Understanding what ingredients to look out for on the foods you eat doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you start small. I’m joined by the Ingredients Guru, Mira Dessy, to talk about why food labels are so important to learn, how to avoid hidden ingredients, and how your grocery store is marketing to you.
Listen to the Episode
The biggest warning signs on any food label or ingredient list are:
- Numbers on the label
- The word “enriched”
- Artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners
About Mira Dessy
Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. As a nutrition educator, author, and real food advocate, her mission is to help people understand that it’s not just what you eat but what’s in it and what you eat that contributes to optimal health.
Mira is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, The American Association of Drugless Practitioners, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Holistic Health Association, and a member of the professional advisory board For the Turner Syndrome Society of the United States.
How to Read Ingredient Labels
They don’t call Mira Dessy the Ingredient Guru for nothing! She opens this episode by telling us exactly how we can start taking back control of the food we eat: it’s all in the ingredient’s list!
Mira knows that ingredients lists can be overwhelming, especially when you first start investigating them. She gives us a great cheat sheet of what some of the top ingredients we need to look out for are. From artificial chemical names and numbers to what the real meaning of “enriched” food is.
It might even surprise you that our produce has an ingredients list. Those little stickers on our fruit say more than what type of apple it is. What the number starts with and many digits long all indicate whether the fruit is organic, genetically-modified, or chemically treated.
It’s likely that you’ve already heard about the Dirty Dozen, but do you actually know what it is? This is a list of the twelve food items most likely to have chemical contamination. It’s pretty important that we, as consumers, do our best to shop organic for the Dirty Dozen.
Where to Start Removing Ingredients
It’s understandable if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the ingredients you need to watch out for. That’s why Mira encourages you to start with just one switch and go from there.
Choosing which ingredient to avoid first is up to you. But Mira’s top ingredients to avoid are anything “enriched” as these foods have had natural nutrients removed and then artificially replaced. She also encourages you to remove gluten, dairy, and sugar from your diet early in your transition to a real-food diet.
Mira’s last tips are about learning how to spot sugar on an ingredients list. Sugar won’t always be labeled as “sugar,” but could still be there.
She also wants you to get to know the farmers at your local farmer’s market! More often than not, local farmers don’t use pesticides but aren’t able to get organically certified because of all the regulations and laws around that certification.
What’s the first ingredient you’ll be removing from your diet? Did you learn about the produce stickers? Let me know in the comments below!
“One of my biggest things that I remind people is that if there’s a number on the label, that means it’s a chemical formula.” [20:19]
“Pick one thing that’s important to you. If it’s about buying Dirty Dozen and thinking all the way through that produce, start with that. If it’s about getting rid of numbers, if it’s about getting rid of artificial ingredients, start there and master that. Learn how to shift what you’re already buying at the grocery store, then once you have that under control, move on to something else. Don’t try to do it all at once.” [24:03]
“One of the things we have to remember when we’re shifting away from a highly-processed diet and more towards a real food diet is that we’re actually nourishing our body. Some of those processed foods, they may seem cheap, but we’re malnourished, we’re not getting the nutrient-dense items that our bodies need in order to be well. When we make that real-food shift, we’ll find that we’re less hungry and less munchy because we’re not snacking.” [36:36]
In This Episode
- How you can take back control of the food you eat [5:20]
- Some of the ingredients you really need to look out for [8:00]
- What you need to look out for on your fruit and vegetable labels [13:30]
- What the dirty dozen is and why it’s important you shop organic for these foods [15:00]
- Why you should put enriched foods right back on the shelf [22:00]
- How sugar might show up on the ingredients list [23:00]
- Why you should remove sugar, dairy, and gluten from your diet first [35:30]
- Why you should get to know the farmers at your local market [42:00]
Links & Resources
Mira Dessy 0:03
We're actually nourishing our body. So some of those processed foods, they may seem cheap. But we're malnourished, we're not getting the nutrient dense items that our body needs in order to be well, and when we make that real food shift, we're actually going to find that we're less hungry or less munchie and crunchy because we are not snacking and eating junk food.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 0:30
Welcome to the longevity blueprint podcast, I'm your host, Dr. Stephanie gray. My number one goal with the show is to help you discover your personalized plan to build your dream health and live a longer, happier, truly healthier life. You're about to hear from Mira deci. In our interview, today, you're going to hear how ingredients can be a hidden source of inflammation. And we'll dive into how you can avoid manufacturer manipulation at the grocery store. By learning to read labels. We're going to talk about carageenan MSG food colorings, and even discuss what enriched means when you see it on a label. This interview is going to be a lot of fun. So let's get rolling.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of the longevity blueprint podcast today I have on Mira dessi, she's known as the ingredient guru, nutrition educator, author and real food advocate. Her mission is to help people understand that it's not just what you eat, but it's what's in what you eat that contributes to optimal health. Jessie is a member of the National Association of nutrition professionals, the Society for nutrition education and behavior, the American Association of drugless practitioners, a member of the board of directors of the American Holistic Health Association and a member of the professional advisory board for the Turner Syndrome Society of the United States.
