By Rena Unger | June 28, 2011

Photo: Rena Unger

Summer is here! With the arrival of warmer weather, often comes the desire to eat healthier and workout. These days what I am seeing is the microwave get quite the workout.

Without naming names, we all know the frozen microwave meals that promote health and weight loss. The other day, I bumped into a friend in the lunch room, who was warming up her meal and proudly exclaimed that she was “getting healthy for the summer” while holding up a box of Fettuccini Alfredo. At first pass it does look like a healthy option. The photo on the box features nearly a dozen large pieces of broccoli and hearty egg noodles lightly coated in sauce. What came out of the microwave was a very different story. There were four pieces of sad wilted broccoli and limp noodles drowning in a pasty grey sauce.

When I examined the ingredients on the box it was clear this was no healthy option. The ingredients themselves had lists and lists of ingredients. Many of which were hard to pronounce chemicals that are known toxins. Broccoli was at the end of the 50+ ingredient list for this single 1 cup portion of pasta.

We all know the saying you are what you eat and it is true! Our body takes in food and transforms it into our cells, organs, body, skin, hair, nails, and eyes and so on. A daily dose of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals will create a healthy body. What is the effect when we are consuming chemicals? I looked up the chemical ingredients in my Food Additives book. Let’s take a look at these mystery ingredients and the impact they could have on our body, according to the book:

Palm Oil: most commercial palm oil is refined, deodorized, bleached and used in processed foods; it is not only unhealthy, but the farming producing these oils is contributing to the destruction of the rainforests

Calcium Phosphate & Dipotassium Phosphate: may reduce mineral absorption; may cause kidney damage

Disodium Inosinate & Disodium Guanylate: can aggravate gout; may be soy or yeast based; used in products containing MSG

Sodium Phosphate: skin, eye and respiratory irritant; can inhibit mineral absorption; may cause blood pressure, kidney disturbances, water retention

Maltodextrin: a sugar, hydrolyzed corn starch; may be genetically modified; may contain free glutamates or MSG (obesity, diabetes, migraines, headaches, itching, nausea, brain damage, nervous system disorder, reproductive disorders, high blood pressure, autism, ADHA, Alzheimer’s, retina damage &, blindness) This ingredient showed up 3 times!

Sodium Caseinate: avoid if milk allergy or MSG sensitive; contains free glutamates or MSG (obesity, diabetes, migraines, headaches, itching, nausea, brain damage, nervous system disorder, reproductive disorders, high blood pressure, autism, ADHA, Alzheimer’s, retina damage &, blindness)

Corn Syrup: associated with blood sugar problems, depression, fatigue, B-vitamin deficiency, hyper-activity, tooth decay, periodontal disease, indigestion

Potassium Citrate: may cause mouth ulcers; avoid if kidney or heart problems

Yikes! This does not sound like it leads to the path to health and wellness. I get it, these meals are quick and easy, but in the long run we are always better off choosing whole foods. The ingredients are simple, broccoli is just broccoli packed with nutrients that boost immunity, brain function, regulate blood pressure prevent cancer and much more. We pay the price of the chemical short cut by stressing the body, forcing it to process these harmful chemicals. When our body can no longer keep up with what we input disease presents itself. For a healthy and satisfying pasta dish try my recipe below for Spicy Peanut Buckwheat Noodles. It is quick, easy and flexible. Change it up but adding any vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts or herbs you like.

Eat well!
Rena Unger – Holistic Nutrition Chef & Culinary Educator
If you would like to reach out to Rena Unger personally please click here.

Spicy Peanut Buckwheat Noodles Recipe

Servings: Yields 6 cups


  • 8 oz buckwheat noodles
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 1/4 cup water, if needed
  • 2 cups watercress or sunflower sprouts
  • 1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, to taste


1. Blend peanut butter, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, sesame oil, maple, vinegar and tamari. Stream in water until mixture resembles a thick paste.

2. Boil noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

3. Liberally coat noodles with dressing and toss with watercress, cilantro and scallions.

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