Enough with Artificial Additives: Subway is Making Progress

I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with seeing strange, un-foodlike words on ingredient lists.  My solution to this problem is to buy as much food as I can without ingredient lists– or to make sure the ingredients are natural, recognizable foods.

This article is saying that there is hope for change:  The Food Industry Make a Major Shift From Artificial to Natural.  I like that!  More and more people are becoming concerned about the connection between artificial ingredients and their potential negative health consequences.  Subway made the news last week by announcing the removal of one particularly questionable additive in their bread:

Subway To Remove Chemical From Bread

Food Advocates Call on FDA to Ban Potentially Carcinogenic Bread Additive

It’s been years since I’ve eaten at Subway.  It’s not that I don’t adore the taste of their delicious subs, it’s that once I discovered what’s in the ingredient list for their bread I realized Subway was something I could and probably should do without.  Especially due to one specific additive that they soon plan to get rid of: azodicarbonamide.

I used to crave their veggie delight sub (no cheese) with sweet onion sauce on wheat bread along with a bag of Baked Lays chips.  That was my go-to sub when traveling or when just out and about for lunch or a snack.  The smell and softness of the bread combined with flavorful veggies, salty pickles and olives and sweet sticky sauce tasted like pure heaven.  How bad could a veggie sub be?  I didn’t want to know, but one day I decided that it might be a good idea to learn what exactly is in the bread.  Wow.

What should bread be made of?  How about things like whole wheat flour, yeast, salt?  I believe ingredients you can at least recognize are a good start.

What does Subway’s 9-grain bread contain?  Let’s take a look:

Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin,folic acid), water, yeast, whole wheat flour, sugar, contains 2% or less of the following: wheat gluten, oat fiber, soybean oil, wheat bran, salt, wheat, rye, yellow corn, oats, triticale, brown rice, barley, flaxseed, millet, sorghum, yeast nutrients (calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), vitamin D2, dough conditioners (DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, potassium iodate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide), caramel color, refinery syrup, honey, yeast extract, natural flavor, enzymes.

That word in red, azodicarbonamide, is what Subway is going to remove from its breads.  It’s used in plastics and according to the CSPI  who categories this additive as “avoid,” there has been limited safety testing done and some research indicates that when bread is baked, carcinogens are formed.  It’s also been linked to respiratory issues (WHO).  It’s approved by our FDA as a food additive.  Does that make it good to eat?– not necessarily.  It’s banned in Australia, the UK and Europe.  Get a Subway sub there and you won’t find this additive in their bread.  That kind of makes you wonder.

Azodicarbonamide is not found only in Subway’s bread. This ingredient is used by many other food chains and in some grocery store breads.  How bad is it really?  And in what levels is it safe?  There is no simple answer.  As are many topics, this subject can be highly debatable and it boils down to personal choice.  How clean do you want your diet?  How important is eating real food to you?  What level of artificial additives/preservatives/colorings are acceptable to you?  Everyone has their own answer and that is okay.  Some people care greatly about what they put in their bodies while others worry more about other things.  It’s human nature to think in our own unique ways and have different priorities.

I see what people eat.   I see what they put in their grocery carts and it worries me.  Many people don’t look beyond the numbers from calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat when eating… and most people are not even concerned with that.  While to me it’s incomprehensible to be oblivious about food, I realize I am in the minority (by far).

Some serious questions to consider:  What is in your food?  Where are the calories from macronutrients (carbs/fats/proteins) coming from?  What about any other strange additions?  I encourage everyone to be more mindful of what they are eating.  What you are eating today, to a large extent, determines the state of your body in years to come.

  • Be aware of what you are eating.  (READ, READ, READ the ingredient list)
  • Make necessary changes.  (YES YOU CAN DO IT…it might not always be easy but if you want something bad enough you will find a way)
  • See results.  Once you begin feeling better eating higher quality food, you will gain a momentum that will keep you going in the right direction!

Just because something is out there for sale as a food item doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something you can eat without repercussions.  While it may not cause immediate harm, it’s worth considering the cumulative effect of artificial and highly processed ingredients in what we eat.  Who really knows how dangerous the various food additives are.  Would I tell people to never eat at Subway or the many other fast food restaurants that use this chemical (as well as other questionable ingredients) in their products?  Of course not.  I’m just suggesting that you take a closer look at your food, even food that is marketed as being a healthy choice.  Subway’s removing this awful ingredient from its bread is definitely a positive step.  I am hopeful that we are approaching changing times where we will see more and more action taken to improve the state of the world’s health.

Think about a restaurant food item that you often eat and then go to that company’s website to look at what’s really in it.  We all have freedom of choice!  The information is out there; make the effort to use it if that knowledge is important to you.  Know that you are in control of your health to a large degree.  It’s a personal responsibility and an individual decision.

Sometimes I wonder if I overly concern myself with these matters.  Most of the people I know don’t care or don’t think about what’s in their food.  While I don’t fully understand this, I have come to accept that this is how it is.  Sometimes I even get nostalgic for my younger years of take-out pizza, artificially colored sugary candy, and creamy milkshakes where I had no worries about their effects on my health.  Food was just something fun.  It certainly still is, but eating is no longer the simple carefree activity it once was.  Sometimes I think of going back to the ignorance, but then it hits me that it’s not possible.   Given the choice, I choose to go for the more natural foods.  The foods that aren’t suspicious or created in a chemical lab.  That’s just me and my preference.  It’s how I live and how I feel good about my life.  It doesn’t mesh with who I am to eat foods too far removed from the way nature provides.

I’m so curious about other people’s perceptions on this topic.  What about you?  What do you think about artificial and questionable food ingredients?  Do you care?  Do you make  the effort to learn about ones you don’t recognize?  Do you avoid certain things?  Why or why not?

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