The Facts about Diet Sodas, Shiny Apples and Fried Chicken

Diet sodas, shiny apples and fried chicken have a lot in common.  While they each masquerade as being good for you (or at least good for your waistline), upon close examination they are not only unhealthy, they may be toxic. Let’s take that closer look at these three staples of the American diet.

Diet Sodas.

“Diet” sodas are the ultimate hypocrites of the beverage world. People get hooked on them because they hope the “diet” part will pay off.  (Why else would anyone endure an aftertaste as metallic as the can it comes in?) The claim of being sugar-free and calorie-free is very seductive. However, that seduction is quite misleading.

Diet sodas don’t keep you from getting fat, they actually have just the opposite effect. You can blame this on the toxic cocktail of chemicals that go into diet sodas. The most common diet soda brands include: carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, “natural” flavors, citric acid and caffeine. Aspartame is a non- saccharine synthetic sweetener that for one reason or another keeps receiving FDA approval. Of all, aspartame is the worse ingredient in diet sodas (as well as in 6,000 other diet and low calorie processed food products). Put together into a diet soda, this chemical cocktail is known to cause changes in brain chemistry, cellular communication and basic metabolism. These changes to brain and gut chemistry can make you fat.

Aspartame is a dieter’s worst enemy. Two studies done by the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found that two daily servings of diet soda, specifically Diet Coke, over time increased waistlines by over three inches, a 70% waistline increase compared to non-diet soda drinkers.
Here’s why. There are logical reasons to explain the fattening (and bloating) effects of aspartame. Aspartame is made up of toxic chemicals phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. When you ingest aspartame, it is absorbed from the intestines directly into the liver which then metabolizes – breaks down – the aspartame into its three toxic components. This requires a lot of energy from the liver which means less energy remaining in the liver for metabolism and fat burning. This results in fat storing. Excess fat may build up inside the liver causing fatty liver. When this starts to happen, it is extremely difficult to lose weight.

Aspartame also causes weight gain by other mechanisms:

  • Aspartame causes unstable blood sugar levels, which increases the appetite and causes cravings for sweets and sugar, making it particularly toxic for those with diabetes
  • It causes fluid retention making the body look puffy and bloated, as well as increasing the formation of cellulite.

Here are other negatives about the aspartame in diet sodas:

  • Heightened risk of heart failure, metabolic syndrome and diabetes
  • Kidney problems and hip fractures. Researchers have found that women who drank two or more diet sodas a day had as much as a 30% decrease in kidney function.
  • It alters mood. The FDA may approve it, but aspartame is on an EPA list of potentially dangerous chemicals contributing to neurotoxicity, right beneath arsenic. The Academy of Neurology has found that artificially sweetened drinks are connected to a higher risk of depression, at least 30% as much.
  • Aspartame contains free methyl alcohol which is classified as a narcotic. It causes chronic methanol poisoning which affects the dopamine system of the brain and gut, which has the unwanted side effect of causing addiction.

Aspartame – both seductive and addictive. You may like it, but your body doesn’t.

Shiny Apples.

Remember when they used to say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Today, eating those bruise-free, perfect shiny apples from the grocery store is more likely to bring the doctor running. Why? Because shiny apples are not natural. Did you ever stop to think how your perfectly polished apple got that way? Simple … it’s been coated with either shellac or carnauba-shellac materials These are the same materials used to shine cars and floors. Yech!

Beyond the shellac glaze, apples today rank as some of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits. After harvest, most conventionally-raised apples (about 80%) are drenched with diphenylamine (DPA) which helps prevent blackening or browning of the fruit skin during long months of cold storage. DPA is a synthetic crystalline compound with basic properties used in making azo dyes and as an insecticide, larvicide, and pesticide. Pesticides kill “pests” and don’t make any distinction between microbes on the apple or microbes in the gut. Both disrupt normal functioning.

At the very least, if you can’t resist shiny apples,  thoroughly wash and peel apples before eating. Better yet, eat organically-grown apples.

Fried Chicken.

Here’s another disheartening revelation, this time it’s about fried chicken, a protein-laden food that’s a mealtime staple. But it’s not the chicken part of fried chicken that’s bad, it’s the fried part, especially when you let someone else do the frying.

I happen to love chicken tenders, but am basically pretty lazy in the kitchen. On a recent trip to my local grocer (to which I went hungry), the aromas near the take-out food section were seductive, and even more so when I saw that the fried chicken tanders were on sale. “I’ll take three,” I said, salivating.

Back home I started eating them right out of the take-out carton at my kitchen table. I idly read the label attached to the carton. “Holy cow!” I said to no one in particular. “Look at all these ingredients!”

Silly Putty chemicals
What struck me first was the last ingredient “added as anti-foaming agent”. Upon investigation I found that dimethylpolysiloxane (spelled incorrectly on the label) is routinely used to keep frying oil from foaming. It also turns out that this chemical is commonly used in silicone caulks, adhesives, and is a major ingredient in Silly Putty.

To date there have been no major studies by the FDA on the safety of dimethylpolysiloxane in food since it was approved in 1998 and the food industry remains free to use it anyway it wants. It’s even in fountain drinks, McDonald’s McNuggets and countless other fast foods. We’re filling our bodies with Silly Putty. No matter what the FDA says or doesn’t say, common sense says that can’t be good.

Ingredient label from a grocery store’s take-home fried chicken

Bad colorants

What else wasn’t so good to discover about my fried chicken tenders was the addition of the colorant annatto. Responding to public pressure and government findings, the food industry has been moving away from the use of artificial colors. In its place comes annatto, a “natural” vegetable dye made from the seed coat of the tropical Annatto tree. It imparts an orange-yellow coloration (or golden, as the case may be in fried chicken.)  Giants like General Mills, Nestle, Hershey and Kraft are quick to boast they are abandoning artificial colors in favor of annatto and other “natural” colorants.However, it hasn’t taken long to discover that annatto causes its own adverse reactions. Intolerance reactions include allergic reactions and skin, gastrointestinal, and central nervous system distress. It has been identified as a culprit in causing irritability, sleep disturbance, restlessness and head banging in children. Both adults and children claim it gives them headaches.

Nasty fats
The label further reveals the chicken was fried in a corn and cottonseed oil blend. The fats in these two vegetable oils are nasty, containing excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids which promote oxidation and inflammation in the body. The more you eat of these bad fats, the higher your risk of heart disease.

Refined wheat
And last, but certainly not the least of what was wrong with my fried chicken, was the use of wheat, salt and modified wheat starch as some of the predominant ingredients listed on the label.  Chances are pretty good the wheat was refined wheat with little nutritional value, and who knows how the wheat starch was “modified.” Salt as the third ingredient was probably more sodium than I needed that day.

I’m not swearing off chicken tenders, but I see that my laziness in the kitchen has to come to an end as I learn to fry my own chicken in olive or avocado oil, or better yet, use an air fryer. Label reading has given me the push I needed to stop eating stupidly.