead....or try other variations.

Jun 26, 2014

Blueberry Quinoa salad

3 c. Cooked quinoa, cooled
2 c. fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (pecans or almonds)
1/4 c. shredded coconut
1 T. chia or poppy seeds

4 Tbs. pure maple syrup, raw honey, or raw organic agave
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (or lemon)
salt to taste

1. Make the sauce in a little bowl and set aside.
2. Place remaining ingredients in a big bowl.
3. Combine sauce with remaining ingredients in large bowl and chill until ready to eat. 

* from

Blueberry Muffins (gluten free)

These are some yummy gluten free muffins that are easy.

  • ½ c milk (or coconut milk or almond milk, etc.)
  • 1 T raw apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ c brown rice flour
  • ¾ c oat flour (or other gluten free flours: quinoa, buckwheat, etc)
  • ½ c almond flour
  • 1tsp. baking powder
  • 1tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ⅓ c raw honey
  • ⅓ c pure maple syrup
  • ¼ c coconut oil, softened
  • 1 c frozen blueberries
  • Zest of 1 lemon (or 1tsp lemon juice)
  1. In a small bowl add the milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl. 
  3. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Mix the wet and dry together until incorporated.
  5. Add the blueberries.
  6. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake 18-20 minutes at 350.

*Original recipe from Tammie Duggar

May 29, 2014

Egg Dish Differences 101

I keep coming across the question: "what is the difference between a strata, quiche, frittata, etc.?"

So, I did a little research, and here goes....

First you have your basic scrambled eggs and then you can graduate to an omelette you fold and such. But then you can get fancier yet with all those eggs....

Quiche: French savory pastry, so this involves some sort of a pie crust. Eggs, and whatever else on top and is baked in the oven.

Frittata: Italian casserole which can have eggs, meat, noodles, cheese, etc. and normally cooked on a stove top, but doesn't have to be.

Strata: American layered casserole typically with milk, cheese, meat, bread or potatoes maybe, etc.

So, hopefully that helps in correctly labeling your recipes. I know I need to go back through mine now and change one or two.

Happy egg eating!

May 10, 2014

Pad Thai-ish Noodles

We have these with our Thai lettuce wraps and it makes a great combo.

Brown rice noodles
Green onions
Snow peas (opt)
Peanuts, crushed
Cilantro (opt)

Peanut sauce: estimated, adjust to preference
1/3 c Peanut butter
3 T Rice vinegar
1 t Soy sauce
1T Sweet chili sauce

1. Cook noodles
2. Make sauce
3. Cook chicken and cover in sauce.
4. Put chicken/sauce over the noodles
5. Add snow peas, cilantro, green onions. And top with crushed nuts.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

Endless variations abound for lettuce wraps, but this is the most recent version I have been enjoying.

Lettuce leaves
Mandarin slices
Water chestnuts
Green onions
Almonds, sliced
Cilantro (optional)
Brown rices noodles (optional)

Peanut butter
Rice vinegar
Soy sauce alt.
Sweet chili sauce

1. Make noodles ahead of time if desired and have with sauce, topped with peanuts, chicken and  green onions. Or use in wraps.
2. To make the sauce, add 1/4c peanut butter into a small bowl.  use a dash of each...rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili sauce and then water to start thinning. Adjust to taste.
3. Place lettuce leaves on plate and top with wrap ingredients. Then drizzle sauce over top as a light dressing.

Apr 26, 2014

New Food Adventures: Lemon

I never bought fresh lemons. In fact, I never liked them growing up!
I lived off lemon juice from concentrate, if I ever needed it. But once I learned how awesome lemons are as digestive aids and liver cleansers, not to mention they have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, I buy a bag every month!