Mira Dessy 1:48
So welcome, Mira. Thank you for having me on.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 1:53
Well, tell us your story. How did you get so interested in passionate about ingredients? And how did you become the ingredient guru?
Mira Dessy 1:58
Ooh, well, there's a story. So first of all, I'd like to start by saying I did not become the ingredient guru overnight. Like it is definitely a journey. I actually years ago used to be in a totally different field. I was a database administrator for an international research firm. And yeah, totally different field technology. And but I got really sick, like really desperately ill I was spending most of my life on the sofa, I could not take care of my kids, I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs without having to lie down on the floor and sort of recover. And if I was going to bed, then I would sort of crawl my way to bed. It was it was wildly bad. Yeah. And I had a wide range of doctors, and chronologist rheumatologists, cardiologists, like my joke was if there was an SI habit, and a whole bunch of medications, and it was really challenging, because in spite of getting all of these medications, and in spite of I believe my doctor's, you know, sincere efforts to want me to get better one, nobody was talking to each other, which I discovered is critical. And be nobody was talking to me about my food, ding, ding, ding. Yeah, right. Like food is so important. And we tend to forget that part. Even my gastroenterologist didn't really talk to me about my phone, and you'd think he would have been the one who would have had the most to say about that, right.
And so through a series of circumstances, I wound up going through this thing called a medical concierge practice, where I was able to see a lot of different doctors all at the same time, in a short period of time, they all talk to each other. But the most important thing about that was they made me realize that I needed to have more skin in the game. Like I needed to be the one to step up and say it this is not working, I have to figure out why. And then right around the same time, a friend of mine gave me a book about food dye and my little brain when and that sort of began this path of cleaning up my diet. And the more I did that, the healthier I got, the more people around me noticed. And then, you know, people began to ask me questions. And eventually I got to a point where I was like, Okay, I think I have to go back to school. I taught myself everything I can. So I went back to school and learned how to really dive into nutrition education, and how the biochemistry of our body works and why food is so important and all of that and then just discovered that my nerdly fascination with food for myself turned into a a mission driven passion for everybody else, because there's so much stupid stuff they do to our food. It's crazy. That's what I do. I help people.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 4:48
So beyond just what we eat, I know you have really learned to dive into label reading. So I want to hear more about negative ingredients on our food and if Those are found on labels or those are not found on the labels?
Mira Dessy 5:03
Oh, that's such a great question. You know, part of the challenges, most people don't realize that a lot of the control for how we can take back our pantry, our food source is actually already on the package for those things that are packaged. And in just a second, we'll talk about those things that are not packaged. But you know, we don't pay attention to it however, because frequently, if most people look at the food label at all, they're maybe looking at how many calories it has. And that's actually because there's things we need to know about that. They may be looking at fat or sugar or salt, depending on what they're focusing on. shred. They're totally skipping the ingredient panel. And the ingredient panel is really where we find out what's in what we're eating. And a lot of it, I would say the vast majority of it is actually on the food label. The challenge is food manufacturers are allowed to fudge. And so there are certain things especially right now,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 6:06
interesting, just like the wine industry, just like the personal care industry, it's not fair. It's not right. I know.
Mira Dessy 6:12
And so what happens is they either use misleading terms, or they hide things under like, my absolute favorite not favorite term is natural. Ah, and so they hide things under that. And we think it sounds benign, and it sounds okay, but it's not. And then the other thing that happens is sometimes they will include things that are they will include things in the food that are not on the label, for example, some ice cream manufacturers use this particular product that I'm going to tell you about in just a moment, and some don't, and some put it on the label and some don't. And so you have no way of knowing if it's not on the label, because it's not in there. Or if it's not on the label because it falls under a particular class that does not have to be identified. What ingredient are we talking about propylene glycol,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 7:03
whoo and ice cream?
Mira Dessy 7:05
in ice cream? Yeah. So propylene glycol is essentially a form of antifreeze. It keeps them from getting crystallized and hard.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 7:12
I guess that makes sense that not that that's right. But okay, I get it.
Mira Dessy 7:16
Yeah. So here's, here's the thing. It does not have to be on the label. If it's part of the manufacturing process, then technically, it's not considered part of the food, but it touches the food. Mm hmm. Well, that's like one of the other things that drives me crazy is there's a preservative called BHA, butylated, hydroxy Anna Sol, and a lot of cereal manufacturers have discovered that people may be tape paying a little bit more attention to the label. And so now what they do is below the ingredient panel is a little line that says VHA added to packaging to preserve freshness. And so here's the thing, they're trying to separate it from the food label, because they're saying, well, it's just part of the packaging. But again, it's touching the food,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 8:01
and and what are the dangers of those. So those two chemicals you just mentioned, what's wrong with those?
