Say NO to the ‘Not-So-Super’ Supermarkets!

Supermarket with discounted products on display

With an increasing number of working parents juggling daily chores with hectic work schedules there is hardly any time left for cooking. This is when the Not-So-Super Supermarkets come into the picture. Considered to be the most convenient place for parents to go and buy ready-to-eat foods for their school or college-going teenagers, supermarkets are shockingly just a “convenient layout” designed to encourage us to buy more products, which are either more expensive, discounted and less healthy or totally unhealthy.

Let’s walk through the three biggest tricks used by supermarkets to entice you to buy unhealthy but convenient food items:
1. Supermarket layout: Supermarket designers don’t just make sure you pass a large selection of products, but make sure it is wider and easily navigated with a shopping cart.
2. Mixing healthy with unhealthy: This is most commonly seen in supermarkets nowadays. For example, when we see frozen foods such as ready-to-make parathas, nuggets, cutlets and many more, the first thing we assume is that they are fresh and thus, healthier.
3. Misleading marketing: This is where the storm of “low-fat”, “gluten-free”, “100% vegan”, “no added preservatives”, “zero calories”, etc. comes in.

Junk food ingredients: The main culprits

Recent studies term junk food as “Drugs: foods that become an addiction”. The impact of consuming readily and easily available junk food can have long-term adverse effects on a teenager’s health, namely obesity, high blood pressure, inadequate growth and development, dental issues, diabetes and constant fatigue.

While supermarket shopping, we pick up a number of “food-like products, not real food”. Some of the ingredients commonly found in these processed foods can be considered “toxic”. These include:

1. Palm oil: This is blasted with hydrogen and turned into a solid, thus becoming a trans fat. This anti-nutrient helps packaged foods stay “fresh”, meaning that the food can sit on the supermarket shelf for years without ever getting stale or rotting. Known to raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lower the “good” HDL, this fat also increases the risk of blood clots and heart attacks.

2. ‘White’ foods: When a whole grain is refined, most of its nutrients are lost in an effort to extend its shelf life. Both the bran and germ are removed, and also all the fibre, vitamins, and minerals. This makes white flour easier to digest but skyrockets blood sugars and insulin.

3. High fructose corn syrup: This evil ingredient is known to increase triglycerides, boost fat-storing hormones, thus making one overeat and gain weight.

4. Artificial sweeteners: These include aspartame, saccharin and sucralose and is harder on our metabolic system over plain white sugar.

5. Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate: Commonly found in sodas and contains “Benzene”, a known carcinogen linked to serious thyroid damage. This makes it even more dangerous when benzene is added in combination with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).

6. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): Another cancer-causing preservative, it prevents spoilage and food poisoning, but is extremely harmful to hormones.

7. Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites: Found in preserved meats like hot dogs, nuggets, bacon, etc, this is believed to cause colon cancer and metabolic syndrome.

8. Blue, green, red and yellow: As per recent studies, these artificial colours have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney and brain cancers.

9. MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a processed “flavour enhancer” commonly found in ready-to-eat Chinese noodles and other food items.

Importance of nutritional labelling

The nutritional label, or Nutrition Information Panel, is a food label required compulsorily on all food products. The guidelines are based on different dietary targets for various nutrients than the labels on specific foods.

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Dhrishti Bijlani
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Dhrishti Bijlani

Armed with a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Dhrishti Bijlani's goal is to make it easier for everyone to eat right and get more habituated to a healthy lifestyle.