So what do I do with all those lemons?
  • Drink lemon water daily to kick start digestive health and boost immune system
  • Zest and dry to save for toppings or lemon flavoring
  • Slice and freeze for ready to go water flavor enhances (or keep in water all day/change daily)
  • Make your own lemon infused cleaner
  • Get out stains/natural bleach alternative
  • Disinfect cutting board
  • Homemade salad dressings, use lemon in place of part or all vinegar
  • Squeeze a little lemon on sauteed greens (or broccoli) to cut through bitter flavor
  • Put slices of lemon in pan under fish to help cut the fishy taste during cooking (or squeeze over after)
  • homemade lemonade (just add some sweetener and water)

*Feel free to comment on other things you've used lemons for.

You can also do many of these with lime. Cooking rice in lime juice and adding cilantro is yummy.

Breakfast Pepper Cups

This is a fancy way to eat an egg. You would get the same taste and flavor via omelette or scrambled eggs. But it is fun, especially to change up things for a holiday or so. Bell

Peppers, cut in half
1 egg for each half pepper
precooked breakfast bacon or sausage
veggies of choice
1. Bake pepper halves open side up in oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes.
2. Sautee veggies if desired (onion, garlic, zucchini, etc.)
3. Place pepper halves in casserole dish and add the veggies and meat to each pepper half and top with one egg, salt and pepper.
4. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes or so (or until set).
*I like to cut mine in strip when I'm done and eat them like wedges. Could do a breakfast wedge platter I think, with a bowl of fruit salad on the side. kids didn't eat the pepper, just the egg out of it. So...choose your battles (breakfast battles aren't a good way for me to start the day. so, this is a meal for me.)
*I also precook a big batch of breakfast sausage and keep small portions containered in our freezer for this and quiche and such.

Original idea from

Quinoa Pizza Bites

2 c quinoa, cooked and cooled (we like cooking it in chicken broth)
2 eggs
2 cups chopped pizza toppings (pepperoni, black olives, pineapple, ham, onions, sausage, peppers, etc.)
1/2+ cup cheese, shredded mozarella (or blend)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Pizza sauce, for dipping

1. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl (without dipping sauce)
2. Fill greased mini muffin pan with large spoonful in each.
3. Bake at 350 for 12-20 minutes until fully cooked.

I looked at a few different recipes and just put this basic one together. It's similar to most.We love just simple pepperoni, cheese and maybe with olives or something. Nothing too crazy. I also tried putting pizza sauce in the pans instead of greasing it. It worked ok, but seemed more a waste than a help.

The variations of this are endless. We also like Mexican with black beans and corn and salsa/taco sauce. And you can do larger sized in regular muffin cup if you cook for 30 minutes. But we like the small ones. You can also make huge batches and freeze. Or are great for a party appetizer.

Feb 6, 2014

Genetically Modified Foods

There are many foods that have been changed at their genetic level. However, more research is starting to show the problems this causes in unexpected ways. Take for example Wheat, which started as Einkorn thousands of years ago with only 14 chromosomes and very little gluten at all. Which then became Emmer, with 28 chromosomes. And onto Spelt and Kamut.....and now today's wheat has 42 chromosomes! Not to mention so much gluten that some digestive systems just can't handle it now.

Today's health battle isn't just what food categories we should in and in what balance. But the real question is what quality of food should we eat. Definitely not genetically modified! Who knows the future consequence to our bodies of foods that have been structurally changed.

Map of countries allowing GMOs
But If you'd like a more specific article with some main points....
  • The four primary GM foods are soy, corn, canola, and sugar beets.  Derivatives of these foods are present in over 70 percent of food in the grocery store. The main reason the plants are genetically modified is so they can handle higher amounts of herbicide.  Bacterial genes are inserted that allow them to survive doses of herbicide that would otherwise kill them.
  • Digestive disorders Laboratory animals fed GM foods developed stomach lesions, intestinal damage, and proliferative cell growth in the walls of the stomach and intestines.
  • Unbalanced intestinal bacteria The good bacteria living in our digestive tracts is helpful for digestion and immunity.  Excessive herbicide residues on GM crops may destroy beneficial intestinal flora.  
  • Compromised immunity Animal studies with GM foods show delayed immune responses and inflammatory and immune reactions.
  • Allergies Soon after GM soy products were introduced in the UK, soy allergies increased by 50 percent.  
  • Liver problems The liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ.  Mice and rats fed GM food had significant changes in their livers. In some, livers were smaller and partially atrophied. 
  • Reproductive problems and infant mortality

Sometimes is is difficult to tell with all the labels and marketing ploys. are some to be aware of....