Mira Dessy 8:07
Well, so for example, propylene glycol there, first of all, there are a lot of people who can have allergies to it, it does cause sensitivity. And then there are other people who who end some of those allergies, by the way can be things like rashes, or itchiness or that kind of thing. Some of the other things with propylene glycol, there are people who are very sensitive to it, and it can, like reduce immune function a little bit, you know, just because of how their body is processing, and our body has to work harder to shut those things out of our system. And so that can sort of slow down what's happening and how our, how efficiently, our body is able to process things. Sure. And then when it comes to a lot of preservatives, and there's a whole host of them, so not just BHA but BHT tbh que EDTA like all those other anytime you see something that's just a whole bunch of capital letters, but that usually means it's a long, unpronounceable chemical name, and they've shortened it to be this little acronym.
And so a lot of those again, there can be allergenic effects, there can be, you know, reduced system processing, that sort of thing. And, you know, one of the other things that happens with those is that although they're generally recognized as safe, that's actually this huge misnomer, because generally recognized as safe means that if you have so many parts per million, it's not bad for you may not be great, but it's not bad. The problem is who's keeping track of how much you're eating right? You know, and so you can be getting a lot without realizing it because it's in so many different things. So you know, you have it in this one product and then you have it in another product and then you have it in something else. And or you serve yourself multiple servings of something. And so you wind up getting far more exposure than you think you do.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 10:08
Sure. Scary, again, not fair. So I have been always taught and I have always been pass it on to my patients that they should be shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store, because that's where the real food is, right? Most of the processed food is in the middle. Would you agree with that statement?
Mira Dessy 10:26
I love that you say that. So I would say sometimes, and this is where we get to the unpackaged food. Okay, guys, things like apples and vegetables and meat, those don't have packaging labels on them. For the most part. I mean, there's a little bit of a label, but not not much, right. And so there's a couple different things to be aware of when it comes to the perimeter of the grocery store. One is that when it comes to produce, you know, I'm sure that you're talking to your clients about the Dirty Dozen. Important to make those organic choices. When it comes to that section of the grocery store, particularly the produce section, there's this lovely little thing called grocery Creek. And grocery creep is where food producers and grocery store. You know, businesses have discovered that consumers are shopping the perimeter. And so they need to get more stuff into that section. And it used to be you would walk in depending on if you walked in left or right, however, your grocery store was set up. And there's the produce section right there. And all you saw was the green grocer section.
Well, now you walk in. And for example, here in Texas, it's strawberry season right now. Sure. And so we are seeing a tiny refrigerated case that has cans of whipped cream. And we are also seeing little yellow sponge cake. We are like sponges, like they're not cake. But it's right next to the strawberries. And the reason it's there is they want to convince you that they're making it more convenient than simply trying to sell more Thanksgiving time stuffing appears next to the cranberries, right. More grocery stores now have highly processed juices and smoothies in that section of the store instead of in the back where it used to be. And they also have salad dressings up there instead of in the middle where they used to be. And so they all these things creep in. Same thing happens in the meat section. You know, now all of a sudden, you're seeing barbecues and rubs and you know, all different kinds of things. And because they're simply trying to monetize, and here's the thing, I don't blame them for doing it. They are a business. The challenge is they do it in such a way that people don't realize how much they're being tempted to look at that. And to all of a sudden impulse buy, because like, Oh, it's right there. So can you know what, yeah, we'll have Strawberry Shortcake for dessert tonight. That sounds great. You know? And so learning what's what's happening in that section makes it easier for you to go. No,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 13:03
you you pique my interest on when you're saying you know, like an apple isn't going to necessarily, there aren't really many ingredients on the apple. But what can we tell from the label that is on Apple? Can we tell if the food genetically modified? Can we tell anything?
Mira Dessy 13:19
Yes. Great, great question. So there are a couple of things that we can tell by the label. And being that little round circular thing to
Dr. Stephanie Gray 13:29
occur the standard
Mira Dessy 13:31
law, yes. And every time you do, it rips off a little bit of skin with it. So there's a code on that product code. And if it is a four digit number, then typically it's conventionally raised, which means it can be sprayed with all kinds of pesticides and that sort of thing. If it's a five digit number, you want to pay attention to whether it starts with an eight or a nine. And I will tell you in all the years that I've been looking at the grocery store, I've only ever once seen an eight, which made me so happy. And eight means it's genetically modified. Okay, maybe happy that somebody was doing it. But unfortunately, they're not required by federal law to reveal if it's genetically modified or not. So they don't have to use the eight which is why the vast majority of the time they don't they just use the four numbers that would have come after the eight. The Nine means that it was organically grown.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 14:28
So we want to look for nines, we want to look for names,
Mira Dessy 14:31
especially for the dirty The Dirty Dozen things, you know, and like last year, kale made it onto the Dirty Dozen list for the first time ever that was horrifying to everybody who's like, and the kitchen addict. A lot came in my smoothie. You know, all these people were eating so much kale, and then all of a sudden it just became and here's the thing, the Dirty Dozen is not necessarily genetically modified. It's just that it has this enormously high pesticide load and that creates a toxic person For our bodies,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 15:01
so for the listeners who aren't familiar with the Dirty Dozen, basically, those are the foods that are dirty, right? So the top 12, or maybe more foods, that we do need to be conscious of purchasing organic because of the additional burden on our body, right, there are thicker skin foods like on the clean 15, like an orange, per se has a thick skin, we don't need to necessarily invest in purchasing organic oranges, you can choose to if you'd like. But you really want to focus more on the thin skin foods that herbicides and pesticides can penetrate into. And it sounds like kale is now on that list that we need to purchase organic, or roll our own right in our backyard.
