FRIDAY, FEB. 17: On Tuesday I went grocery shopping.

Now, we all want to eat right (well at least should want to) and buy items of substance that are good for our kids too. This is, after all, Heart Month in Bermuda and nutrition plays a crucial role in keeping our hearts-a-pumping and performing well.

So, as always, I decided to check the ingredients of pretty much every item I picked up.

A lot of the things that appear on processed products are seemingly written in Pigeon English, Latin, or Martian.

Take this one for instance. It showed up on the pack of Goldfish by Pepperidge Farm. The ingredient is - autolyzed yeast. Do you have a clue as to what this it? I don’t.

Here is what it is: The manufacturers combine salt with live yeast, and this hybrid synthetic product becomes an entirely new food ingredient known as autolyzed yeast. Many people may not recognize autolyzed yeast as an ingredient in lots of their favorite processed foods, but they might recognize an ingredient derived from it: MSG, or monosodium glutamate. 

There is considerable controversy over the use of autolyzed yeast and other flavour enhancers, because a large number of us are extremely sensitive to MSG, which can trigger migraine headaches.

Now to a breakfast cereal I picked up in the organic section. It had a couple of things that stumped me. Reduced iron for instance. Reduced iron is not iron on a diet or a smaller amount than say your rival cereals, it is actually iron in the pure metallic form. That’s right, there are tiny iron filings in your cereal.

The body can absorb these tiny filings so, despite it sounding horrid, it’s actually okay. But the next thing on this box baffled me. We know that nuts are an allergen. They affect millions of people worldwide. Allergies to tree nuts for instance, cause an overreaction of the immune system, which can lead to severe physical symptoms even death! Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, coconuts, walnuts and pistachios. 

So, given that  people are seldom allergic to just one type of nut, the comment on the box flawed me. It read: “This cereal may contain traces of nuts and soybeans.’ It may contain? Do we roll the dice and hope that this particular box in our hand is the one that doesn’t contain any traces of tree nuts?

The US Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that any packaged food product that contains tree nuts as an ingredient must list the specific tree nut on the label.

Foods that almost always contain tree nuts include pesto, marzipan, Nutella, baklava, pralines, nougat and possibly some cereals!

I then found a sauce mix that included dehydrated onions.

The dehydration of onions does not make them unhealthy. Some vitamin C is lost, but a tablespoon of raw onion has four calories, while a tablespoon of dehydrated onion contains 17 calories. The dried onion contains four times more protein, and about five times more calcium and potassium. So feel comforted by things in ingredients that have been dehydrated.

Now what about high-fructose corn syrup? Many products contain high-fructose corn syrup. TV commercials are at the centre of a two-year campaign by the Corn Refiners  Association (CRA) to give high-fructose corn syrup — public enemy No. 1 to many healthy-eating advocates — an image makeover.

So, should it be reviled as it is? The American Medical Association says high-fructose corn syrup does not contribute more to obesity than sugar or other caloric sweeteners, an allegation thrown at it for many years but many consumers. The ads say the body cannot tell the difference between high-fructose corn syrup and refined sugar products, although it adds that either should be consumed in moderation. But here’s the rub for us all. 

It has been established that high-fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, so it is added to a wide range of items, including fruity yogurts, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in pretty much all foods marketed to children. So, unless you are vigorously opposed to it and eat raw veggies only, it’s rather difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation.

Here is the sobering argument, published in the journal Cancer Research in 2010. These findings reveal that not ALL sugars are equal.

Tumour cells love both glucose sugar and fructose sugar, but fructose directly causes all types of cancer cells to reproduce and spread in a way that ordinary cane sugar does not! So the study qualifies the fact that there is a major difference between hfcs, and your ordinary table variety of cane sugar. Both can lead to massive health problems, but high-fructose corn syrup is - unchallenged -—a far worse product in terms of cancer growth.

Your call now folks. Fruit and veggies and the occasional deep fried chicken (we need some time on the wild side) are probably best for us.