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Açai, goji berries, quinoa...many "superfoods" have come and gone from nutrition headlines. Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified the healthiest of them all. Is it kale? No, it's....watercress! Based on nutrition density scores (high concentration of essential vitamins and minerals), the CDC gave watercress a perfect 100, beating out the usual suspects like kale and spinach. Want a simple health boost? Swap out arugula for peppery-tasting watercress in your next salad or pesto.
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After analyzing three human observational studies, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that aspartame may be carcinogenic to humans. However, the WHO's Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives disagreed, stating that the evidence did not draw a convincing link. The US Food and Drug Administration has also declared the artificial sweetener safe to consume in moderate amounts. Thousands of sugar-free products like diet sodas, chewing gums, yogurts and energy drinks include aspartame. While a definitive conclusion requires more studies, most nutrition experts recommend reducing consumption if you can.
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Looking to lose weight? Skip the sugar substitutes, says the World Health Organization. Following a systematic review of available evidence, WHO concludes that using non-sugar sweeteners "does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children." International researchers also found that continued consumption of artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults. Black coffee anyone?
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Potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, titanium dioxide, propylparaben, and red dye No. 3 are widely used in US food products, including hundreds of baked goods, candies and soda. For years, the food additives have been banned in Europe due to evidence linking them to cancer, neurodevelopmental issues and hormone dysfunction, particularly in children. Newly proposed bills in California and New York seek to ban all five additives in US food products. If approved, the bans would take effect in 2025.
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The short answer: No. MSG, monosodium glutamate, is a natural compound originally harvested from seaweed. Now it’s mostly sourced from bean and cereal proteins. MSG is the source of the savory "umami" flavor in everything from Doritos and hot dogs to ketchup and salad dressing. Despite claims of "Chinese restaurant syndrome," studies of MSG have repeatedly shown that the compound is safe to consume in moderation. Moreover, consumers prefer the taste of foods made with MSG versus without.
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Potassium bromate is a suspected carcinogen that's banned for human consumption in Europe, China and India. In the US, however, it is widely used in baked goods to strengthen dough. "There is evidence that it may be toxic to human consumers, that it may even either initiate or promote the development of tumors," says professor Erik Millstone, a food additive expert at England's University of Sussex. Other substances banned in Europe but permitted in the US include brominated vegetable oil, titanium dioxide, azodicarbonamide, and propylparaben. In response, the US Food and Drug Administration said that "regulations require evidence that each substance is safe at its intended level of use before it may be added to foods."