Louise Hallinan is the international award-winning author of Smart Brain Healthy Brain and a Natural Health Practitioner. She founded the Smart Brain Health Centre in Sydney which specialises in mood and memory problems.
Did you know that many packaged foods contain ingredients that can affect your memory and brain health?
These ingredients are artificial sweeteners, flavour enhancers, food additives, artificial colouring, artificial flavouring and preservatives and research has proven they may affect your memory and brain health.
We are all living in a very busy world these days and feel rushed in many areas of our lives. So taking a shortcut with our meal preparation becomes a very tempting and sometimes necessary way of life. The purchase of packaged foods and frozen foods has fast become the norm.
Read the ingredients list
It is very important and worth the extra time to read and understand the ingredients listed on all the packaged foods. After all, you are going to eat this item and you know the saying ‘you are what you eat’!
The first item listed on the Ingredients list has the largest proportion of all ingredients, for example in a loaf of bread, first item listed should be wheat flour. The ingredients are listed are words, some we have never heard of and others listed by numbers in brackets e.g. (951) and (621). These numbers represent Food Additives, Colourings, Preservatives and Flavourings. Depending on which particular number it is, it may have harmful effects on your brain health, especially if it is eaten regularly, or over a period of time.
There are two ingredients that are listed on many packaged food items that are very dangerous and should be avoided if possible.
- Aspartame - 951
The first one is Aspartame, an artificial sweetener coded as 951. The actual word Aspartame is very rarely written in the ingredients and is usually shown as 951. This artificial sweetener is found in many products you would not expect it to be in, for example, yoghurts, snacks, desserts, mints, cordials, juices, instant coffee drinks, sausages and rice crackers. It is also found in many diet drinks e.g. Diet Coke and in products that are ‘sugar free’.
Aspartame is considered by some to be the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods. It accounts for more than 75 per cent of the adverse reactions reported to the US Food and Drug Administration yet, the additive is still widely permitted and no warning labelling is required. Excessive exposure to aspartame can cause damage to brain cells.
The range of symptoms attributed to Aspartame in a 1994 Department of Health & Human Services report include: headaches, migraines, memory loss, dizziness, seizures, numbness, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, slurred speech, tinnitus, vertigo and joint pain.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) - 621
The other ingredient that is dangerous for your health is Monosodium Glutamate or MSG and coded as 621. Monosodium Glutamate is a white powder that looks like salt or sugar. It has no taste of its own and no nutritional value, but is used to enhance or modify flavours of the other foods.
MSG is found in most snacks and savoury biscuits, sauces and condiments. It is in preserved and “fresh meats” including bacon, devon, ham and sausages, many tinned savoury foods, packet soups, frozen and packaged meals and even in some margarines.
Ongoing research has implicated MSG as a contributing factor in learning disorders, hyperactivity, and is linked to asthma, sleep disturbances, migraines, irritability, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
These are just two of the many ingredients that are added to packaged foods that may have dangerous effects on your overall health as well as your mood and memory.
The next time you are in the supermarket, when you pick up a packaged food product, look at the Ingredients and see how many lines there are and how many numbers in brackets. The more lines and numbers in brackets, you can assume, the worse it is for your health.
What you can do?
- Go through your pantry. Look at all the packaged products you have and check the Ingredients list. You may be surprised to find they are in some foods and drinks you are consuming now.
- If you drink a lot of diet drinks, start slowly reducing the amount you drink over time. You may gradually notice a small improvement in your health as a result.
- Cut back on packaged foods, be less reliant on them.
- Start buying more of the fresh natural foods instead that don’t need packaging, for example, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, nuts and eggs.
You may even find that once you begin avoiding these packaged food products containing Aspartame (951) or Monosodium Glutamate (621), you may start to feel a little healthier, not so irritable, headaches improved, or better sleep for example.
It is vitally important to be aware of what ingredients are in the foods you are eating. Now you can start making changes in your choices of foods, which will result in an improvement in overall health and help to protect and improve your memory and brain health!