Most of us have become all too familiar with processed foods, but how much do we really know about what’s in them?
In order to make processed foods both palatable and long-lasting, companies put these foods through lots of complex processing steps. Hence, the mystery ingredients. That long list of unpronounceable ingredients on processed food labels is filled with additives, synthetic chemicals, and artificial colorings and flavors.
Processed foods make up a whopping 60% of the average American diet. It’s pretty impossible to avoid ALL additives and processed ingredients. But being aware of the ingredients that are linked to real health complications is a great way to keep your diet as harmless as possible.
10 Ingredients to Avoid in Processed Foods
1. BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
This is an antioxidant preservative that’s been deemed a known carcinogen (cancer causing substance) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s been associated with liver and kidney damage.
Commonly found in: cereal, potato chips, chewing gum.
2. Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite
These are additives used to lengthen shelf-life. Upon ingestion, they mix with stomach acids to form carcinogenic cells associated with oral, stomach, brain, esophageal and bladder cancers.
Commonly found in: hot dogs, bacon, sausage.
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup
This is a sugar substitute with the same gram for gram calorie content as sugar, but is a more highly processed version. It’s made by altering corn’s naturally occurring starch molecules.
It can be argued that HFCS is no more harmful than refined sugar, but overconsumption of either increases the risk of heart disease, lowers good cholesterol (HDL) levels, and weakens your immune system.
Commonly found in: soda, baked goods, yogurt, breakfast bars, and MUCH more.
4. Partially Hydrogenated Oil
Also known as the primary source of trans fat, this boosts bad (LDL) cholesterol and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cellular deterioration.
Commonly found in: margerine, coffee creamers, ready to bake dough.
5. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Like sugar, this substance goes by many other names such as maltodextrin, sodium caseinate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, and even citric acid. Consumption has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Commonly found in: canned soup, fast food, diet beverages, and salad dressing.
6. Potassium Bromate
This is an additive that has been banned in every other industrialized nation except for the U.S. and Japan and has been proven to cause cancer in lab tested animals.
Commonly found in: breads, rolls, crackers.
7. Food Colorings
Colorings like Red #3 and #40, Yellow #5 and #6, and artificial colors like caramel color can cause chromosomal damage and development of thyroid, kidney, and lymph tumors.
8. Sodium Benzoate and Benzoic Acid
Although these are natually occurring, when combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) they can form the carginogenic chemical benzene.
This combination is commonly found in: fruit juices, soda, and pickles.
9. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose (Splenda) actually impair the body’s ability to detect sweetness and satiety making you crave more sugar. They also contribute to increased risk of kidney and gastrointestinal disorders.
10. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
This is another carcinogenic preservative that may also negatively impact hormones.
Commonly found in hundreds of foods and cosmetics including: potato chips, butter, and chewing gum.
These ingredients all have pretty complex names, and can be hard to remember. So if you’re trying to cut your processed food intake, I recommend looking out for substances you can’t pronounce on the ingredient list. Opt for whole food ingredients that you recognize over ingredients with long, chemical-sounding names. Due to the wide range of products containing these ingredients moderate consumption is bound to happen. However, making an effort to avoid foods containing these ingredients is how we show the corporate food industry that we won’t stand for toxic substances in our food!
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