Mira Dessy 15:34
And so one really great thing is the Environmental Working Group is the one who does that assessment every year. And it takes them approximately two months to go through that because they don't get the numbers till January. And then they have to pour over the numbers to figure out what are the 12 worst ones? Sure. And so the new list is usually released sometime in March this year, I think it was beginning of April. So there's an app that you can get on your phone available for both Android and iPhone, that just updates the list for you when the new list comes out. Because every year they'll I mean, apples are pretty much guaranteed to be on it every year.
So you know, every year when the list is updated, it's updated on your phone. And that actually brings up a really important point too, because as a savvy shopper, you also want to think about what are the other associated products that go with that Dirty Dozen item? So if apples are on the list, and invariably they are buying organic apples is great. But what about your apple juice? What about your Apple salts? What about something that has aberrated granola, you know, you want to make sure that you're looking all the way down the food chain. Same thing for grapes, grapes are sometimes on that list. So what does that mean? Hello wine, grape juice or whatever. But you really you want to think your way through what that food becomes.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 17:03
That's great, great tip. I want to digress back to kale chips because I do want to share with the audience a few quick easy recipes. I'm obsessed with kale chips, and I will tell you typically what I do I just basically chop the kale down to not super small pieces, decent pieces. And I tossed that in olive oil. I tried avocado oil last week and it didn't work as well. But I usually just do olive oil, sea salt, spread it out on a pan and either broiler bacon, how do you how do you make kale chips or what are your tips.
Mira Dessy 17:31
So I make kale chips pretty much the same way. But right now I'm really loving massaged kale salad. And so that's where I present the kale. So to cut it into very thin ribbons, and then I I sit there and I massage it with an oil usually olive oil arm. That's my favorite. And then I add in a whole bunch of things like you know, scallions and pumpkin seeds and things like that and just mix it all up and eat it that way. Wonderful.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 18:05
So if you're having a salt craving rather than opt for processed packaged chips with a list of nasty ingredients, so you can easily make some kale chips really easy to to make. You may have heard me mentioned the nutrient dim on several episodes and I want to take a moment to describe exactly what that is. When I was in graduate school my doctorate focused on estrogen metabolism. Now, you're probably wondering what that even means and why it matters to your health. Well, research has shown that our risks for fibroids cysts and breast ovarian, uterine, prostate and colon cancer can all be linked back to estrogen. But it's not the levels of estrogens that can increase our risk. Instead, it's the way our bodies handle that estrogen that matters.
We can run individual lab tests for this which I often recommend to my patients that's called estrogen metabolism testing which has to be done in the urine. Even without the test however, it is safe to take a supplement an extract of cruciferous vegetables to improve your estrogen metabolism. That's basically like taking in six pounds of those veggies per day in a capsule form without the gaps. That supplement is called dem dm. You can also use methylated B vitamins as well as specific targeted antioxidants like resveratrol to help improve your estrogen metabolism and help protect you from that cancer risk. Of course also make sure you have your practitioner run a comprehensive genetic analysis to see from another perspective if you are at increased risk and help you learn what you can do to lower that. If you're interested in learning more about dim read chapter six of my book your longevity blueprint and check out our product info sheet at your longevity blueprint.com Ford slash product Ford slash dim to get 10% off dim alone or 15% off our estrogen detox bundle with dim methylated B vitamins and antioxidant support. Just use the code estrogen detox when checking out at your longevity blueprint.com Now let's get back to the show.
So let's go back to food labels, what are the most important things we need to watch for? You already mentioned the abbreviated. The long words that are given, I should say terms that are abbreviated. What else do we need to watch out for?
Mira Dessy 20:19
Well, one of my biggest things that I remind people is if there's a number on the label, that means it's a chemical formula. So you know, blue dye number 280, those kinds of things. And, and my joke is, there's no such thing as celery, 14 or 34. Like they just don't need this. So we know that numbers don't belong in our food. So that's a very simple one to Okay. And then the other thing, and this is generally in the middle of the store, so it's in that center section, avoiding the word enriched, you know, enriched anything is bad for us. Essentially, what that term means is they took out a whole bunch of nutrients, and then they put a couple of them back.
