These Unhealthy Ingredients Are Commonly Found In “Healthy” Foods
Your fridge is packed with wholesome foods. You’ve done your research, and you know which brands to go for. Your meals are well-balanced. For all intents and purposes, you’re doing the healthy lifestyle game in all the right ways. But there could be harmful ingredients lurking in your organic, grass-fed, gluten-free, Instagram-worthy meal that you just posted to social media. The question is, are you aware of them?
One of the most common approaches to choosing the best foods for your body is to go by a short and simple ingredient list; if it contains tons of stuff you don’t recognize, it’s probably not be great for you. However, just because you can pronounce it doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat either. These are the common health food ingredients that could be sabotaging your health- you’ll be surprised to discover that some of your favorite “health” foods are hiding some pretty dirty secrets…
Are you gluten-free? Chances are you’ve come across treats with xanthan gum—but what is it? It’s a substance produced by fermentation to add elasticity to dough. A series of studies showed that xanthan gum alters stool samples. In short, it works as a laxative. If you have digestive problems, try avoiding xanthan gum.
People with severe wheat, gluten, or corn allergies should ensure that the facility wasn’t cross-contaminated during the fermentation process.
Agave nectar is very popular due to its sweet taste and low glycemic index. However, it’s packed with fructose—more than high fructose corn syrup, which already isn’t metabolized well. Fructose is considered the main suspect in rising levels of type 2 diabetes and liver disease in the modern world.
Although it’s a “natural” sweetener, it’s not “healthy.” Instead, try maple syrup because of its low fructose content.
Not a big meat eater? Soy substitutes for everything from ground beef to chicken nuggets have flooded the market, but soy isn’t a terrific meat alternative. Most soy products are genetically modified and contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). Modified soy milk, proteins, and isolates are responsible for impaired fertility, and they tamper with estrogen levels.
This leads to lower sex drive, menstrual problems, early puberty in children, and hormonal imbalances. Buy organic and fermented soy, or try other plant proteins like chia seeds.
Coconut Palm Sugar
Sugar is sugar, right? Coconut palm sugar is derived from the palm of the coconut tree. It has a low glycemic index, but that doesn’t equate to “healthier.” Coconut palm sugar contains a worrisome amount of fructose, which isn’t easily digested by the body. Like agave nectar, the fructose in coconut palm sugar can damage the liver and increase the likelihood of obesity.
Obtaining the palm sugar also renders the coconut tree incapable of producing coconuts—a real bummer for coconut oil enthusiasts.
The name seems harmless, but this item’s manufacturing process is a dead giveaway. Soy lecithin is made from sludge left over from crude soy oil. It’s essentially a waste product treated with solvents to render it edible again. Anything that has to be heavily treated to turn it back into food might be worth avoiding.
Another problem arises when you realize that the soybeans used in the process are genetically modified, containing the “bad” soy your body can’t really process. It’s a common ingredient in ice creams and chocolates, so check the label.
Hydrogenated or Fractionated Oils
Terrible. All of the foods on this list aren’t ideal for your body, but hydrogenated oils are a different type of evil. Healthy fats like palm or coconut oils are scorched into a toxic pool of free radicals. The solid material—not suitable for human consumption—is pumped with solvents, then boiled out to create a stable, edible oil.
Fractionation strips all nutrients, which makes it nearly impossible for your body to digest these oils properly. After such heavy modification, it’s no wonder why.
“Enriched” is a sinister word. It sounds wholesome, but it’s not. The refining method strips vital naturally occurring nutrients out of the wheat that is being processed, so to restore some of this lost nutritional value, manufacturers dump compounds and minerals like niacin, riboflavin, and iron back into the wheat.
The remaining product skyrockets your blood sugar and insulin into overdrive. As healthy as it sounds, “enriched wheat” has nothing to offer, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Are you still confused about which fats are friend or foe? Trans fats are most certainly foes. In fact, they’re banned in several states and countries due to their horrific effects on the body. Trans fat increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, decreases HDL (good) cholesterol, and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and heart attack.
This fat can be found in deep-fried fast food and processed foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oils. Check the nutrition label for trans fat amounts.
Pump the brakes if your floor cleaner contains real lemons and your lemonade contains artificial flavors. Food companies have altered labeling laws so artificial flavors now pass as “natural ingredients.” The worst part? They’re in everything from bread and cereals to flavored yogurts, cheese, soup mixes, and ready-made meals. These flavors are manufactured in laboratories and contain zero nutritional value.
