America, one of the richest countries in the world, is also one of sickest. Even among the wealthy, life expectancy is shorter than countries of comparable wealth. Maybe it's time we start looking a little closer at what we're eating, particularly if it's banned in other countries.

I'm not much of an alarmist. I'm too lazy for that sort of thing. For many years, my go-to life approach was, "Don't think about it and it won't be a problem."

In other words, even if I choose to ignore them or believe they won't affect me, they do and they will, at some point.

Thankfully I no longer live that way. As a (relatively) more mature human, I realize that I will face the consequences of my decisions whether or not I'm thinking about them. In other words, even if I choose to ignore them or believe they won't affect me, they do and they will, at some point.

When I was in my 20s, it seemed I would exist in perpetual health and youth, as if I would always be able to eat whatever struck my interest and remain thin, energetic and pain-free. But then I had my third child and turned 30. My body started, um, "changing."

Now I'm 34.

I'll be 35 in March. That means that in five years I'll be almost 40 — pretty much the halfway point of my life. So, yeah. Maybe I'm not quite so invincible when I start looking at those numbers.

Yep, I realize I'm still young, but I'm not young enough anymore to successfully convince myself a diet of Captain Morgan, sourdough bread and cheese won't have seriously detrimental effects on my body, or that I can just consume whatever I want whenever I want without experiencing results from those decisions. For me, this awareness extends to chemicals I "consume" in ways other than eating (through my skin, nose, etc.).

As the years have passed, I've grown more and more skeptical of the American food systems. Recently I read this article on Buzzfeed (pulled from the book Rich Food Poor Food), which listed eight food-related substances found in U.S. food but banned in other countries. I encourage you to check it out. Though obviously Buzzfeed is not exactly a peer-reviewed source (ha!), it's a compelling list of questionable substances we put in our bodies, and a quick Google scholar search will provide you evidence-based research supporting the list.

food coloring

The first ingredient listed is artificial food dye, which is found in "practically everything we eat: cake mixes, sports drinks, cheese, candy and even macaroni and cheese" (source). These dyes are "derived from petroleum, which is also used to make gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt and tar! Artificial dyes have been linked to brain cancer, nerve-cell deterioration and hyperactivity in children, just to name a few" (source).

Such dyes are banned in Norway, Finland, Austria, France and the U.K.

Other problems

The article also talks about Olestra, found in certain types of "fat-free" chips. "Created by Procter & Gamble as a substitute for cooking oil, Olestra robs your body of its ability to absorb vitamins. Fun side effects include cramps and leaky bowels" (source). Olestra is banned in the United Kingdom and Canada.

soda bottles

Another is Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO), which you can read about extensively here. BVO is found in some soft drinks including "Mountain Dew, Squirt, Fresca and Fanta. It's also in sports drinks like Powerade and some pre-mixed cocktails" (source). Banned in over 100 countries, BVO "is linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia and hearing loss" (source).

You will never convince me it's OK to eat these "foods."

And yet, I'm sure I do, probably daily.

Though "the United States is among the world's richest nations… compared to 16 high-income peers, Americans don't live as long, they have more diseases and they are more apt to be injured" (source).

According to a report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, these "health disadvantages hold true across economic statuses and all ages from birth to 75" (source).

And yet, we continue to eat foods banned in other countries. Many of us continue to bury our heads in the sand and figure, "Ah what the hell, we're all going to die anyway."

And that's true, but there are pleasant and unpleasant ways to die. Well, maybe not "pleasant," but less bad than say, cancer. And why aren't we more concerned about the quality of our lives here and now, during the few precious years we've got?

Our kids deserve a stable beginning. They deserve a body and brain that will serve them well.

Our kids deserve a stable beginning. They deserve a body and brain that will serve them well. It's our job to teach them to think before they eat, to critically consume food, drinks (and media for that matter). But before we can teach them that, we must do it ourselves.

It's not just a nice thing to do. It's not just a "better route." When America is dying at a faster, more painful rate than other comparable countries, it appears this level of discernment is becoming a matter of life itself. And our country sure as hell isn't going to protect it for us.

More on food sources

5 Reasons you should care about GMOs
Is Nestlé still making poor choices with baby formula?
If the bees die, we die

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