A Ramen Noodle Adventure, Part 1

Who didn’t depend on processed ramen noodles at one time or another, for convenience, economic reasons, flavor?  If you were under-the-weather, they were fast to make and comforting.

It was easy to make them versatile too, adding meat or vegetables or even draining some of the water and using less of the flavor packet for quick and tasty noodles.  The price couldn’t be beat so they became a staple for students or anyone on a tight budget, the stores frequently had sales on groups of packages as well.

The choice of flavors was nice, no boredom there.  They were not only filling but fun to eat with the curly noodles.

Then we found out the truth, that the processed instant noodles contained tertiary-butyl hydroquinone, also known as TBHQ, a petrochemical, according to the Food Revolution Network.  Quoting a study by Baylor University, eating a lot of processed ramen noodles containing TBHQ can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.  Here at A Quality Life blog we say that people with chemical sensitivities should not eat foods with TBHQ.

Processed noodles are apparently much harder to digest than fresh, according to a YouTube video.  But, of course, there are grocery stores and restaurants that have unprocessed ramen noodles.

First, what are ramen noodles, really?  There may be some debate over the origin.  They are considered Japanese, yet are Chinese-style thin, wheat-based noodles.  Even though they differ from soba noodles which are made from buckwheat and wheat flour, they were once referred to as chuka soba.  Gluten-free ramen noodles differ as they are made with rice flour.  Gluten-free options will be discussed more in Part 2.

Fooducate readers looked over the ingredients of a brand of cup style ramen noodles and complained not only about the sodium and TBHQ but MSG, artificial flavors and had other concerns as well.

AQL ventured to an Asian grocery store that had products from China, Japan, Korea, Hawaii, India and more.  Not being noodle savvy, it was confusing at first.  There were many refrigerated sections as well as a large dry food section.

One doesn’t just waltz in and the perfect ramen noodles fly into the cart.  There were noodles that looked sort of ramen but weren’t.  There were dry packaged noodles but not sure they were much different than the processed noodles in the supermarkets.

The choice was to try TanTan Ramen, Spicy Sesame Seed Flavor, from one of the refrigerated sections because the label said, “Fresh ramen noodle with soup base, no artificial coloring or preservative added to noodle.”  These are made by Sun Noodle which lists locations in Hawaii, New Jersey, and California.

Granted, the package cost a lot more than processed ramen noodles, $5.29, but had two blocks of noodles and two liquid broth packets.  The total weight was 12 oz. and then one would add 10-12 oz. of water per block and packet, whereas the supermarket dry package is three oz. and one would add 20 oz. of water to one block that supposedly serves two.

At any rate, the TanTan Ramen noodle ingredients were:  wheat flour, purified water, wheat gluten, sea salt, sodium carbonate, cornstarch and riboflavin color (vitamin B12).  The soup base ingredients were:  water, hydrolyzed soy protein, sesame, vegetable oil, salt, soy sauce, sugar, soybean paste, alcohol, yeast extract, vinegar, garlic, ginger, clam extract, spice chili and fish extract.,  Nothing really alarming unless you have allergies.

However, there’s another element to consider here.  A package of Maruchan® chicken flavor ramen noodles contains 1660 mg. of sodium.  The package states the sodium is only 830 mg. per serving but that would be half a block.  It’s more common, though, to ingest an entire block at one sitting for an individual.  Remember, the weight would be less than the refrigerated noodles.  The TanTan Ramen actually does contain two blocks so it would contain 1740 mg. for each block and packet or 3480 mg. for both.

The FDA safe limit for sodium is 2300 mg. per day, except for certain groups which should limit the intake further.  So, these refrigerated noodles, while safer on many levels, actually have more sodium than the packaged.  Certainly, ramen can be made at home if one has the time and energy.  The quest will continue in Part 2.

 

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Sodium Benzoate–A Common Additive–but is it Safe?

by S. K. LeVeille

Sodium benzoate is a synthetic product used to prevent mold and preserve acidic food.  There are natural methods used for this purpose including grape, garlic, green tea, acidophilin, rosemary, and many others.

Most of us have encountered condiment packets at casual dining places.  The packets also come routinely with food delivery.  In the ingredient list of many is “sodium benzoate.”  Examples of condiment packets containing this artificial preservative are hot sauce, duck sauce, soy sauce, and tartar sauce.  The bottled versions of these condiments on store shelves may or may not contain sodium benzoate, check labels.

Sodium benzoate, also known as E211, is sometimes found in certain brands of packaged meat, fish, cheese, pickles, soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings, sauerkraut, jellies, and jams. In wine, especially homemade, it can be referred to as “stabilizer” from “stabilizing tablets.”