Recent studies have found that artificial substances are detrimental to your health, whether from damage caused by neurotoxins to stunted growth, among others.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Considered a staple in Chinese take-out, snacks, and even salad dressings, flavor-enhancing MSG contains zero health benefits. Instead, it harbors several harmful effects as an excitotoxin—a compound that overexcites cells until they experience substantial damage or death. MSG is found in many frozen dinners, lunch meats, and seasonings, so check the label!
Scientists have linked regular MSG consumption to neurological disorders like cravings, depression, migraines, and seizures. Although it tastes good, MSG isn’t worth the side effects.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Manufacturers need three days of processing to produce high fructose corn syrup; it’s in everything! Americans consume more calories from HFCS than any other source, which is troubling. It boosts fat-storing hormones, increases LDL levels, and contributes to diabetes and tissue damage, to name a few. It’s highly addictive, too.
Buying “all-natural?” Check the label. Loopholes allow HFCS to be considered a natural ingredient, even though it’s a major contributor to America’s obesity crisis.
The consequence of America’s “war on fat” was added sugar in everything. Sports drinks, fruit juices, lunch meats, cheeses, and pretzels have all fallen prey to added sugars. Unfortunately, added sugars alter metabolism and blood pressure, damaging your liver and kidneys and even rewiring your brain. Yes, you read that right.
Excessive sugar excites brain signals in the same way as hardcore drugs like cocaine. Most sugars are heavily processed, which makes them even harder for your body to digest, clogging up your digestive system.
Ever wonder why grocery store apples are glossier than hand-picked? Carnauba wax. It’s used to shine everything from fruits to lipstick to cars. Although it’s classified as non-toxic, the refining process can contain heavy bleaching and toxic chemicals. If your produce is from out of town, like Chile, the wax can absorb pesticides and harmful chemicals in the transportation process.
Give your fruit a light wash in a vinegar-hydrogen peroxide-water solution or peel the skin off! The skin is a great source of fiber if you keep it on.
Adding a pop of color is okay for your outfit. It’s not okay for your food. Blue #1 and #2, red dye #3 and #40, and yellow #6 are banned in Scandinavian countries for their highly carcinogenic effects. Studies show that these dyes stunt development in children and interfere with nerve signals from your brain.
You can see these colors in sports drinks, candy, fruit cocktails, American cheeses, and bakery products. Our brains are wired to notice color, so use that to your advantage.
An artificial sweetener, acesulfame-K is produced with methylene chloride, which has carcinogenic effects on the thyroid and liver and causes nausea, mood problems, and impaired eyesight. Acesulfame-K is the least studied artificial sweetener, so more potentially hazardous effects may not have been discovered yet. For this reason, it’s best to avoid this sweetener until we know more.
As with all artificial sweeteners, acesulfame-k can’t be broken down by the body, which negatively affects metabolism. Avoid sugar-free foods like chewing gums and diet sodas.
Potassium bromate is added to white flour, bread, pastries, and rolls to increase their volume. However, even trace amounts are carcinogenic to humans. The FDA has recommended that bakers reduce the use of bromated flour. Potassium bromate is supposed to cook out of bread while it’s baking, but this isn’t always the case.
Name brand bakeries like Pepperidge Farms and Pillsbury switched from using bromated flour, but it never hurts to double check.
Benzoates work to preserve the freshness and shelf life of your foods. You might find potassium benzoate in seemingly healthy food like apple cider, low-fat dressings, and pickled veggies. However, these preservatives don’t jive with your body. While benzoates stop the growth of mold and bacteria, they often break down to form benzene.
Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical. Plastic soda bottles create benzene when exposed to heat or sunlight, which could occur anytime before you drink it.
You may not remember anything from biology class except that “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” That’s exactly what sodium benzoate attacks. A study on living yeast showed that sodium benzoate renders the mitochondria completely useless. Because this cellular function is so important, it’s no wonder that sodium benzoate is something to be avoided diligently.
If that wasn’t enough to scare you, sodium benzoate converts into a lethal carcinogenic poison when in contact with ascorbic acid found in fruit juices, candies, and cereals as a preservative.