And the ones that they put back are not natural versions, they are chemical analogs. The biggest example for that is, you know, when they have enriched bread, so they've taken out, I believe it's 22 nutrients, they've put four or five of them back. And the reason they put them back is because a long time ago in the industrial age, when we learn how to mill grains and get nice, white, fluffy, soft bread, which we all love, you know, because it just lights up our little dopamine receptors, because it turns to sugar so quickly. They discovered a lot of people were getting sick. And so when they looked into it, they realized that it was because they were removing all the B vitamins. So they put back some of the B vitamins. They sometimes put back iron, they sometimes put back calcium, but there's still a whole bunch of nutrients that are stripped so enriched anything is not if and that generally, by the way, is the first word on the label. If something's enriched, it's the first word on label, you just put it right back on the shelf.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 22:06
Very interesting. I have a feeling I don't really consume cereal when I was pregnant. I kind of craved Cheerios, which was a while back. But other than that, I don't really purchase cereals. But I feel like cereals start with enriched? I mean, did I say like enriched wheat flour or something like that? Am I okay? I just haven't seen what a lot of
Mira Dessy 22:23
them do. And here's the thing, the denser cereals, things like granolas, or things like that generally aren't enriched, they are whole grain. Okay. So for things like that, what you have to watch out for is, is how many grams of sugar there are. And you also want to look at the ingredient label one of the really sneaky things food producers do, they recognize that consumers have gotten a little more savvy, and they know that the first thing on the label is the most majority, yeah, and it goes down the label that way. And they don't want sugar to be number one. So what they do is they put in four or five, I've seen as many as seven kinds of sugar in a product in order to like, hide it in that long list of ingredients. And so you can look at the sugar grams, and if it's like, you know, eight grams of sugar per serving, and a serving is, I don't know, a quarter of a cup. And you're like, Where's all that sugar coming from?
Then you read it and you're like, oh, because it's got you know, barley malt and maltodextrin and honey, and a little maple syrup, and a little rice bran syrup. And you know, all this, all these different sugars. So you're saying, I want to make sure I'm following audiences following the label may not say sugar, you're saying. But there may be six sources of sugar within that product. Interesting that we need to be looking at. Very interesting. Okay. Now, I will also say cuz at this point, somebody out there listening is going, I can't read all those labels every grocery store, because it's very overwhelming. And so I'd like to remind you, I did not become the ingredient guru overnight, it literally was a process of yours. So what I encourage people to do is pick one thing that's important to you. So if it's about buying Dirty Dozen and thinking all the way through that change, start with that, if it's about getting rid of numbers, if it's about getting rid of artificial ingredients, you know, anything artificial and label whatever, start there and just sort of master that. Learn how to shift what you're already buying at the grocery store. And once you've got that under control, then move on to something else. Don't try it. Once. Yeah, because it'll take you five hours at the grocery store in your family, especially if you drag kids with you will hate you.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 24:37
I want to go back to the enriched concept again, and maybe I don't know if you agree with me here, but I feel like a lot of food say enriched with like you mentioned the B vitamins, so like folic acid and for my patient population. Some of them well, many of them have mth of our variants. And for some patients that's significant. For others. It's really not that significant based on how many, you know, genetic variants. They have But for patients if they're struggling with infertility, or they've had miscarriages like they've had complications that could result be a result of having these genetic variants, they need to be avoiding folic acid, they need to be taking the active fully the natural form of B nine, which would come from kale, the which we were just discussing, rather than, you know, consuming a synthetic, manmade vitamin, which a lot of these foods are then enriched with wood, right? you agree with that?
Mira Dessy 25:26
Absolutely. And you know, part of the problem, like I said, anytime you see enriched anything, it's because they're taking a chemical version. and using that. So one of the things and I'm going to make myself a note here, so that I can send you this video, there is a very hard finds rather strong, but it might be really, really icky video of a store bought cereal that is enriched with iron. And essentially, it's real iron because they take a magnet and show you all the iron collecting out of once they down. Yeah, so I'll send you that video so you can share it with your people. Part of the problem is it doesn't have to be bioavailable, it just has to be what they say it is.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 26:13
Thanks, what are other harmful ingredients in our food that we need to know about watch for scrutinized labels for
Mira Dessy 26:22
well so one of the things that like I said artificial anything, I am totally against artificial flavors, artificial colors, artificial you no sweeteners, none of those are good for us. Some of the other things that I really strongly encourage people to watch out for Are you know, these these ingredients that really overstimulate our brain MSG being as acidic ones. And part of the problem with MSG is it comes under so many different names. It can be really hard. So you know the best way obviously anything since glutamate is is presumably going to impact you know, our receptors. So very excited Tory for the listeners meaning that can cause anxiety can cause insomnia can cause a DD or it can cause dizziness, hyperstimulation I'm very sensitive MSG, I cannot touch it. I can't have a bite of anything with it or I get palpitations and fast heart rate. So and then people who are migraineurs, they can also really because of what it does to the neurotransmitters sure you can really bloom a migraine, and it doesn't take much.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 27:29
So how can that be hidden? What if it doesn't literally say monosodium glutamate? What else would it say?