Because ingredient labels have small print, some people find it helpful to carry a small magnifier in their pocket or purse to help while shopping.  If the ingredient is discovered at home, it may be helpful to make a list of products to avoid in the future.

According the the site, Foodeducate, when sodium benzoate is mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it transforms into benzene.  In addition, Naturally Savvy reported that scientists who evaluated the genotoxic impact in a laboratory study of sodium benzoate, found DNA damage when various concentrations were added to cells.

Sodium benzoate can also be found in some mouthwashes, shampoos, body lotions, deodorants, pills, cough syrups, and topical medications. Again, read labels and look for the words benzoic acid, benzene, E211, sodium benzoate, or benzoate, especially if you also see ascorbic acid or vitamin C.

Coca Cola eliminated sodium benzoate in 2008 in their regular Coke but not in all their products.  According to a June 2015 article in Livestrong entitled, “What Soft Drinks Have Sodium Benzoate E211 in Them?” by David B. Ryan, there were surprising findings.

While Diet Coke eliminated sodium benzoate in 2008, Fanta and Sprite still use it, supposedly because the company claims that  a flavor change would occur if natural alternatives are used.

Pepsi Max and diet versions of Mountain Dew, Sunkist Orange, Nestea, and Nordic Mist continue to use E211 worldwide. Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and Lipton Iced Tea now use potassium benzoate and citric acid in both bottled and canned versions.

Dr. Pepper uses E211 in plastic containers but not aluminum cans, while Mountain Dew uses E211 in all forms of packaging.  Dr. Pepper specialty drinks, such as Cherry Vanilla soda, contain E211. 7Up has shifted to potassium benzoate and vitamin E acetate.  Please refer to the article for further information.

According to Drugs.com sodium benzoate can interact negatively with Depacon (valproic acid) and Depakote (divalproex sodium).  These products may have other similar names.  Other drugs are ampicillin (probenecid), Proben-C (colchicine/probenecide), and other generic names.

When combining caffeine with sodium benzoate, which some sodas and other products do, the risk of adverse reactions with drugs increases to 87 drugs, including eleven major interactions with drugs such as Zenaflex (tizanidine). The side effects can include extra/irregular heartbeats, trembling or shaking of hands and feet.  Check the site for more information.

Remember, while small amounts of sodium benzoate may not affect the system, we are subjected to a deluge of products with this ingredient, from personal care products we use in the morning and throughout the day, some fruit drink products, possible medications, as well as certain condiments and food products, the soda we drink, and some types of wine with dinner.  It can really add up.

There are many safe products.  It may take time to read labels and adjust but worth it.  At home you can check Food Scores at the EWG (Environmental Working Group) site as well.

http://www.foodeducate.com

http://www.naturallysavvy.com

http://www.livestrong.com

http://www.drugs.com

http://www.ewg.org/foodscores

http://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides

 

HAUNTED BY BPA

BPA (Bisphenol-A) became more widely known to the public when the battle to stop putting it into the making of baby bottles and sippy cups began.  Bisphenol-A is a synthetic chemical from the diphenylmethane group and is colorless.  It is in many consumer goods including types of sales receipts and a number of food and beverage containers.

Concerns over BPA include its hormone-like properties, which are endocrine disruptors.  Its safety has been seriously investigated since 2008 by many governments. Polycarbonate products were withdrawn by certain retailers.

States began banning BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups one by one until in 2012, the FDA stepped in with a complete prohibition for BPA in those items.  That prohibition does not reach into the making of other items and the trouble is, BPA can leach into food.

The American Assn. of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) wrote in 2010 about “Human Exposure to BPA,” which states that the constant exposure of consumers to BPA leads to risks not only with the reproductive system but prostate cancer, breast cancer, child asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

In 2011, GreenBiz reported, “BPA Bans, Chemical Reform Laws in the Works in 30 States.”  These were bills and not all passed.  According to a July 17, 2012 article in the N.Y. Times, “F.D.A. Makes it Official:  BPA Can’t be Used in Baby Bottles and Cups,” a study of over 2,000 people showed that BPA was found in the urine of over 90 percent. Traces were also found in the blood of pregnant women and in breast milk, as well as umbilical cord blood.  Concerns include not only abnormal hormonal effects but effects of BPA on the brain.

BPA bans vary from state to state and things are changing but there isn’t uniformity nationwide beyond the baby bottles and sippy cups.

In 2009, Minnesota passed “The Toxic Free Kids Act.”  This required the Dept. of Health to create lists for “Chemicals of High Concern” and “Priority Chemicals.”                                         http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/hazardous/topics/toxfreekids

On December 1, 2010, New York included a BPA ban in items for children under three, including pacifiers, liners, cup lids, and straws in addition to baby bottles and sippy cups.