And this is a pervasive problem.

Feb 5, 2014

Yogurt Oat Muffins

This is a super simple recipes and doesn't require flour...just oats.

2 1/2 c. rolled Oats
1 c. yogurt
2 eggs
1/2 c. sweetener of choice
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c blueberries (or other berries)
1  tsp lemon juice, optional (1/4 lemon, squeezed)

1. Just place all in blender until mixed.
2. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 
(I like the mini muffin tins and cook for a little less)

Baked Soaked Apple Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup yogurt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 T butter, melted (for greasing pan)
1 apple, cored and shredded

1. Combine oats, water and yogurt in a bowl and cover with a towel. Leave on the counter overnight.
2. In the morning, drain excess liquid from soaked oats.
3. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another bowl.
4. Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients into the soaked oats. 
5. Spread in greased pan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the oatmeal is golden brown on top and set. Serve warm with fresh raspberries or blueberries.

From Nourishing Traditions Book, by Sally Fallon

Jan 23, 2014

Sample Week Menu Plan

Here are some of my favorites placed in a week format, so you have a sample eating well plan (assuming not using processed foods/versions...)

Every day
Typically I drink lemon water as soon as I wake up, to kick start my digestive system at least 30 minutes before eating. And after dinner I sneak in some dark chocolate or a few dates or prunes. Otherwise, below are other full meal and snack ideas for a healthy week.
Beakfast: quiche (start crockpot chicken--leftovers to be use other meals)
Lunch: tuna salad
Snack: apple slices, rice cakes, granola bar
Dinner: whole chicken, 1/2 mashed potatoes (red with peel, water, butter, salt and garlic), broccoli (braised with splash of water, lemon pepper at end)

Breakfast: crockpot oatmeal (apples, craisins....started night before)
Lunch salmon salad (patties with garlic seasoned kidney beans, spinach and mustard)
Snack: fruit and nuts (trail mix), cucumber sticks, pieces of chicken
Dinner: chicken noodle soup (gluten free noodles, or brown rice dumplings instead)

Breakfastegg muffins (egg, bacon, toast), and oj/orange slices
Lunchchicken salad lettuce wraps (using leftover chicken and homemade mayo)
Snack: power balls and guacamole dip with gluten-free crackers (these are not gluten-free)
Dinnersalmon, apple wild rice and green beans

Breakfastparfait (with berries or other fruit, and homemade yogurt and granola)
Lunch: stackers (red peppers, chicken sausage links, cheese?, olives, etc. with toothpick--kids love!)
Snack: fruit leather and carrot sticks

Breakfast: scrambled egg omelette with oat smoothie
Lunch: leftover lettuce wrap salad
Snack: hummus and flax crackers, cucumber sticks, apple
Dinner: quinoa stuffed peppers with steak

Breakfast: pb and banana toast with power drink
Lunch: leftover soup
Snack: power balls, edamame
Dinner: taco salad

Breakfast: Pancakes (lemon, poppyseed; 1/2 white, 1/2 gluten-free)
Lunch: burritos (from taco salad left overs)
Snack: fruit and nuts, red pepper strips
Dinner: mustardy beans (white beans cooked with mustard, ketchup, onion, salt) and cornbread with sautéed greens

Easy Guacamole

If you want guacamole without all the other "stuff" in tastes really good just plain, with some salt and water...for a more spreadable, fluffy dip-type texture. This is all I do to make a dip or a salad dressing.

