Being Irish I love March because Spring is coming and of course right in the middle we have St. Patrick’s Day. The kids love it because they get to wear green at school and pretend they are more Irish than they are. My daughter (the actress) loves to put on the Irish accent she learned from her cousins last summer and we have a good laugh at her developing brogue.
The only thing I dislike about this day of celebration of all things Irish, is the association it conjures up with Lucky Charms, a Mc Donald’s Green McFlurry or a green donut from Dunkin. Take it from me – we do not celebrate products like this in Ireland, we don’t even have them. The most I saw growing up was people drinking green beer and even that was frowned upon (only because of the green part, let’s be honest).
So what exactly is in Lucky Charms that makes them Exhibit A in the fight against the fake phood industry that seems to prey on our children by portraying themselves as a ‘healthy’ breakfast?
I don’t know where to begin. I will pick out my top 3 offenders, and you can decide if that’s enough to make you run to the organic section. Also, these ingredients are in most of the more colorful cereals: Froot Loops, Apple Jacks and Trix to name a few.
- Corn Syrup – also known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is a highly processed chemical (yes) derived from corn. It is a GMO food which means it contains glyphosate and should be avoided for that reason alone. It is manufactured in a very complicated tri-enzyme process which you can read more about here. If you want to hear about how HFCS can cause type 2 diabetes then Dr. Hyman explains it quite well here. There is also many reports that HFCS contains mercury, one of the most toxic substances known to man. HFCS is in ketchup, soup, pickles, cereal, sodas, mayonnaise, candy, cakes, breads, bagels and so many more things it’s hard to list. Basically – if it’s not organic, it has HFCS.
- TSP: Trisodium Phosphate – an industrial alkalizing cleaning agent doubling as a food additive. The FDA has given this chemical a ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS category. It has given safe limits for this additive (70 mgs) but the general public have no way of knowing how much of this toxic chemical they are consuming on a daily basis which could reach up to 500 mgs daily. In its dry powder form it is incredibly corrosive to the human body when consumed. So much so, the FDA has recommend it be removed from household cleaning products – because it is bad for the environment! So where does that leave the cereal consumer? Caveat Emptor and run for the organic hills!
- Artificial colors: Yellow 5 & 6, Red 40, Blue 1 and “Other Color Added” – right away I see a huge red flag because I don’t know what “other color added” means. It usually means I have to call their consumer help line. But I value my sanity so I’m going to take a guess that it means a substitute for Red #3 (since it was banned), made from the cochineal beetle. The other 4 colors listed are derived from coal tar. Added colors have long been associated with ill-health effects and hyperactivity in children although there are few conclusive studies. The most notable study is the Southampton Study in 2007 which asserted that when combined with sodium benzoate (a popular food additive), they caused more hyperactivity in children and recommended that all colors be labeled in Europe. Food colors have a long history with the FDA and now, out of around 80, only 7 remain legal for the food and cosmetics industries to use. If you’d like to learn more, check out these articles and videos on food dyes on Dr. Greger’s website as he discusses their affect on children’s health and in particular ADHD.
I am only giving you 3 things to remember to avoid like the toxic plague because they transfer to so many other products that I hope you will remember them. I didn’t mention “mixed tocopherols” only because it is a synthetic vitamin e and is generally safe. It is used to replace the highly controversial BHT which is widely suspected to be a carcinogen.
So why not try a new tradition in your family if you like to celebrate our national holiday? Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day breakfast with a hearty, protein-packed traditional Irish breakfast – organic bacon, eggs and sausage… with a slice of soda bread and a healthy pat of Kerrygold butter (see my recipe here!).
“lá sona Fhéile Pádraig duit” – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!