Friday, August 26, 2011

Food Fact Friday: What you're really drinking

Bottled Water

The bottled water industry doesn't want you to know that its product isn't any better than the water that comes from your tap, which has passed strict state, federal, and local guidelines. Not to mention, it's free. Sure, bottled water is convenient, trendy, and may well be just as pure as what comes out of your tap, but it's hardly a smart investment for your pocketbook, your body, or our planet. With  Dasani, a Coca-Cola product, the water is simply purified tap water that's had minerals added back in. In fact, about 40 percent of all bottled water is taken from municipal water sources, including Pepsi's Aquafina. What's more, in a 4-year review that included testing 1,000 bottles of water, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that "about one-third of the brands we tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits." So fill up at home rather than buying into the hype.  


The dairy industry doesn't want you to know that the hormone rbST has been linked to cancer. See, rbST, recombinant bovine somatotropin (also known as rBGH, recombinant bovine growth hormone), is a hormone given to cows to increase their milk output by 10 to 25 percent. The concern with rbST is that it produces milk with higher-than-normal levels of the insulin-like growth factor IGF-1. Studies have shown that high levels of IGF-1 increases the risk of several cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal. Other studies contradict these findings, but we recommend playing it safe. Especially when so many big players—Starbucks, Kroger, and Wal-Mart among them—have agreed to sell only hormone-free milk.


The diet soda industry doesn't want you to know that artificial sweeteners can make you fat. Sure, diet sodas are a step up from regular sodas, but here's where things get thorny: Although it's essentially calorie free, diet soda can drive your appetite and push you to overconsume calories. One theory put forth by researchers is that giving the body a rush of sugar with no calories might push it to actively seek out sources of energy. And how does your body do that? By switching your appetite into overdrive.

Those aluminum cans are also lined with a toxic plastic. Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, is a chemical found in plastics that has been idenitifed as a threat to your health. One study found that low doses of BPA can suppress a hormone that protects against diabetes and obesity in human tissue. Another study discovered that BPA disrupts brain function and leads to mood disorder in monkeys. Further evidence has show it to lower sperm counts, up your risk of heart disease, and increase the risk of breast, prostate, and testicular cancers. Products containing BPA are everywhere, but do your best to avoid them.


Juice companies don't want you to know what goes into 100 percent juice. Thanks to lax FDA regulations, industrial juicers have more than a little wiggle room when it comes to labeling their bottles. One loop-hole they love to exploit is the one that allows the claim "100 percent juice" to be used out of context with the other claims on the label, which is how they slap inexpensive sounding names onto cheap juice blends. You might think your bottle contains 100 percent blueberry or pomegranate, but really it's just as likely to be a blend of inexpensive sucrose-loaded fillers tinged with a mere splash of what you really want. 

Ocean Spray doesn't want you to know that its line of cranberry juice blends contains more sugar than fruit.  You might be surprised to learn that many of them contain as little as 20 percent real juice. What's more, none of Ocean Spray's stable of hybrid "juices" earns few than 73 percent of its calories from added sugar, and most have sugar loads closer to 85 percent. That amounts to about as much sugar as two scoops of ice cream stuffed into each 8-ounce cup of juice.

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