If you want more complex, add some salsa and other ingredients. But simple is good.

Jan 21, 2014

One Pot Wonder: Pasta

This is a great and versatile way to cook pasta dishes all in one move, mostly. It is a variation of the way I make my kale and sausage pasta without pre-prepared sauce. Basically throw everything into a pot and cook it all until the liquid evaporates, thereby preserving some of the nutrients from the vegetables you cooked in it. It's also great if you don't have tomato or alfredo sauce and don't just want to add plain oil.
(You can google "one pot wonder" and get other variations.)
12 oz pasta noodles (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
5-6 c liquid (broth; optional to sub 1 cup of tomato juice, etc)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
--dry seasonings or big vegetables----------
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes (include juice if desired....see above)
1 medium sweet onion, cut in 1/4 inch julienne strips (use an onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
---extra options----
  • fresh herbs: 1 bunch (about 10 to 12 leaves) basil, diced (or fresh herbs)
  • light vegetables: 2 handfuls spinach or kale, sliced thinly
  • cheese: parmesan, feta, romano, etc.

1. Place main ingredients in pot: pasta, broth, and oil.
2. Add dry seasonings and big vegetables:  tomatoes, onion (I like to sautee as the first ingredient), garlic, etc. 
3. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated except half-inch or so, so their is a minimal amount of "sauce."
4. Remove from heat and add extra ingredients: including fresh herbs and greens (spinach). And season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with cheese, or stir it in to make the "sauce" creamier (do not add while liquid is bubbling!).
Serves 4 to 6 as an entree
-the other option is to cook the noodles regularly and then drain most the liquid, but reserve a little bit, and then add the cheese to make it a light cheesy sauce.
----VARIATIONS --endless!
  • sausage, kale and parmesan
  • tomatoes, basil or Italian seasonings, olives and parmesan
  • bottled artichoke hearts with juice, Chicken, mushrooms and feta, lemon pepper
  • bacon, peas, parmesan

Jan 16, 2014

Kid's Lunch Ideas

Back to School mode...need some healthy lunch ideas? Charise and I got some inspiration from a few classes we went to last month on healthy lunch and snack ideas...

Sandwiches (try open-faced, toasted, tortillas, bagels/buns, english muffins, etc. for variety)
PB&J or PB&H (honey
Tuna (with pickles?) or chicken Salad (with curry powder and grapes?)
Egg Salad
Grilled Cheese (ham/pesto/swiss, Cheese melt with cucumbers; pizza-style )
Typical Meat and Cheese (lettuce or not)
Quesadilla (cheese and cucumber; chicken, bean, zucchini, corn; )

Stackers (cut up everything into little circles/squares and have a dip/sauce--toothpicks for some)
Veggies: red pepper, cucumber, olives, peas (frozen will thaw fast), edamame, cherry tomato, pickle
Fruits: grapes, apples, raisins/craisins, dried fruit pieces
Meat: sandwich meat, ham, hotdogs, maple chicken sausages
Cheese: cheddar, mozerella, mini babybell wedges (cheese sticks work great)
Grain: bread, crackers, french toast, pancakes
Dips/Sauces: ranch, hummus, peanut butter (whipped with water so it's not hard), ketchup, yogurt, honey

1. Apple Cheddar Bites (bread or crackers)
2. Pepper Ranch Dogs (red pepper, babybel cheese, maple Chicken sausage links, ranch)
3. Cucumber Castles (cucumber, cheese, bread, meat-optional)
4. Pickle Rolls (pickles, meat/ham, cheese--we slice these long and roll in sandwich meat)
5. Breakfast Bites: french toast or pancakes, maple chicken sausage links, strawberries
6. Italian Stacks: olives, meat, cheese

Fruit & Nuts
Granola Bars (basic chewy choc. chip)
Power Bars/Lara Bars
Trail-Mix Bars
Fruit Leather (just puree fruit and dehydrate very thin...add sweetener as desired, or lemon juice to retain color. Bake on lowest setting on parchment paper/silpat for a few hours if no dehydrator)
Fruit Snacks
Honeyed Almonds

Other Ideas
Homemade Beef Jerky

Jan 4, 2014

Balancing Body pH: Acid vs. Alkaline Foods

Here is a short blurb about why we need to eat the right foods, from an acid-alkaline perspective.
(Article for

Tip: try using a Tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider in your water every so often to help alkalize an acidic body. Also, raw milk is less acidic than pasteurized--interesting, huh?


