Why 5 Ingredients?

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Let’s face it—life is busy.  We don’t always have time to plan and cook every meal from scratch.  When you opt for packaged foods, this rule can help you make a healthier, less processed choice.  The number 5 is arbitrary, but the idea is that fewer ingredients means less processed food.

First, in order to limit the ingredients in the foods you purchase, you have to read the label.  Many of us are used to looking at the nutrition facts. This is good information, especially the grams of sugar, sodium and fat, but equally important are the actual ingredients.  Reading the ingredient label is a huge step forward in making sure you are eating a cleaner, less processed diet.

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Next, the ingredients should be items you recognize and would cook with at home,  no long chemical sounding names that you cannot pronounce. Big food companies have added fake colors, flavors and preservatives to create appealing food-like products that basically will not rot.

Finally, the order of ingredients matters.  Those listed first represent the highest quantity by weight. You don’t want sugar toward the top of the list.  Also, watch for corn and soy as they are often genetically modified and appear in a very high percentage of processed foods. 

Tips for Success

Shop the periphery of the store.  You will find produce (no labels , only 1 ingredient:), dairy, and frozen foods along the perimeter of most stores.  Frozen food items and dairy should also be subject to the 5 ingredient rule. Frozen fruits and veggies should not contain sugar or sauces.  

Avoid foods that feature health claims on the labels.  Low-fat and vitamin fortified claims invite scrutiny as these products often add back sugar for flavor, or have lost nutrients during processing, so need to be fortified. You are better off consuming foods that naturally provide the nutrients and are naturally low in fat (fruit, veggies, lean protein.)

Avoid the drive through.  Most fast food restaurants feature factory farmed meats, refined oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and artificial preservatives.  Eating in your car or at your desk takes the focus away from what you’re eating, and how much.  It may be cheap, but the cost to your health is not worth the savings.  While an occasional fast food pit stop isn’t life threatening, make this a rare (vs. regular) occasion.

Clean Eating 101:   Understanding Food Labels by Brendan Brazier

The video above was created by Brendan Brazier.  He is the formulator and cofounder of Vega and a bestselling author. He’s also a former professional Ironman triathlete and a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. Brendan is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on plant-based performance nutrition, and therefore works with several NHL, NFL, MLB, UFC, and Olympic athletes. Brendan now invests in and works with socially responsible food & tech companies whose mandate is to fix our food system and reduce the environmental strain of food production.