Another member of the benzoate family, calcium benzoate prevents the growth of yeast, molds, and certain bacteria. It’s most commonly found in fruit juices, and it contains a fair share of side effects. It reacts to ascorbic acid just (like sodium benzoate, discussed previously) to form carcinogens in the body.
People with asthma or who are sensitive to aspirin often experience increased respiratory difficulties and allergic reactions to the preservative.
Unfortunately, more than 6,000 food and drinks and 500 prescription drugs contain aspartame. It has carcinogenic effects, impairs memory, and increases free radicals in the brain. Other neurological effects include migraines, mood disorders, dizziness, and manic episodes. Because it is so common, it can be a very significant challenge to avoid this artificial sweetener.
Pregnant or nursing women are warned to avoid this sweetener at all costs because of its detrimental effects on developing infants.
Splenda commercials are so vibrant that you’d almost never know that sucralose is chlorinated sugar—a chlorocarbon. If you skipped chemistry class, just remember that chlorine is the disinfectant dumped into pools to kill everything. In fact, farmers discovered sucralose while developing insecticides that were never meant to be consumed.
Our metabolic systems aren’t equipped to process chlorocarbons, but sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar and often contributes to more intense cravings for sweets.
Table salt? Yes, table salt, or “sodium chloride,” is manufactured by scraping off crude oil flakes and heating them to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. The American Heart Association warns that table salt increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and raises blood pressure, even when consumed in moderation as part of a regular diet.
Unlike sea salt, iodized table salt causes water retention and enlarges the thyroid gland, leading to autoimmune disorders. Try mineral-packed Himalayan or Celtic sea salt to restore nutrients to your meals.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Those are long words! BHA and BHT help keep foods from changing color and turning rancid. If you forget a banana in your lunchbox over the weekend, you return to a brown, mushy mess. That’s how decomposition works, and that’s a good thing. BHA and BHT prevent this natural process from happening.
Manufacturers rely on BHA and BHT to keep chips, cereal, enriched rice, and sausage looking fresh. However, our bodies don’t need preservatives, so they form cancer-causing oxidizing agents, disrupting the endocrine system.
To be honest, this one sounds like a floor cleaner. It’s used alongside BHA and BHT to preserve meat, chicken stock, and gum. Many common cosmetic products like lipstick, concealers, and mascara contain the maximum allowed dosage of propyl gallate. Although it prevents the rancidity of fats, it’s also been found to have carcinogenic properties.
Animal testing showed that 40% of rats died within the first month of propyl gallate being added to their diet. But this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Ice creams, sherbets, sorbets? More often than not, these sweet treats contain potassium sorbate, a carcinogenic preservative. There’ve only been short-term studies conducted on potassium sorbate, but even those showed mutated vital organs in test animals. There is probably still a lot of information to be learned about this preservative, so best to steer clear.
If you want ice cream, peek at the label. It might be time to churn up some homemade sweet treats for the family. It’s not as hard as it might seem!
You are what you eat, and you’re mostly eating corn; government subsidies to corn farmers have led to an overproduction of cheap corn. How do we use up all that corn? Modify it. We’ve modified corn into sweeteners, thickeners, oils, flours, and even gas. It’s a staple in processed foods. We feed it to animals, although they can’t process it either.
Most corn, even organic-labeled, is altered and contains limited nutrients. It’s another culprit in America’s obesity crisis, as it’s highly addictive and calorically empty.
Ever wondered what “canola” means? Well, it’s a made-up word combining Canada and oil. Canola oil is derived and modified from toxic rapeseed into something edible. Before genetic engineering, canola oil was an industrial oil used in candles, inks, and insecticides. It was not meant for human consumption before extensive engineering made this option possible.
The refining process makes it “safe” to eat canola oil, even though it’s known to cause kidney and liver problems, hypertension, and strokes. It’s super cheap, which is why it’s in most of your crunchy snacks.
Anything that sounds like a robot can’t be good for you. A common emulsifier used to improve food texture and extend shelf life, polysorbate 80 is found in dill pickles, ice cream, baked goods, and cooking sprays. Recent studies identified polysorbate 80 as the cause of colon cancer and a trigger for Crohn’s disease.
The ingredient acts as a detergent within the digestive system, breaking down the gut wall and leading to a myriad of digestive issues. If you’re trying to keep your gut healthy, stay away from this stuff.