Human blood pH should be slightly alkaline ( 7.35 - 7.45 ).  Below or above this range means symptoms and disease.  A pH of 7.0 is neutral.  A pH below 7.0 is acidic.  A pH above 7.0 is alkaline.
An acidic pH can occur from, an acid forming diet, emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients.  The body will try to compensate for acidic pH by using alkaline minerals.  If the diet does not contain enough minerals to compensate, a build up of acids in the cells will occur.
An acidic balance will:  decrease the body's ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease it's ability to repair damaged cells, decrease it's ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness.  A blood pH of 6.9, which is only slightly acidic, can induce coma and death.
The reason acidosis is more common in our society is mostly due to the typical American diet, which is far too high in acid producing animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, and far too low in alkaline producing foods like fresh vegetables.  Additionally, we eat acid producing processed foods like white flour and sugar and drink acid producing beverages like coffee and soft drinks.  We use too many drugs, which are acid forming; and we use artificial chemical sweetners like NutraSweet, Spoonful, Sweet 'N Low, Equal, or Aspartame, which are poison and extremely acid forming.  One of the best things we can do to correct an overly acid body is to clean up the diet and lifestyle.
To maintain health, the diet should consist of 60% alkaline forming foods and 40% acid forming foods.  To restore health, the diet should consist of 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods.
Generally, alkaline forming foods include: most fruits, green vegetables, peas, beans, lentils, spices, herbs and seasonings, and seeds and nuts.
Generally, acid forming foods include: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, grains, and legumes.

7 Worst Ingredients in Processed Foods

Here is an interesting article from highlighting the seven worst ingredients in processed foods. So after reading this, just remember to check labels on the foods you buy.

