3 Food Ingredients To Watch Out For

glasses of lemon water with mint

(BlackDoctor.org) — If you are what you eat, as the saying goes, reading the ingredient list on packaged foods can give you pause. Some foods are laced with dozens of ingredients with complicated names that sound like they belong in a chemistry lab, not on your plate. Some list ingredients that belie the claims made on the front of the package.

Make shopping a breeze by running all packaged foods through this quick checklist:

1. Long lists

When you find a packaged food in the supermarket with a long list of ingredients on the label, just set it back on the shelf and look for a simpler version of the food. (We’re talking here about the “Ingredients” part of the label. “Nutrition Facts” is another part). The alarming truth is, many of those ingredients are various kinds of sugars and chemical additives, and they’re not put there for you — they’re there to benefit the company that processes the food. They “enhance” the looks, taste, or shelf life — which is all about marketing and shipping and not at all about your health.

Most additives aren’t known to be harmful (although the health effects of some are still open to question), but they aren’t about nutrition or taste as nature intended taste to be. In fact, one of their main purposes is to make up for a lack of those things. So check the list of ingredients every time. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, says that almost always, the shorter the better.

2. Water

Water is the magic ingredient in prepared foods, and if it’s first on the list of ingredients, that’s a clue that there’s a long list of additives to follow to give that water some taste and texture. You might not be surprised to see water at the top of the list of ingredients in soups. After all, soup does take a lot of water. It’s more surprising to find it so prominent in SpaghettiOs. Many, many salad dressings contain more water than anything else, and since oil and water don’t mix, it takes a bunch of additives to hold everything together. Water is cheap, so the food industry likes it.

3. MSG

Check out the ingredient list on the labels of prepared foods — on soups, for example. Keep reading, because it’s pretty far down on a long list (although if there is no MSG, that’s usually prominently mentioned at the top). MSG (monosodium glutamate) is sometimes listed under its own name but often under other names, among them hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate. MSG is a synthetic version of the substance umami, as it is known in Japan, which occurs naturally in some foods, including Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and mushrooms. MSG, widely used in Asian cooking, went out of favor when it became associated with headaches and other unpleasant symptoms.

Now many Asian restaurants proudly advertise “No MSG” on their menus, but the food industry still sneaks it in as a flavor enhancer. So if you’re concerned about MSG, look for it under all of its names.

9 Gym Bag Must-Haves

A blue gym bag
It’s a new year! Are you looking to hit the gym to make some headway on resolutions? First things first, whether you are a beginner, or a two-a-day workout fanatic, you don’t want to show up empty handed at the gym. Worse, you don’t want to show up with your hands and pockets stuffed full of the things you don’t really need.

A high-end gym bag isn’t necessary (a backpack will work just fine), but you do need something to hold the essentials and make your life a little easier — no extra trips back and forth between home, work and the gym. And if you can leave it overnight in a locker at the gym, it’ll enable you to show up empty handed but still have everything you need to get you through a workout — and to get you out the door not smelling unpleasant.

So what are the nine most essential items for gym-goers? Let’s take a look inside a well-stocked bag.

1. Water

Being hydrated and staying hydrated is very important to your health and performance levels during workouts. Your body is made up of 70% water and it will not function at peak performance if you are not hydrated. Water also transports nutrients that are essential for energy and recovery, and removes waste and toxins from the body. Water is also essential to help regulate your body’s temperature. I recommend using a BPA-free refillable water bottle. It’ll save you a few bucks and it’s best for the environment.

2. Music

There’s no better motivator than a great playlist. Create a few new playlists every weekend and store them on your mp3 player. Cook up a hardcore mix, a cardio mix, an all-time-favorite mix, a cooldown mix, a stretch mix, and anything else you can think up. It’s a great way to add a little zip to your day and make your workouts fun. It’s also a great idea to download audio books or podcasts to listen to as you do cardio.

3. Footwear

Whether you’re going to the gym before or after work, or just getting out of the house for a quick workout, you don’t want to worry about showing up only to realize you’re still wearing work boots or wingtips. Keep a pair of workout shoes in your bag at all times and you won’t have to double back to your home to take a second whack at getting prepared — or decide to park yourself on the couch because it’s already too much hassle.

A good pair of cross-training shoes will suit your needs no matter what you do. Whether you decide to lift weights, run on the track, get on the stationary bike, or play a game of basketball or racquetball, cross-trainers won’t let you down.

You’ll also want to pack a pair of flip-flops so you won’t have to stand directly on the locker room floor when you shower or change clothes. Forget your flip-flops and you’re asking for a bad case of fungal infection in the form of athlete’s foot.

3. Journal

A workout journal is a great way to track your progress, and an ideal place to jot down goals, ideas and new exercises. You can also have a page of motivating quotes for days that you need a mini pep talk.

4.  Fuel

Many fitness clubs offer snacks, and even cafes, but if you do not have the proper fuel in tow, you might take in some extra calories and spend unnecessary money. Keep a large zip-lock bag full of gym snacks, such as nutrition bards, in case you need a quick pre or post-workout calorie infusion.

5. Toiletries

A great line of attack for the gym is hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. We all want to smell fresh and clean after a great workout, especially if we have somewhere important to go. Try a clear, natural deodorant to stay dry and battle unwanted odor and minimizes streaks on your clothes. Also, keep you gym bag stocked with mini bottles filled with your regular skincare, hair care, and body care products, if you plan on showering at the gym.

6. Antibacterial Wipes

When there’s no time to shower after a workout, blot the sweat with a clean towel and then do a mini wipe-down with the antibacterial wipes. Of course, you’ll want to follow up with a fresh coat of deodorant.

7. Plastic Bag

Tossing your used and sweaty clothes in your gym bag after a workout is not only unhygienic, but it can also cause a foul smell to develop in your bag. This is why it’s important to have a re-sealable plastic bag where you can place your workout clothes. Sealing the plastic bags will ensure that the odor is prevented from spreading. This is particularly important if you work out at the gym in the morning before heading to work.

8. Two Towels

It’s important to have two towels: one to use during your workouts on the machines and a clean one to wipe your face and body post-workout. If you sweat a fair amount during your workout, invest in a microfiber towel. It stays dry to the touch and helps draw sweat from the hair and skin to keep you comfortable.

9. Coconut Water

Coconut water is by far a top recommendation for a postworkout drink. It’s 100% natural, contains more electrolytes than most sports drinks, has almost 15 times more potassium than a banana, is high in fiber (2.6 g in 8 oz), helps to balance pH levels, is low in calories and is fat free. Enough said.