Mira Dessy 27:35
Well, and so that's one of my you know, and and here's the thing, like, I am admittedly a bit of a nerd about the label, my family won't even go to the grocery store with me anymore, because I just take time to look at things I'm not even going to buy. I just want to so so when I say my favorite thing, I mean, just because it's like a ha they're doing this, like I get excited about those things, because then I can share and educate out like I'm happy about it. One of my favorite things is when you see a label that says no added monosodium glutamate or no added MSG, and then you flip it over and on the back, it says something like autolyzed yeast, autolyzed and hydrolyzed are two words that are essentially, you know, synonyms for glutamate. If you can knock out glutamate, autolyzed and hydrolyzed. from your diet on the food label, you will get rid of an enormous amount of yeast. Sorry, MSG, in in your food. Now the problem is, you know, there are others as well. But those are three of the biggest to watch out for
Dr. Stephanie Gray 28:44
wonderful. As I am gluten free, I've been gluten free and I lost track of the years, I don't know, five or six years now. But I was learning to read labels then right when I when I transitioned into gluten free and so I started noticing things like Carmel coloring on on labels, right, which could contain gluten. So you alluded to numbers like food dyes, or like Reno Red Lake number 40 or whatever. But what about other colorings like caramel coloring? What does that mean? What is in there?
Mira Dessy 29:14
Carmel coloring should be avoided. It is a chemical process, it's actually been shown to be believed to be carcinogenic. So not a great choice, but tends to be the color that's used in things like sodas and stuff as well, but it is in some baked goods. It's what gives them that Brown is so attractive to us. other colors to watch out for are a Nacho which is found in things like yellow cheeses and stuff. And here's the thing I was one of those ingredients it comes from a tree it comes from there is a fairly good sized percentage of the population that actually tends to be sensitive to it. And so the only way to find out if you're sensitive to it is to remove it from your diet for 30 days and then to have something with it. And see if you notice any changes. Some people, I've had people tell me that they've noticed, you know, maybe they get like a little rash on their neck. I had one woman who told me that she noticed that she started sweating a little bit after she ate it, which she had not realized was something she was doing before.
Of course, we also live in Texas, so sweaty, horrible thing, but she just noticed it was more after that. So not Oh, can be something. Some people also notice more typical allergy symptoms where maybe their nose runs, or they get a little cough in their throat or whatever. So that's one. The other one to watch out for that is, you know, and again, some people are sensitive to this. For those who are vegetarians or vegans, or who keep kosher. This one's kind of icky. It's called coconut oil, or kamin, and it's made from crushed beetles, and it's a red color. In America, there's a really funny story. So Starbucks has those strawberry frappuccino drink things. And they were using a vegetable base to make it pink. And at one point, they switch to coconut oil, because it's cheaper, believe it or not, and this being the age of the internet, somebody found out and they twigged and the internet went crazy. And people complained so much that Starbucks went back to using vegetables forced to color stead of beetles. One of the other things to watch out for not a color, but shellack shellack comes from the lack bug and is used on candy. So anytime you see something that says food grade shellack is from a bug.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 31:37
Is that the same for nails? No But okay, okay, do different. Different different to library toxins a different type.
Mira Dessy 31:45
So yeah, so and here's the thing, I have not been able to find, except for somebody who might actually be allergic to the bug itself, I have not been able to find necessarily harmful impact from consuming confectioner's glaze or food grade lacquer. But a lot of people are pretty grossed out when they find out it's
Dr. Stephanie Gray 32:06
interesting. What about I can ever say this carageenan carageenan. What? What is that and is that dangerous? I find where I see that the most in at least in my life would be an alternative milk like a flax milk, coconut milk, something like that.
Mira Dessy 32:22
So believe it or not carageenan is actually in almost every aisle of the grocery store. It can be found in lunch meat, it can be found in processed foods, frozen goods, it's it's ubiquitous at the grocery store. It is a seaweed, which we have learned is you know, seaweeds are good for us except for carageenan. It's a it's a red seaweed. It can cause ulcerative colitis, like symptoms. And a lot of people in the laboratory study it has been shown to cause renal bumps renal being the kidneys. And so it's really not great a lot of people who are sensitive to carageenan and don't realize it can sometimes just have maybe mild bloating, or their stomach feels a little off. They don't get that ulcerative colitis, like you know, inflammation, diarrhea constipation cycle, I do find that the vast majority of people who remove carageenan from their diet, discover within like seven days how much better their gut feels
Dr. Stephanie Gray 33:26
very interesting. Shoot, I was on the fence with that I didn't know a lot about it. I had heard bad things. But I'm happy that you just clarify that
Mira Dessy 33:34
for me. So well. And you know, one of the things that I will share is there Believe it or not, because carageenan is being shown to be so harmful to us, you can now actually see, especially in the alternative dairy aisle, there are certain producers that are starting to put no carageenan on the front of the label.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 33:52
I was just going to ask you for that. Like what brands I'm sure listeners are thinking. Okay, so if I do want to have flax milk or whatnot, are there brands, I'm fine with you disclosing anything.