1. Artificial Sweeteners
Experiments have found that sweet taste, regardless of its caloric content, enhances your appetite, and consuming artificial sweeteners has been shown to lead to even greater weight gain than consuming sugar.Aspartame has been found to have the most pronounced effect, but the same applies for other artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, sucralose and saccharin.
Yet, weight gain is only the beginning of why artificial sweeteners should generally be avoided. Aspartame, for instance, is a sweet-tasting neurotoxin. As a result of its unnatural structure, your body processes the amino acids found in aspartame very differently from a steak or a piece of fish.
The amino acids in aspartame literally attack your cells, even crossing the blood-brain barrier to attack your brain cells, creating a toxic cellular overstimulation, called excitotoxicity, similar to MSG.
Further, inflammatory bowel disease may be caused or exacerbated by the regular consumption of the popular artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose), as it inactivates digestive enzymes and alters gut barrier function.2
Previous research also found that sucralose can destroy up to 50 percent of your beneficial gut flora.3 While you certainly don’t want to overdo it on sugar, there's little doubt in my mind that artificial sweeteners can be evenworse for your health than sugar and even fructose.
2. Synthetic Trans Fats
These are common in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, such as crackers, chips, most store-bought baked goods, and any fried foods, just to name a few examples. Synthetic trans fats are known to promote inflammation, which is a hallmark of most chronic and/or serious diseases.
For instance, in one 2010 study, post-menopausal women who consumed the most daily synthetic trans fat had a 30 percent higher incidence of ischemic strokes.4 Synthetic trans fats have also been linked to:
  • Cancer: They interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer.
  • Diabetes: They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes.
  • Decreased immune function: They reduce your immune response.
  • Problems with reproduction: They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones.
  • Heart disease
Your intake of trans fats should be as low as possible; no “safe upper limit” has even been established because, quite simply, there is none.
3. Artificial Flavors
What’s particularly alarming when you see a word like “artificial flavor” on an ingredients label is that there’s no way to know what it actually means. It could mean that one unnatural additive is included, or it could be a blend of hundreds of additives. Strawberry artificial flavor can contain nearly 50 chemical ingredients, for example.5
Or take the artificial flavoring called diacetyl, which is often used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. Research shows diacetyl has several concerning properties for brain health and may trigger Alzheimer’s diseaseGenetically engineered flavor enhancers can also be listed under the artificial flavor (or natural flavor) label.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
This flavor enhancer is most often associated with Chinese food, but it's actually in countless processed food products ranging from frozen dinners and salad dressing to snack chips and meats. MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain dysfunction and damage to varying degrees -- and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and more.
Part of the problem is that free glutamic acid (MSG is approximately 78 percent free glutamic acid) is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise.
5. Artificial Colors
Every year, food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into U.S. foods -- and that amount only factors in eight different varieties.6 As of July 2010, most foods in the European Union that contain artificial food dyes were labeled with warning labels stating the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." The British government also asked that food manufacturers remove most artificial colors from foods back in 2009 due to health concerns.
Nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions -- and these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.7For instance, Red # 40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune system tumors in mice, while also triggering hyperactivity in children.
Blue # 2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods and more, was linked to brain tumors. And Yellow 5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal and more, may not only be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals, but it's also linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity and other behavioral effects in children.
6. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
It’s often claimed that HFCS is no worse for you than sugar, but this is not the case. Because high-fructose corn syrup contains free-form monosaccharides of fructose and glucose, it cannot be considered biologically equivalent to sucrose (sugar), which has a glycosidic bond that links the fructose and glucose together, and which slows its break down in the body.
Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Since all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – it just gets stored in your fat cells, which leads to mitochondrial malfunction, obesity and obesity-related diseases.
The more fructose or HFCS a food contains, and the more total fructose you consume, the worse it is for your health. As a standard recommendation, I advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food.
Fifteen grams of fructose is not much -- it represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or two Medjool dates. Remember, the average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of soda alone would exceed your daily allotment.
7. Preservatives
Preservatives lengthen the shelf-life of foods, increasing manufacturers’ profits – at your expense, since most are linked to health problems such as cancer, allergic reactions and more. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives that affect the neurological system of your brain, alter behavior and have the potential to cause cancer. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a chemical preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you.
The preservative sodium benzoate -- found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – has been found to cause children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible. Sodium nitrite, a commonly used preservative in hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, has been linked to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers. And the list goes on and on…

US Processed Foods May Be Even Worse Than Those in Other Countries

Many of the food additives that are perfectly legal to use in US foods are banned in other countries. The banned ingredients include various food dyes, the fat substitute Olestra, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate (aka brominanted flour), Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH, rBST and arsenic.
When foods are processed, not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the textures and natural variation and flavors are also lost. After processing, what's left behind is a bland, uninteresting "pseudo-food" that most people wouldn’t want to eat. So at this point, food manufacturers must add back in the nutrients, flavor, color and texture to processed foods in order to make them palatable, and this is why they become loaded with food additives. If you live in Europe, you may have more options than Americans, as you may be able to find some processed foods that do not contain any synthetic additives.
Still, swapping your processed food diet for one that focuses on fresh whole foods is a necessity if you value your health. Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented.
If you want to eat (and be) healthy, I suggest you follow the 1950s (and before) model and spend quality time in the kitchen preparing high-quality meals for yourself and your family. If you rely on processed inexpensive foods, you exchange convenience for long-term health problems and mounting medical bills. For a step-by-step guide to make this a reality in your own life, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan along with these seven steps to wean yourself off processed foods.