What are they?
I remember when I started my health journey years ago and finding out along the way that certain things that I THOUGHT were good for me were actually harming me. I would eat cereal bars for breakfast because they had 8 grams of fiber, were low calorie and supposedly whole grain - only to find out that the ingredient list was extensive and most of it I couldn't pronounce and didn't even know what they were. I knew enough at the time that High-Fructose Corn Syrup was bad, so I stopped eating them altogether.
Food companies are in business to make a profit, agreed? The public relations firms hired to market their products want to make their clients (the food companies) happy. They will tell you what you need to hear in order to get you to buy what they're selling. It's not all false, but they can be deceptively misleading and they are not concerned about your health, nor do they care about the ingredients. It all comes down to one thing: The Bottom Line! They're in business to make money, not make you healthy.
You're probably interested and/or concerned about your health or you wouldn't be reading this. You may be sick of being sick and are looking for some guidance in how to do better. However, there could be a lot of confusion around what you think is good, versus what you think is bad. Remember, this is a marathon, not a race. And, you're on a journey that will lead you down different paths. You must know though: your health is YOUR responsibility. You have to take charge and then take action.
Eating a whole foods, plant-focused diet is absolutely necessary for optimal health, energy and longevity. Whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains have not been processed. It can also include eggs, meat, fish, milk and cheese although those should be in limited quantities, hormone and antibiotic free and ideally organic.
One thing that you must become proficient at and make a priority is reading labels. If you can't pronounce an ingredient on the package, don't buy it. In all likelihood, it's not a naturally occurring substance and shouldn't be consumed. According to Behind the Label, the cereal bar market in America is a $2.2 billion industry with Kellogg's NutriGrain bars as a major player in that industry. Look at the following list of ingredients in their breakfast bar:
Filling (high fructose corn syrup, strawberry preserves [high fructose corn syrup, strawberry puree], glycerin, blueberry preserves [high fructose corn syrup, blueberry puree concentrate, water], fructose, water, maltodextrin, modified corn starch, natural and artificial blueberry and strawberry flavors, citric acid, sodium alginate, calcium phosphate, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, malic acid, red #40 lake, blue #1),enriched wheat flour, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, whole oats, high fructose corn syrup, honey, corn cereal (milled corn, liquid sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, malt flavoring, calcium pantothenate), calcium carbonate, dextrose, nonfat dry milk, salt, cellulose gum, leavening (potassium bicarbonate), natural and artificial vanilla flavor, soy lecithin, wheat gluten, potassium carrageenan, modified wheat starch, guar gum, molasses, niacinamide, zinc oxide, reduced iron, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin A palmitate, thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), annatto color and folic acid.
Anything that is in bold is synthetic and your body cannot recognize it as food, and becomes toxic. Hopefully you noticed that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is listed 5 times on the label. There is countless research that has been conducted over the last several decades showing that the increased use of HFCS in our foods contributes to weight gain and obesity, elevated triglycerides and LDL (the bad cholesterol), liver damage and type-2 diabetes, just name a few.
Another ingredient listed above is partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, otherwise known as trans-fats. These trans-fats do not occur naturally and are produced in order to reduce spoilage of foods and increase shelf life. The process by which a natural oil is converted into a trans-fat is called hydrogentation. Among other things, consuming these trans-fats raises both bad and good cholesterol levels and increases risks for heart disease dramatically.
Again, it's imperative that if you want to take control of your health, it begins with you. A great step in the right direction is transitioning to a whole foods, plant-focused diet and reading labels on the foods you put into your body.