When it comes to eating and drinking, I prefer to keep a “back to basics” mentality. I have done several research papers on food additives and my results have led me to seek simplicity with food. Looking through this lens, I’ve examined what I consume on a daily basis, and I started with coffee. Big brand commodity coffees (like Folgers) are stored in warehouses on an average of five to ten years as they are traded over and over before they are even roasted. Most of these commercial brands contain moldy beans, rocks, and sticks, and are just poor quality. I decided to seek out the freshest beans I could find, and though I’m not on board with home roasting at this point, I was able to discover that there is a coffee roaster about 30 minutes from my house. The internet is a fabulous resource, and even if you do not have a roaster that close to home, reading the labels in your grocery store can be a great place to start to find an option that is closer to home than a commercial coffee.
Something else to take into consideration is what you put in your coffee. Seemingly harmless containers of half and half, or non-dairy creamers can contain a host of harmful ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. You may have seen the ads that say High Fructose Corn Syrup is from corn, has the same calories as sugar, and it is fine in moderation. What the ads fail to mention is the definition of “moderation” and that consuming high fructose corn syrup is the fastest way to ruin your health. High fructose corn syrup is a major contributor to insulin resistance and obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout. Your body metabolizes fructose in a way that falls entirely on your liver. This is fine if you are getting your entire consumption of fructose from fruits and vegetables, as people did about 100 years ago. Back then, people were consuming about 15 grams per day of fructose, but now, that number has increased to about 70 grams of fructose consumed per day, and these mass quantities are the leading reason as to why high fructose corn syrup is so bad for you. To put it very simply, our bodies are just not equipped to handle these massive doses, and the effects can be devastating. However, much like cigarette smoking, the effects may not be devastating for all people who smoke, just as you can say the same about consuming high fructose corn syrup, and the slanted science we see in the television commercials adds to the confusion surrounding why it is bad. This can be avoided by selecting a grade A option for a few cents more, or just using milk. (Or a non-dairy variation for my fellow lactose intolerant friends.)
Now comes the sweetener. Chemical sweeteners like Equal or Splenda should be examined as well. Many people believe that Splenda is a healthy alternative to sugar, because it is made from real sugar. This is deceptive because it is actually chemically modified in a way that adds chlorine, and makes Splenda closer in structure to a chemical pesticide than, than a “naturally derived” sweetener. Likewise, the seemingly harmless Stevia plant has also been linked to cancer and questionable implications of sterility. The bottom line is, in most cases, for most people (unless you have diabetes, etc.) plain white sugar is fine, because it is natural.
Coffee, and what we put in it, is just one example of how common our exposure to harmful ingredients is. The fact that these products are on the shelf, does not make them safe for consumption, and examining the ingredients will support that claim. This is why it is crucial for the general public to examine products ourselves, and determine our own comfort levels of what we are willing to put in our bodies, instead of having blind faith that the FDA can determine that for us.
(*I posted this previously on another blog for a school project, but wanted to post it again here.)