Mira Dessy 34:03
And so when I love that, you're asking me that and what I will tell you is it's gotten to the point where I can't keep all the names in my head and in what I tell people is I am completely brand disloyal. Because there are companies who will make a whole range of products and some of their products are good. And some of their products are maybe not so great. Sure. So so what I really encourage people to do is figure out what works for you and read the label. Sure.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 34:32
I feel like for listeners, this can be very overwhelming because many times having I'm having my patients go gluten, dairy eggs sugar free, right, we're getting them on a hypoallergenic diet, but yet they also need to remove other toxic layers like the chemicals like glyphosate, herbicides, pesticides that can be on their food so they need to purchase organic and you need to look at the ingredients on the foods as well because you could get an organic gluten free cracker but What's all in there? Right What other ingredients are in that cracker. So, generally speaking, it's better to just eat real food. But there are times where we want to have, you know, crackers and hummus or chips and hummus
Mira Dessy 35:13
well, and so one thing I will share, there's a really great book that I recommend to my clients when they're first learning how to get into a real food diet. And we have to make some adjustments because like you, I recommend that people at least start by going gluten free, dairy free, you know, sugar, because those are things that we can then begin to build from there and see if it's something that they can handle. But there's this great book called make the bread by the butter. And so it talks about things that you can make at home that are, you're able to make them cleaner and more easily. And so you got to take it with a grain of salt, because, you know, obviously, we're not encouraging our people to make bread with flour, right?
But but there are lots of other things in there where it's like, you can make these very easily, very simply, you don't have to buy everything. Yep. And I, I have to say I am seeing especially right now, more and more people willing to invest in their real food kitchens. Buy because they're having you know, I just talked to someone a couple of days ago, who was like, I'm having learned how to cook dinner, my family like, they're, they're actually liking this, because they're getting, you know, better food. And it's tasty. And it's also more nourishing for us. You know, that's one of the things we have to remember is, especially as we shift away from a highly processed diet, and more towards a real food diet, we're actually nourishing our body. So some of those processed foods, they may seem cheap, but they were malnourished, we're not getting the nutrient dense items that our body needs in order to be well. And when we make that real food shift, we're actually going to find that we're less hungry, we're less munchie and crunchy, because we are not snacking, and you know, eating junk food. I
Dr. Stephanie Gray 37:11
totally agree. Totally agree. We already discussed a little bit about the Dirty Dozen and the clean 15. But I want to go back to that for a moment just for listeners. So as far as purchasing organic, are there a top few of those foods on that list that you could mention to the listeners that they really do need to consider buying organic.
Mira Dessy 37:29
So I will share and this is where it comes down to making budgetary decisions like I I always advocate the Dirty Dozen just because of the pesticide load. Yep. And then when it comes to organic, I encourage people you know, as they can afford to do it. I I'm a big believer in organic or at least pasture raised animal products hungry, those are not only going to not have all of the pesticide laden feed and everything else, they're not going to be given all the hormones, all the antibiotics, you know, part of the challenges, over 70% of the antibiotics sold in this country are not actually given to humans, they're used in the animal husbandry industry, because when they keep all these animals in very close confines, they get sick faster. also giving them antibiotics makes them get fat faster. And its weight, not health of the animal that leads to profitability short for certain farmers.
So if you can get pasture raised beef, or chicken or pork or whatever, that's going to be much better for you. And then the other thing that I encourage people to watch out for. And the challenge with this is, you know, the three most highly genetically modified crops on the face of the planet are corn, soy and canola. And you can buy organic versions of those. But I have also seen increasing documentation that indicates that it is not as clean as we would like it to be just because you know, seed and wind and pollen all sort of blow around and mix up. And so, you know, at this point, I've heard that there truly is and I don't know if this is true or not. I'm just saying this is what industry sources indicate. there truly is no such thing as organic canola anywhere anymore. At this point.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 39:32
I've heard that too. And I think potato is like the fourth or fifth food I think potatoes up there too. For the top
Mira Dessy 39:39
potatoes Nino's are climbing. Yeah. And the thing is, you know, there's a lot of experiments because like now they're experimenting with things like genetically modified zucchini. There is a genetically modified Apple on the market. And actually it really annoys me because it's it's an apple that does not bruise and will not turn brown. When you cut And my response is, do we really need our apples to be that pretty and whatever happened to lemon juice? Right, right. So, and then, of course, there's genetically modified fish, which I'm hugely opposed to
Dr. Stephanie Gray 40:15
agreed, I actually just pulled up the Dirty Dozen 2020 list. So I'm going to read those foods. So these are the dirty foods that you really want to purchase organic. So potatoes, which we just talked about, strawberries, spinach, and kale, nectarines, apples, right? Sin skins, their grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery. And I think that's it, those are the those are the top foods to really, especially the summer, think about purchasing organic for sure for wash them very, very well. But you still you can't wash off when you can't try to end it.