On October 1, 2011, Connecticut banned BPA in products for children under three, including reusable food containers/jars and cans containing food or beverage products.

In July 2012, Virginia banned BPA in sports bottles.

In 2013, the FDA banned the use of BPA in infant formula materials used for packaging.

Minnesota issued a ban on BPA in children’s food containers for those three years and under, effective August 2014 for manufacturers/wholesalers and August 2015 for retailers.

On March 17, 2015, Amanda Starbuck headlined an article, “Oregon Officials Want to Ban Toxins from Children’s Products.  A Federal Bill Could Stop Them.”  Apparently, the 40 year old federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was poorly written.

http://www.foreffectivegov.org/blog/oregon-officials-want-ban-toxins-children’s-products-federal-bill-could-stop-them

On June 3, 2015, Environmental Working Group (EWG) published “BPA in Canned Food, Behind the Brand Curtain.”  In 2014, canned food brands were analyzed and out of 252, there were 78 brands with BPA-based epoxy lining.

Some of the more recognizable names are Armour, Bush’s, Carnation, Chef Boyardee, Del Monte, Eagle, Early California, Green Giant, Lindsay Olives, Ocean Spray, Progresso, Wolfgang Puck Organic Soups.  For a full list, go to:                                                               http://www.ewg.org/research/bpa-canned-food

There is also a list of BPA-free brands and to check those items not on the list or for individual items, go to:

http://www.ewg.org/foodscores

Salmon: Wild Caught, Farm Raised, and Something In-Between

After I learned some reasons to avoid eating farm raised salmon, I’d ask at a restaurant before deciding whether or not to order it.

“Do you know if the salmon is wild caught?” I’d ask.

I’d get answers like, “Probably,” “I think so,” “I’m sure it is,” or “I’ll ask the cook.” When I received answers like these, I’d decline to order it.  In my mind, a restaurant serving wild caught salmon would be proud of it and the workers would know.

Answers like, “I’m sure it is,” one can tell is a guess.  Even if the wait staff asks the cook, the cook could be guessing as well.  I love salmon but farm raised have high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).  In addition, they’re given chemicals for color, as well as antibiotics, and live in crowded areas which limit movement and are disease prone.  Their lack of wild diet also means fewer omega 3s.

Then, I had an awful revelation after purchasing some “Wild Nova Salmon” at a supermarket.  The brand was VitaⓇ and the package boasted an “excellent source” of omega 3.  Now this was also sliced and smoked.

Yet, when I opened the package, the unusually red color gave me pause.  Although I’d been charmed by the words and design on the front, only now did I read the ingredients listed on the side of the 3 oz. package:

“Salmon, salt, sugar, natural smoke flavor, sodium nitrite (added as a preservative), yellow 6, yellow 5, red 40.”

So, four artificial chemicals added to the wild salmon.  I didn’t eat it.

PARABENS IN PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS by S.K. LéVeillé

What are parabens?  What are their names in personal care products and why worry about them?  First of all, they can have toxic effects on us!  Parabens are a class of preservatives.  The concept of use has been to prevent growth of bacteria, fungus, prevent spoilage and extend shelf life.

The public is led to believe by big manufacturers that this is the only way to insure safety and a shelf life.  The truth is, parabens may be a cheap fix when it comes to profit margins but there are options.

The four types of parabens found in many personal care products such as soap, shampoo, shaving cream, sunscreen, deodorant, cosmetics and more are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Methylparaben is the methyl ester of hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an updated 2014 Livestrong post by Traci Joy on methylparaben, this compound has been discovered in breast cancer tissues.  Also, skin treated with creams containing this compound risks damage from UBV rays.  Methylparaben can also damage lining of the eyes and cornea.

Ethylparaben is the ethyl ester of hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an updated 2014 post regarding ethylparaben, Wisegeek mentions that 60% of breast tumors are centered near the underarm where deodorant is applied.  (There are many brands of paraben-free deodorants in health food stores/coops, vitamin shops, natural product aisles, online).  In a study of 20 malignant tumors, 18 contained parabens. To replace ethylparaben, phenoxyethanol, a petrochemical, is sometimes used, but its risks appear to be even greater in toxicity to the immune system.

Propylparaben is the n-propyl of p-hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an eHow post on propylparabens by A. Michelle Caldwell, there have been some side effects such as a “felt-like feeling in the mouth.”  High concentrations can irritate the respiratory tract and mucous membranes.  Eyes can become red and runny.  Sperm quality can be affected.

