READING FOOD LABELS AND INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
When reading food labels, it can get very confusing, especially those that contain more than 5-6 ingredients. Here is some information to help “decode” the ingredients on the labels, educate you on what to avoid and keep you healthy!!
Top ingredients to avoid:
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): An amino acid used as a flavor-enhancer in processed foods and one of the most common food additives. MSG is also known as many other names such as Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Vegetable Protein Extract, Yeast Extract, Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Soy Protein Isolates, Barley Malt, Calcium Caseinate and Malt Extract. It is found in processed foods like salad dressings, low-fat yogurt, canned meats, frozen entrees, potato chips, canned soups (including Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup), and flavored crackers (like Wheat Thins, Cheez-Its and Triscuits).
Regularly consuming can destroy significant numbers of brain cells and can lead to serious health problems, including neurological disorders. MSG and other excitotoxins can have devastating effects in newborns and young children and on their learning ability, personality and behavior.
Artificial Sweeteners. Can include aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal, Canderel, Spoonful, Natrataste, AminoSweet), sucralose (Splenda) and saccharine (Sweet n Low). Artificial sweetners are found in over 6,000 products, including diet and sugar-free sodas and drinks, sugar-free chewing gum, yogurt, breath mints, instant breakfasts, frozen desserts, juice beverages, and gelatins.
They are believed to be carcinogenic, and produce neurotoxic effects such as headaches, dizziness, blurry vision, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
High-fructose Corn Syrup. A highly-refined sweetener in which corn starch is separated from the corn kernel and then converted into corn syrup through a process called acid hydrolysis. Nearly all HFCS is made from genetically-modified corn. It is the number-one source of calories in the US diet. HFCS is also known as corn sugar, glucose/fructose (syrup), high-fructose maize syrup inulin, iso-glucose, and fruit fructose. It is found in soda, salad dressings, breads, cereals, yogurt, soups, lunch meats, pizza sauce and condiments. On average, Americans consume 12 teaspoons of HFCS per day.
HFCS has been shown to contribute to weight gain and the development of diabetes. It is major contributor to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, insulin resistance, and elevated triglycerides and raised LDL cholesterol. It has also been linked to mercury, which is a heavy metal and is considered a potent brain toxin.
Artificial Food Coloring. These are additives that tint food artificially, much like the dyes that color the clothing we wear. Originally synthesized from coal tar, they are now derived from petroleum. They have long been controversial, and are one of the most widely used additives in food products today. Many dyes have been banned because of their adverse effects on laboratory animals and still to this day, the ones being used in our foods, that are currently approved for use in the US, raise many health concerns. (Europe currently has labeling regulations in place to inform consumers of the health risks.) These food dyes are labeled as Caramel color, FD&C Blue #1, Brilliant Blue FCF, Bright blue, Blue # 2, Ingtotine, Royal Blue, Red Number 3, Erythrosine, FD&C Red No.40, Allura Red AC, Yellow 5 and 6, FD&C Green Number 3, Fast Green, Sea Green. They are found in beverages, candy, baked goods, cereal, energy bars, puddings, jams, bread, macaroni and cheese, deli meat, frostings, condiments, fast food, ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, plus meat and fish (to make them appear “fresher”).
The artificial food colorings used in our foods are contaminated with known carcinogens and are linked to health issues ranging from cancer to hyperactivity, decreased attention spans of children to allergy-like reactions. Reports have shown these additives were shown to adversely affect children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
BHA and BHT. Preservatives used in many foods to prevent oxidation and extend shelf life. They are found in packaging materials, cereals, sausage, hot dogs, meat patties, chewing gum, potato chips, beer, butter, vegetable oils, cosmetics, and animal feed.
Both BHA and BHT have been shown to form potentially cancer-causing reactive compounds in the body. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers BHA to be possibly carcinogenic to humans, and the State of California has listed it as a known carcinogen.
Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate. Chemicals used to preserve meat. They are found in cured meats, bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and hot dogs, pate, pickled pig’s feet, canned meat (Vienna sausages, deviled ham), smoked salmon, dried fish, and jerky.
Both are associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, when ingested. The World Cancer Research Fund revealed that eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat every day increases your cancer risk by at least 20%.
Potassium Bromate. Used as an additive to increase the volume in some breads, rolls, and flours. It is also known as bromic acid, potassium salt, bromated flour, “enriched flour” and is found in most commercial baked goods in the US, including Wonder Bread, Sunbeam, Home Pride (but not in Pepperidge Farm, Arnold, Entenmann’s, and Orowheat brands). It’s also common in flour, and occurs in some toothpaste and mouthwash brands as an antiseptic.
It has been shown to cause cancer in animals and is banned in Europe, Canada, and several other countries. The FDA, since 1991, has requested that bakers voluntarily stop using it. It is rarely used in California because a cancer warning is required on the label. Bromide is considered to be an endocrine disruptor.
Refined Oils/Trans-fatty Acids. There are many different kinds of commercially-refined vegetable oils, including soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. Refined cooking oils are made by intensive mechanical and chemical processes that extract the oil from the seeds. This process removes the natural vitamins and minerals from the seeds and creates a product that has been shown to become rancid and oxidize easily, causing free radical formation which is toxic to the human body and causes aging.
These oils are also high in Omega-6 fatty acid, which are inflammatory and neutralizes the benefits of Omega-3s in your diet. The oxidation effect has been shown to contribute to inflammation in the body, DNA damage, elevated blood triglycerides (bad fats), and impaired insulin response. Additionally, many refined vegetable oils are hydrogenated. This process creates trans fatty acids, which are known to contribute to heart disease and some cancers. These oils/fats are found in most processed foods such as crackers, granola bars, and baked goods. They also are popular as stand-alone products, such margarine and other cooking oils.