Mira Dessy 40:51
And so one of the things I really do encourage people to do if they can, is to get to know their farmers market, their local farmers market, because those small farmers are not using the same kinds of chemicals or pesticides or whatever. And if you talk to them, they'll tell you like, I once was trying to a blueberry farmer. And he's like, well, I only use roundup once a year at the beginning of the season. And I was like, okay, that's not for me. Use it. Yeah. Yeah. But But the thing is he you know, he was he was telling me about it like, this is what I do. And you know, the problem is roundup is quite fussy and is systemic. Once it gets into the soil, it gets taken up into the plan. It's a key later, all that kind of stuff. But oh, no, yeah, no, it's definitely bad news. But one of the things that I was going to say is a lot of these smaller, more sustainable farms, they cannot afford what it takes to get certified as organic. First of all, they have to grow organically for three years, they have to pay 10s of thousands of dollars to the federal government for documentation. And then they have to pay an enormous amount of money every year to be tested and recertified, and for them, it's an inordinate burden shortly don't have the volume that it would take to be able to do that. So those are what I call my sustainable or sometimes regenerative farmers. And those are going to be your local guys get to know them.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 42:17
Like, you want to ask them questions. Yeah,
Mira Dessy 42:19
absolutely. Because they love their customers, they love getting to know their people and being connected and making real food for them. That's, that's what they want to be doing. Absolutely.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 42:30
I interesting. I'll go off on a short tangent here. So I can test my patience levels of glyphosate. And we can look for herbicides and pesticides, pesticides, things like two, four D, I never know just called 240. I had a patient yesterday who he has been spraying this for years. Interestingly, his glyphosate level did not come back elevated, it was slightly elevated, but not as high as I thought it would be. His 240 was through the roof. Hi, I mean, through the roof. Hi. So I love having farmers for patients. They're funny, and they're usually pretty committed. They're self employed also, right. But it's very enlightening to them that wow, I may need to change my practices, right? Because it actually could be impacting my health, I have toxic high levels of these chemicals within my body. The good news is we can work to get them out. And we can make make the swap. Or we can either they can choose to have someone else spray their crops, or they can choose to not spray their crops at all, and make that transition. So if you're listening, and you're wanting to know, if you have high levels of some of these herbicides and pesticides, and we can test we actually contest most functional medicine practitioners can. We'll wrap up with just a few questions here. So what's the biggest mistake people make walking into the grocery store?
Mira Dessy 43:42
So I think the biggest mistake that people make is believing that everything that's inside those four walls is food, you know, and and the object is to learn how to educate yourself about what is really nourishing some of your body,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 43:58
right? artificial colors, and enriched. additives are not they're not going to nourish your body, they're going to drag it down and cause more harm than good. That's great. Are there any other little tips you want to share that we didn't get to that we need to know?
Mira Dessy 44:13
You know, I think so first of all, I just want to go back and reiterate the three words you need to know because this is the biggest thing that you can do to nourish yourself in your family is read the label, you know, those those are most important. And then I also want to reiterate, start small. everything that you're doing is something more than you were doing before. Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed by that, but just really take the time. focus on one thing at a time and move forward from there.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 44:44
Good advice. What's your top longevity tip absolute top longevity tip.
Mira Dessy 44:48
Dr. Stephanie Gray 44:51
Real Food? Yeah. Like Michael Pollan said eat food was? Enough. Yeah, exactly. Well, I hear that you have a wonder Feel free gift for our listeners, would you like to share what that is?
Mira Dessy 45:03
I do. So you know we we've talked a lot about all the ingredients and what's in our food and that sort of thing. We, because of time didn't have a chance to go into actually what's on our food, what's touching our food. we alluded to that with the cereal and the VHA. But I have a book called is plastic making you fat and anxious, that talks about the impact of some of the packaging, and how it can impact our health and what's going on. So I, I will send you a link for a page where they can download that book for free.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 45:40
That sounds amazing. I would like to dig into that. Thank you so much. This was so much fun. So thank you for coming on the show today and educating us on how to read a food label and teaching us what harmful ingredients we should be looking for. And saying no to and just emphasizing that food is medicine and we need to be eating to nourish our health. So thank you so much for coming on today.
Mira Dessy 46:00
Thanks for having me.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 46:03
Well, that definitely was fun and so interesting. You can learn more about Mira at the ingredient guru calm and Guru is spelled g u r you also check out her book the pantry principle available on Amazon and now available for purchase at my practice the integrative health and hormone clinic. If you alert us that you listen to this episode, we'll give you 5% off her book at the clinic. After the show Mira and I talked a bit about how I could be using a dehydrator for my son to make him real fruit snacks that don't have added grains or other fillers. This was such a good idea and I look forward to starting that project soon. Be sure to check out my book your longevity blueprint. And if you aren't much of a reader, you're in luck. You can now take my course online where I walk you through each chapter in the book. Plus for a limited time Not only is the course 50% off, but you also get your first consult with me for free. Check this offer out at your longevity blueprint calm and click the course tab. One of the biggest things you can do to support the show and help us reach more listeners is to subscribe to the show. And leave us a rating and review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. I read all the reviews and would truly love to hear your suggestions for show topics, guests or how you're applying what you've learned on the show to create your own longevity blueprint. A podcast is produced by the team at counterweight creative. As always, thanks so much for listening and remember, wellness is waiting.
The information provided in this podcast is educational. No information provided should be considered to be or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your personal medical authority.
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