If you cannot do anything else right now, try to eliminate these three things from your child’s diet: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), trans fats also known as hydrogenated oils, and artificial colors. I am going to break the reasons down in a simple way.
First, let me give you some background on why and how I came across this information. I recently became a certified health coach, but not to actually become a health coach. My then 6-year old son had attention issues in class last school year but was not diagnosed with ADHD. In speaking with his teacher and the school counselor, I knew I needed to take action, and began reading about how nutrition affects learning and attention. We’ll get into that during another post.
I was seeking to learn in an organized and structured way, and came across some health coach programs, and enrolled in one. What I learned would change the way my kids eat.
In my health coach training, HFCS, trans fats and artificial colors are referred to as “The Terrible Threes”. However, don’t worry, my goal here is not to be preachy, but to provide information that will help you make the best decision for your family.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
High fructose corn syrup is a man-made sweetener found in an overwhelming number of foods and drinks. While I could write a post strictly dedicated to HFCS, here I will simply focus on why you should try to eliminate it from your child’s diet.
Foods that contain HFCS
- Juice drinks (that are not 100% juice)
- Some breads
- Some salad dressings
The list goes on and on. One day, I sent my husband to get English muffins, and I had assumed he was going to buy the name brand, but he bought the store brand. I read the ingredients, and was surprised to find HFCS in the store brand. The name brand did not contain it. It is so common because for food manufacturers it is cheap, and keeps food on the shelf longer.
Why so bad?
There are many reasons to avoid this processed substance, and below are just a few.
- May lead to obesity
- Low-satiety food (you don’t feel full easily)
- May increase blood fats, which can lead to high cholesterol. This brings on a host of other problems.
- May increase insulin resistance
- May lead to behavior issues due to corn syrup sensitivity
- Contains containments such as mercury
Trans Fats or Hydrogenated Oils
You may have heard of these man-made fats being banned in certain areas, and there are good reasons why.
Foods that contain Trans Fats
- Fast food
- Package mixes
Why so bad?
The body does not recognize these man-made fats, thus it does not know how to break them down. What results is a multitude of problems.
- Increases blood sugar (which can affect behavior/learning)
- Can lead to lower birth weights
- Transfers to breast milk
- Increases LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Decreases HDL (good cholesterol)
Artificial colors are part of a group of chemicals called excitotoxins. Put simply, they alter brain chemistry. They can easily penetrate certain brain regions and quickly destroy neurons.
Some studies show evidence that artificial colors may have a direct link to ADHD, but this is still a controversial topic. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, in Europe, as of July 2010 most foods that contain artificial dyes must carry labels warning they may cause hyperactivity in children.
When it comes to food coloring, it is best to stick to products with natural colors (and flavors). I don’t think we need a list of foods here because they are easy to spot. If you see yellow No. 5, blue No. 1 or the like on a food package, try to avoid it.
I could have easily written extensively about each of the “Terrible Threes”, but the goal was to make this simple and easy to digest. You can easily find a lot more information out there, but it comes down to this: there are no positives (or nutritional value) in consuming high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, or artificial colors, but there are plenty of known reasons to avoid them. It will not be easy. I mean look at the appealing image for this post. It’s colorful and looks delicious, and getting beyond esthetics is half the battle, but so worth it in the end.