Aug
19
2017

No More Macaroni And Cheese

Two years ago Kraft’s was in the news and I said then “no more macaroni and cheese”.  At that time they promised to make macaroni and cheese more nutritious by removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. Now they are in the news because industrial chemical phthalates have been found in almost every sample of cheese powder that is used to make macaroni and cheese.

Phthalates are powerful hormone-disrupting chemicals that are toxic to children and pregnant women. Most noteworthy, abnormal brain development and abnormalities of the reproductive system have a connection to prenatal exposure to phthalates. Potentially 725,000 American women of childbearing age are at risk. Should they get pregnant, their babies would be at the receiving end of toxic phthalates. In Europe new regulations about phthalates were introduced in 2011. In contrast, in North America the FDA has been negligent in enforcing legislation to keep the US population free of phthalates in their food.

Background information about phthalates

Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are widely used in cleaning agents like soaps, plastics, rubbers, inks, adhesives and fragrances. Phthalates in plastic materials increases the durability and longevity, but also the flexibility and transparency of plastic.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes on its website how a large percentage of the population has phthalates in their urine. This proves that unsuspecting customers are ingesting phthalates, which potentially poses a tremendous challenge.

In Europe vigorous legislation is in place regarding phthalates. Should they more vigorously legislated in the US?

Effects of phthalates on body

It seems that males are more sensitive to the toxic effects of phthalates than females. Males experience testicular atrophy and shrinking of the prostate gland. The sperm count goes down, which can lead to infertility. Pregnant women are at risk of having babies with genetic defects due to exposure to phthalates. Many cosmetic products contain phthalates.  Due to lax FDA supervision there is no labeling on many cosmetics, yet they contain phthalates (lipsticks, make-up).

Apart from infertility issues phthalates are also responsible for allergies, some cases of obesity, asthma and breast cancer.

There are other clinical conditions that have been linked to phthalate exposure. Behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorder, type 2 diabetes, low IQ and neurodevelopmental issues. A lot of these problems could disappear with more awareness of the public, stricter labeling rules of the regulatory agencies and more responsibility shown by manufacturers.

Why nutritionists don’t like macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese belongs into the group of junk foods. In the past it was artificial coloring and artificial flavors that were the concern. Now it came to light that phthalates have contaminated the fat-containing cheese from the packaging. The soft plastic cheese packages contain phthalates and they easily blend with fatty cheese, because phthalates are fat-soluble. This is the reason why I say: no more macaroni and cheese!

From a nutritional point of view macaronis are simply empty starch. The digestive process quickly turns it into sugar and causes a sugar peak in the blood. High blood sugar causes an insulin peak. Repeated insulin peaks show a connection to premature aging, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Cheese in macaroni and cheese is the cheapest processed cheese. Here is a summary of what macaroni and cheese contains. In this recipe the cheese portion comes from processed cheddar cheese. But in many macaroni and cheese packages the cheese portion comes from of a mix of protein, fat and milk powder and this mix has nothing to do with cheese. It just tastes like cheese. But all of the cheese powder packages have in common that in 29 out of 30 of the packages tested phthalates were contained in the cheese powder.

The package included a plastic coating containing the phthalates. This leeched into the cheese powder, because phthalates are fat-soluble.

No More Macaroni And Cheese: Toxic “food” is non-food

The problem with macaroni and cheese in today’s society is that it is a form of processed food. The more food is processed, the higher the risk that there is a loss of valuable nutrients. Unfortunately with food processing there is the need to use a food container where the food is stored. But up to now nobody thought that the ubiquitous phthalates that keep the plastic material of the food container flexible and longer lasting could pose any threat to our health by leaking into fatty foods.

However, we did have problems with PBA’s not long ago; they were leaking from baby bottles into baby food. The solution was to abandon BPA bottles.

We have to rethink the whole scenario. As this link shows there are many other chemicals in plastic that can also be toxic.

We can work on the food side and avoid as much processed food as possible. Buy fresh ingredients that you bring home and store in your fridge. Avoid plastic bags. Use glass containers as they are safe (not leaking chemicals into food).

What can you do, if you want no more macaroni and cheese?

Stop buying macaroni and cheese as processed food. Buy ingredients to make them yourself at home. Here is a recipe of how to make macaroni and cheese: You may in the past have thought that it is much easier to just buy macaroni and cheese in the store. But this is where the phthalates come in. It is our laziness that allows food processors to slip chemicals into our food that could damage us; and some of these potentially harmful chemicals are phthalates. Phthalates probably slipped into our food unintentionally because they are so extremely fat-soluble that they get into the cheese part of macaroni and cheese.

If you want to eat macaroni and cheese, make it yourself as per the recipe provided with the link above.

But I went one step further. I have abandoned macaroni and cheese altogether. We don’t need the extra insulin response from the macaroni as we digest them. Next I also do not need the extra processed cheese, as the fats are not the healthiest. If I want some cheese, I can cut a few slices from an honest organic cheese that originates from organic milk from cows that were grazing on grass.

I like eating diversified food from many healthy sources.

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Conclusion

Sometimes we need to rethink the food that we eat. Do we want to eat macaroni and cheese, because it reminds us of how we grew up? When you hear that processed foods contain toxic phthalates, you may also say as I do: “No more macaroni and cheese!” As I mentioned, if you really want to eat it, cook it yourself from the basic, healthy ingredients. But I decided no more macaroni and cheese for me, because it is not that healthy. There are healthier foods that I’d rather eat instead.

