Silent Poisons in Nutrition-Health Risks of Processed Salt, Sugar and Flour in Foods
We all readily visualize flour, salt and sugar as white because that is the product of their industrial processing, broken down from its natural color and bleached. If you’ve seen pure whole flour its often gray or brown in color, raw non-refined salt is gray and raw sugar is golden brown. When these ingredients are processed for long term storage and mass consumption they go through a strenuous, often chemical, transformation. For years doctors emphasized careful watch of the amount of calories we intake, but attention is shifting to the type of calories. More specifically, the kind of salts, sugars and flours in the foods we eat. There is some of this thinking in the popular Atkins diet and South Beach diet, because both flour and sugar form carbohydrates, which they suggest temporarily eliminating. Essentially what should be eliminated are ingredients that are silent poisons, though this does not mean all sugar, salt and flour.
There are some foods, especially baked goods, which combine high amounts of refined sugar, salt and flour. It is hard to say which of these 3 silent poisons is the most damaging to our bodies or the most prevalent. Just take a look in your cupboard and you will notice several foods that have added sugar and salt, and list the major ingredient as “flour.” The difference between just flour, or white flour, and other flours listed on ingredients like wheat flour, whole-wheat flour or stone ground wheat flour, resides in the nutrients. For hundreds of years flour was stone ground and the resulting food, unknowing to its consumers, lacked the some of the original nutrients from the grain. A grain of wheat has several layers to it, containing essential nutrients that are lost when refined. This is why several manufactures were required to add vitamins and nutrients after it was processed. On labels of flour based products this appears as “enriched” flour and may list the nutrients added. Today wheat is sometimes still stone ground, but worse still the industrial age of mass produced goods caused much grained based food to be refined down to empty calories.
Empty calories are the major concern in refined sugar, salt and flour vs. their natural counterparts. When grains, raw sugar cane and salt rock are processed down into a refined state the calories are void of any nutritional value. When we eat empty calories our body actually has a harder time digesting and breaking them down. They also burn much faster than calories that are digested with ingredients that are whole with nutrients. This is why sugary foods often give us a burst of energy only to be lost quickly to cravings. Take for instance a whole grain muffin made using whole wheat or whole buckwheat, turbinado (raw sugar) and sea salt for breakfast. These ingredients have nutrients that the body will digest with the calories slowly to fuel your system longer. If instead you have a pastry made with enriched white flour, refined white sugar and regular table salt, your breakfast isn’t going to last as long. The pastry will also cause the body to steal nutrients that we have in storage in order to burn down the empty calories.
Since we have lived on processed ingredients for a couple hundred years, the harm has been silent and the poison unfelt. Though its effects can be said as contributing to a growing obesity problem and the subsequent diseases. It is of course possible to continue subsisting on refined sugar, salt and flour, but piled on top of the barrage of other unhealthy factors, why risk it? At first it seems there isn’t much choice in the matter when sugar, salt and flour are found in almost everything. Its is also true that sugars and salts are found naturally in lots of foods, like sugar in fruit or dairy and salt in meats and vegetables. The difference is that naturally occurring salts and sugars have small amount of beneficial nutrients. Nature has provided most all we need to live well and much of the food we eat is the product of industrial convenience more than enriched nutrition.
The way to begin increasing your awareness of silent poisons is putting greater attention on the labels before you buy. When sugar is listed close to first on the ingredients or sugar compounds like Fructose, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sucralose or Saccharine – its’ a sugary silent poison. Try not to use processed white sugar and instead use natural brown sugar or raw turbinado. If salt is listed high on the ingredients or there is a high percentage of sodium – its’ a salty silent poison. Natural sea salt and rock salt is a better source of mineral rich sodium and is now available in a finer grain as well. When a bread product lists just flour, or enriched flour, try to choose another bread with whole-wheat flour or another whole grain instead. This alone can drastically cut out silent poisons from an otherwise healthy style of eating. A diet with lots of sugars, salts and flour-based carbohydrates is not exactly a food pyramid you want to climb anyway, but the quality of ingredients means even more.