If you’re one of the many asthmatics out there, steer clear of sodium sulfite. It’s a preservative used in winemaking and dried fruits, but it was recently banned as a spray-on for fresh fruits and vegetables. An FDA study showed that 1 in 100 people are sensitive to sulfite, which constricts airways in asthmatics and those with sensitivities.
Severe sensitivities can lead to rashes, headaches, and complete respiratory failure. That’s definitely not a chance you want to take.
Propylene Glycol Alginate (PGA)
Propylene glycol alginate is an emulsifier derived from kelp (hence the term “alginate”). Although it’s plant-based (and so many people would assume that it is safe to consume), PGA may act as a teratogen in pregnant women, which can cause birth defects. High doses cause liver failure, allergic reactions, and seizures in children.
Despite the side effects, the FDA has cleared this additive as “generally safe.” It’s found in most jellies, salad dressings, yogurts, and ice creams.
Every cozy diner has a cup full of pink Sweet ‘N Low packets. They seem unassuming, but saccharin is linked to some serious health conditions. Saccharin may contribute to photosensitivity—which can be quite worrisome for epileptic patients—as well as nausea, tachycardia, and certain cancers, among other health concerns
Unfortunately, it’s primarily used as a sweetener in children’s medications or cough syrup, so take extra caution if your child is epileptic or suffers from neurological disorders.
Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite
The world loves bacon. Well, most people do. What people don’t love is preservatives, coloring, and added flavors in bacon. Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is used to preserve the shelf life of most processed meats. While it sounds like another pronounceable chemical, it’s highly carcinogenic once it’s in your system.
The USDA recognized the danger of nitrates in the ’70s but couldn’t ban them due to backlash from packagers. Nitrates keep old, lackluster meats looking healthy and vibrant, which is yet another reason to avoid them.
Asthmatics beware—the FDA banned toxic sulfur additives (including sulfur dioxide) on raw fruit and veggies. Sulfur additives cause breathing problems, which can lead to anaphylactic shock. It’s not recommended for children or anyone suffering from bronchitis, emphysema, or cardiovascular diseases to be exposed to fruits treated with this product.
However, sulfur dioxide is also standard in beer, soft drinks, dried fruits, wine, vinegar, and many potato products, so when in doubt, read the label.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned in the ’70s for causing severe thyroid damage, but they’re still active in our environment. Today, biphenyls and diphenyls are found in cosmetic moisturizers absorbed through the skin and also in farmed fish. There are multiple points of exposure to this harmful product, so keep your eyes peeled in even uncommon products like hand cream.
Biphenyls are commonly used as a flame retardant, so even trace amounts can disrupt the endocrine system, throwing your hormones out of whack.
Formic Acid Preservative
Researchers have clarified the link between food and your mind—unhealthy foods are harmful to the brain because the brain is primarily fat-based. The same is true for formic acid. It’s primarily used as an antibacterial, pesticide, or food additive depending on the concentration. However, higher doses can be extremely toxic.
Consuming animal products or processed foods treated with formic acid can increase free radicals, damage nerve cells, and increase the risk of having ADHD, anxiety, and other neurological disorders, which isn’t something to mess with.
Maybe you’ve seen bottles of almond milk touting that they’re “carrageenan-free.” Why should you care? Carrageenan is a food additive derived from Irish moss. It’s used as a thickener to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, and other processed foods. Ungraded forms of carrageenan are associated with chronic inflammation.
Alongside this inflammation comes digestive issues and inflammatory-based diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s worth noting that Europe banned its use in infant formulas years ago.
Mannitol causes bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea, so this sugar substitute isn’t for you. In fact, sweeteners that end in “itol” should be avoided as a general rule. Sugar alcohols can’t be absorbed into your digestive system properly. Take special care to keep this sweetener away from your furry friends, too.
Sugar alcohols are extremely toxic to dogs. They’re found in breath mints and sugar-free candies, so keep these out of reach.
If you’re thinking about wiggly, jiggly Jello, you’re right. Gelatin is derived from collagen, and both are protein-packed. Overall, gelatin holds several health benefits, but you’ve got to be cautious about the type you buy. Gelatin is made from dehydrating the skin, bone, and connective internal tissue from animals.
Like all animal byproducts, gelatin is only as good as the animal it’s from, which means buying quality products. Poor-quality gelatin can contain trace amounts of lead and other harmful chemicals the animal may have eaten.