If more of us would shun processed foods, then the food industry would have to adapt to the population’s healthier food habits and come up with healthier products. We also would significantly reduce our exposure to phthalates that find their way into the food chain from food containers. Rethink your food habits and perhaps one day you can agree with me: “I don’t want non-nutritious processed food! No more macaroni and cheese!”

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Jun
06
2015

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

There is hardly a child that did not go through the macaroni and cheese phase. Now the maker of the Kraft’s dinner is in the news for their plan of removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. This in itself is a positive step in the right direction. Although Kraft’s is painting the positive image of being concerned about the food quality for children, I think that the trigger for the change lies in the downward spiral of the sales of junk foods. Kraft’s is not alone with this. McDonald’s has been in the news having to close down franchises and losing business to Chipotle.

Chipotle has a slogan: “whole or nothing”, meaning whole foods, no antibiotics in their meats, everything fresh.

There also has been pressure from the informed consumer. Kraft’s probably responded to the Change.org petition where 365,000 signatures were collected asking Kraft’s to remove dyes from macaroni and cheese.

Kraft did some research and found that it was indeed possible to keep the taste the same, while improving food quality by replacing food coloring with paprika, annatto and turmeric.

Food value of macaroni and cheese

So, let’s assume that this switch will be successful, which itself is positive. But what are kids actually eating? Are noodles (essentially a form of pasta) and processed cheese healthy? What about missing protein, vitamins, vegetables and lettuce?

Macaroni

I have explained before that starchy food is essentially the same as sugar. Would you say that sugar is healthy? No, because it oxidizes LDL cholesterol causing hardening of arteries leading to inflammation in the body and causing the pancreas to produce a whole load of insulin leading to hyperinsulinism with reactive hypoglycemia. This also undermines adrenal gland function causing adrenal fatigue.

Cheese

Since 1993 it is legal for the dairy industry in the US to use bovine growth hormone from Monsanto. And, yes, it is contained in processed cheese that finds its way into the cheese portion of macaroni and cheese. In Canada or Europe cheese does not contain bovine growth hormone, as it is illegal.

Here is a link that states that bovine growth hormone from dairy in the US is one of the causes of breast cancer. Now the Kraft’s macaroni and cheese story takes on a completely different twist: the longer you are exposed to this weak carcinogenic effect of cheese (due to rBGH or rBST) the higher the likelihood of developing breast cancer in girls later in life. In boys a similar glandular tissue is the prostate gland and prostate cancer in older men is common. According to the American Cancer Society research has already shown a connection between rBGH/rBST and prostate cancer later in life. I find the increased risk of breast and prostate cancer in the US concerning. However, starchy foods (the macaroni part of macaroni and cheese) are known to cause cancer of any kind because of the insulin response. So, macaroni and cheese is not an appropriate, healthy food.

Missing vegetables and salad

We need the vitamins from vegetables and salads to counter any effect of the carcinogenic effects of macaroni and cheese. Don’t stop at the pasta aisle of the supermarket.

You will need to pick up some vegetables before you go home. Often kids are reluctant to consume vegetables. One alternative is to run green leaf vegetables through the blender, add an orange and a piece of banana for better flavor and offer it as a smoothie drink.

What does this do? It adds Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Organic food

Despite the effort of changing macaroni and cheese and skipping artificial colors and flavoring substances, it does not measure up as a healthy food. Introduce new options that pack more flavor than any bland pasta product. Shop for organic food to avoid traces of pesticides and herbicides. Get used to the flavor of a Mediterranean diet without starchy foods or sugar. This diet has been associated with a long life and less disabilities in old age. So, replace the macaroni with a piece of chicken or lean grass-fed beef. Replace the cheese with vegetables. Buy an imported cheese (Parmigiano or cheddar, either organic or imported from Canada or a European country), which can be used over the vegetables. And –voila! – You got another meal, not macaroni and cheese!

The "Macaroni And Cheese" Myth

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

Reasoning

It seems that concentrating solely on changing coloring and food additives, we lost our vision of what healthy food really is. We get so worked up about the old, familiar tastes, even calling it “comfort food”, that we do not care any more about the quality of our food. This should be something, which the consumer is entitled to have, and it should not be left to the maneuvering of the food industry. We need to take the control of our kitchen back into our own hands. Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a professor of medicine and public health, asked a simple question: “What’s wrong with Girl Scout cookies?” In this article she explains her concern about GMO, sugar and trans fats in the cookies Girl Scouts sell. She makes the link between cookie consumption and obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. You may not know all the intricacies of the human body, but whatever food you decide to swallow will decide which way your metabolism goes. Do you want to become hypoglycemic, diabetic or do you just want your metabolism to stay normal?

Conclusion

Macaroni and cheese is a topic that leads to a discussion of what quality nutrition should be in general. The gold standard is a Mediterranean diet, as this is associated with longevity. At the same time it is tasty. Adults need to be aware of the side effects of junk food that I mentioned above. Despite advertisements otherwise, macaroni and cheese is not a quality food as it is deficient in vital nutrients, such as quality protein, minerals and vitamins.