Butylparaben is butyl p-hydroxybenzoate.  Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep data base rates the health risk a high moderate.  Concerns include endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity.

There are so many names that parabens go by in our products that is is impssible to list them all here.  You can look for ingredients containing the words ethyl, methyl, propyl, butyl and paraben.  Some of the ingredient names are longer words like methylisothiazolinone, cocamidapropyl, isobutylparaben.  Or two words like ethyl ester, methyl benzoate, benzoic acid, ethyl parasept, or just one word like benzoate.

You can always do a computer search when you have questions about an ingredient.  There is a safer way to live.  Here are some helpful links:

http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=291

http://www.livestrong.com/article/160857-what-facial-skin-products-do-not-contain-parabens/

http://www.healthybeautyproject.com/news-info/parabens-natural-alternatives-exists/

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/site/about.php

The Danger of Non-EPA Approved Wood Burning Stoves

by S.K. LéVeillé

There are a number of reasons people use wood burning stoves.  They may believe it’s a safer/less expensive alternative, yet may not be fully informed.

It is one thing to use a non-EPA certified wood stove in a rural area where homes are not close together and quite another in metropolitan areas where regulations can be oddly lacking.  One’s entire home may end up smelling of the neighbor’s wood smoke.

Those affected complain about not being able to sleep at night, not being able to breathe properly, having no safe refuge in their own homes or yards from neighbor’s smoke.  What is happening?

According to a State of the Air, American Lung Association report, “Residential wood burning devices…are the largest source of particle pollution…wood burning also produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides,” just for starters.

http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/key-findings/what-needs-to-be-done.html#wood

Wood burning stoves manufactured before 1995 can also produce dioxin, arsenic, formaldehyde, creosote, methane and black carbon.

Even though EPA wood burning stoves have been available for some time, in an article by the Clean Air Council, Bret Watson, president of Jotul North America is quoted as saying that even new standards won’t “address the five million to seven million dirty stoves in use now.”  Jotul started a stove changeout program in 2013 with $300 credit plus a $10 donation per stove to American Lung Assn.  The program was so popular that a total of $14,500 was donated to ALA and Jotul said they would “likely repeat the program this year.”

http://www.cleanair.org/program/outdoor_air_pollution/biomass/greenspace_major_us_polluters_wood_burning_stoves

From 2005-2009, there was The Great American Wood Stove Changeout Program where EPA partnered with the Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Assn., the American Lung Assn. and others.

During that time, 1,100 wood burning stoves were replaced in Libby, Montana, 3,200 in Sacramento, California, 500 in Michigan and more in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington and Wyoming.  Sadly, not in Minnesota or many other states but it is proof that it can be done.

According to the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality, “Wood smoke particles are so tiny they can seep into houses even through closed doors and windows.  So neighbors of wood burners probably breathe in smoky air…health effects of wood smoke include breathing problems…and increased severity of lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.”

http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/woodstoves/neighbor.htm

Currently, the American Lung Assn. Northeast has Woodstove Changeout Programs in the Connecticut counties of New London and Windham,  Massachusetts counties of Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth and Rhode Island counties of Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence and Washington.  Vouchers range from $300-4,000 depending on the appliance.

http://www.lung.org/associations/charters/northeast/woodstove/

Holbrook, Arizona reported available rebates to residents of Navajo and Apache counties in 2010, changing out 350 stoves with about 17 tons of pollution removed.  In 2011, only 20% of available funds remained and the program ended December 31, 2011.

According to a Fox 11 Online news report out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, updated June 26, 2014, Wisconsin Public Service has partnered with the EPA and American Lung Assn.  As of the update, nearly $600,00 worth of rebates have been handed out.  Guidelines are available at

http://www.lung.org/associations/states/wisconsin/indoor–outdoor-air/wood-stove-exchange-program/documents/wood-stove-exchange-program.pdf

The HPBA co-sponsors changeout programs in parts of the U.S. and Canada.  For an update on which programs may be available, the website is:

http://www.woodstovechangeout.org/index.php?id=42

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota does not have an exchange program but the city does have an Environment Services department listed in the drop-down menu of the official city site.  Recommend going directly to Environment Services rather than dealing with 311 operators whose training may be limited.

The Lung/Action Network can give updates in the state you reside.  They can also help you find a representative in your state to contact and they have provided a message you can send and personalize if you wish.  The link is:

https://secure3.convio.net/ala/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6673

While progress is slower than we might like, it is heartening to see progress.  Much more needs to be done.  For tips on starting a wood stove changeout program in your area, see HPBA’s Starting A Program in Your Community at:

http://www.woodstovechangeout.org/index.php?id=23