Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Keep It Simple This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
“Now introducing, new crackers with 25% fewer calories and zero grams of fat!” blares the advertisement. These commercials are very popular in our weight-­obsessed society, and although it sounds like the product advertised is healthy, it may actually contain harmful or unwholesome ingredients. When companies market their products as having a certain percent less fat or calories, they neglect to mention that unhealthy substances like sucrose, aspartame, and high-fructose corn syrup are lurking in the shadows of their list of ingredients.

Of course, calories and fat are crucial to balance in order to maintain a healthy diet. Consuming too much fat can cause obesity and clogged arteries, and calories taken in but not burned off will lead to weight gain and an unhealthy body. Many communities have made magnanimous efforts to decrease trans fat consumption by banning it from restaurants. Although tracking calories and fat is important to maintain a healthy diet, they cannot be used as the sole basis for determining the healthfulness of food.

One ingredient that is often an unhealthy additive to food products is refined white sugar. Integrated into foods as a sweetener and a flavorful ingredient, white sugar (or sucrose) may seem unavoidable, but in truth, it should not be consumed in large quantities. Sugar that is naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods is healthy and should be eaten regularly. But when refined sugar is added to a product, it simply adds empty calories and may increase one’s risk of diabetes.

A widely used ingredient found in everything from salad dressing to fruit juice is high-fructose corn syrup. Associated with the increase in obesity, it is incorporated into most processed foods as a sweetener and usually made from genetically modified corn. In reality, there is no significant difference between high-fructose corn syrup and simple table sugar. Recent studies have shown that high-fructose corn syrup may trigger type two diabetes. Food companies are undoubtedly part of the problem. Kraft Foods was sued for claiming that a product with high-fructose corn syrup was made with “all natural ingredients.” The statement is clearly false and misleading.

With 66 percent of Americans overweight or obese, it’s no surprise that scientists are attempting to unearth the perfect artificial sweetener or ­sugar substitute. But growing evidence shows that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame and many others, are unhealthy. Some research has found a clear link between aspartame and cancer. In addition, those sweeteners may not have the diet benefits previously believed. A study done by the University of Texas found that artificial sweeteners do little to promote weight loss; in fact, they impact obesity on a larger scale than plain old sugar.

Although countless additives and ingredients are unhealthy, sweeteners – especially the artificial ­variety – are important to avoid or reduce. It is ­critical that when considering food, we decide not only how much but what we are putting in our mouths. The next time a commercial pops up ­advertising a product with less fat or calories, don’t simply assume that the product is healthy; think twice before deciding to buy it. And don’t forget to look for hidden ingredients.

The easiest way to be safe is to purchase all natural or organic products. And keep it simple: the longer the ingredients list is, the more additives or unhealthy substances it probably contains. We must take steps to conquer obesity, and starting with the right ingredients will make a big difference.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Join the Discussion


This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

Ella1 said...
Dec. 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm:
So true. I agree with you. All the media hype can lead people into believing that a diet of zero fat and sugar is perfect
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
B-star7This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm:
That's actually really smart. Awesome idea!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
reenay_95 said...
Dec. 30, 2010 at 9:35 pm:
They say if a seven year old can't pronounce the ingredients on the list, don't eat it.  They also say if your food can go bad, it's good for you. If it can't go bad, it's bad for you.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
SemiVeggie said...
Sept. 11, 2010 at 10:51 pm:
Thanks so much for writing this article! I completely agree with it, and I just about live by the rules you've stated here: another good rule of thumb is to not eat anything if you can't pronounce the ingredients in it.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
DanceAwayThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm:
this is good. The only thing I would change is the broad generalizations. What I mean is Fat=heart disease and Sugar=diabetes. still, awesome article, 5 stars.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Inkspired said...
Nov. 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm:
Great! I totally agree with you, diet stuff is pointless. Well written, I like it a lot!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Robin F. said...
Jun. 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm:
I am interestd in quoting from your work in my book Food Choices: The Ultimate Teen Guide. Please email me to say whether you give me permission. What is your age? I will need a permission form signed by you or your parents, depending on your age.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback