Did you know that more than 3,000 food additives are added to our food supply? Yes, that’s a lot. Some ingredients are worst than others, and here are the top 10 food ingredients that you really want to stay away from. To avoid them, the best thing to do is to get foods that are whole, fresh, and clean, and ideally, that don’t have a label. See, there is no label on apples, cucumbers, eggs, or quinoa. If you buy a product, make sure you pay attention to the food label – even if you think it’s a healthy food, and avoid these 10 food ingredients.
1. Artificial sweeteners
These chemicals are worse than white sugar and are toxic to the body. Artificial sugars are known to promote migraines, stimulate the appetite, increase sugar cravings, stimulate weight gain, cause gastrointestinal disturbances, damage the nervous system, and may even cause cancer. The most popular ones are aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and acesulfame-K (Sweet One).
Not only they are used as a sweetener, but they are found in many products that are labeled low-sugar or sugar-free such as diet soda, juices, chewing gum, cookies, yogurt, children’s medicines, and many other products.
2. Artificial flavors
Artificial flavors are additives that imitate the taste of natural ingredients. They are used to make processed foods taste good because processing removes most of the flavor. What’s really disturbing is that when you see artificial flavor on a label, it can mean that one additive has been added, or a blend of hundreds of additives.
Artificial flavors have been known to cause dizziness, headaches, fatigue, depression, allergies, behavioral problems, and more. They are found in processed food such as cookies, candies and soda.
3. Artificial colors
Artificial colors are synthetic chemicals. Most of them are derived from coal tar and can contain up to 10 parts per million of lead and arsenic and still be generally recognized as safe by the FDA. Artificial colors can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and ADD in children, and may contribute to learning disorders, nerve damage, and cancer.
Artificial colors are found in food such as candies, cakes, drinks, popsicles, yogurts, puddings, energy bars, and chips, and can even be found in some supplements and medication. The dyes most used are Red #40 and 3, Blue #1 and 2, and Yellow #5 and 6.
4. BHA and BHT
BHA and BHT are used as preservatives mainly to prevent oils in foods from becoming rancid. They seem to affect the neurological system of the brain, and have been associated with behavioral problems, liver and kidney damage, and cancer.
They are found in hundreds of foods such as cereals, sausage, meat patties, baked goods, potato chips, chewing gum, and beer.
5. Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate
Sodium and potassium benzoate are chemical preservatives commonly used in soft drinks, fruit juices, jams, salad dressings, and pickled foods.
They create free radicals in the body and are linked to aging, thyroid damage, and cancer. When vitamin C and sodium or potassium benzoate are mixed together, they form benzene, a well-known carcinogen.
Potassium benzoate is an alternative preservative to sodium benzoate and is used when lower sodium content is required.
6. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
High-Fructose Corn Syrup is a cheap, liquid sweetener derived from genetically modified corn that leads to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. It inhibits the hormone responsible for telling you that you are full, which can lead to over-consumption of calories. It’s also contaminated with mercury, which can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.
HFCS consists of fructose and glucose. When combined together, you get sucrose.The problem with fructose is that it’s sweeter than glucose and is metabolized very differently in the body. Fructose goes right to the liver and is turned into fat. Excess fructose damages the liver and leads to insulin resistance as well as fatty liver disease, a condition that affects millions of people. Glucose, on the other hand, is quickly absorbed and causes spikes in insulin, which is the hormone that regulates sugar and fat metabolism in the body.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is found in very poor-quality foods such as juices and soft drinks, breads, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, candies, crackers, yogurt, ice cream, lunch meats, frozen meals, condiments and salad dressings, as well as cough syrups.
7. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is an excitotoxin used to enhance flavor in foods. It has been shown to damage nerve cells by overexciting them. Many people experience a host of other side effects like headaches, itchy skin, dizziness and respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and coronary concerns.
MSG is hidden under other names such as maltodextrin, glutamate, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, textured vegetable protein, and more.
8. Trans fats
Trans fats are created through a process called hydrogenation, which adds hydrogen molecules to highly unsaturated vegetable oil, such as corn or soybean oil. After hydrogenation, the oil is called “partially hydrogenated”. Trans fat raises your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your “good” (HDL) cholesterol. They also increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer.
Trans fats are found in food such as cookies, pastries, cakes, icing, crackers, margarine, shortening, and most deep-fried foods. Note that if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat, so it’s important to read labels.
Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides used in conventional agriculture to kill weeds, insects, fungus, and others. Unfortunately, residues remain in the food we eat.
Pesticides have been linked to various health problems such as headaches, nausea, endocrine disruption, nerve damage, infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects. Some pesticides may also be carcinogens. Pregnant women, fetuses, and children are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure because their bodies and brains are still developing.
The safest way to go is to buy organic, or at least buy the foods that are the most contaminated such as celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, apples, blueberries, and peaches. Other main foods to buy organic include soy, dairy products, meat, and even coffee and baby food.
GMOs are plants or animals whose DNA has been altered. The consequences of altering the natural state of an organism are unknown. Studies have shown that GMOs may decrease immunity to diseases in plants and humans, may cause resistance to antibiotics, and may have a negative impact on genetics. GMOs have not been proven to be safe.
In the US, the majority of the soybean, corn, canola, and cotton crops are now genetically modified. Other common genetically modified foods include soy, corn, sugar beets, tomatoes, and squash.