There is a common misconception that everything deemed safe by the authorities is actually good for our health.
But let me ask you this: would you consume herbal tea with cocaine? Probably not, and yet, the FDA approved it.
Sadly, I am not just making reference to ‘exotic’ ingredients that may slip from time to time. The situation is more dire because many of the ingredients that harm our health are used in common foods and at a large scale.
We take our minerals and vitamins from food and it is of paramount importance to know the ingredients to avoid even if they are governmentally approved.
Ingredients such as Aspartame and Sacharin are often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar sweetened foods, which is why people feel encouraged to seek them out.
You’ll find them in a range of low calorie foods and drinks, including sugar-free sodas such as diet coke, cakes, cereals and even in healthy foods such as yogurts.
The FDA approved these for use in foods despite the multitude of health studies that link them to chronic health problems and the increasing number of experts who recommend avoiding them.
Artificial sweeteners seem to play a role in diseases such as:
- Obesity and weight gain
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease and strokes.
- Concerning changes to our gut microbiome – with potential long-term health implications.
How to avoid such foods?
Foods containing artificial sweeteners are often marketed as zero sugar or low calorie, so make sure to check the label for any of the following ingredients:
- 1-methyl ester
- Benzoic Sulfimide
- Sodium Cyclamate
PRESERVATIVES & EMULSIFIERS
Preservatives and emulsifiers extend the shelf life of foods in grocery stores, which is a good thing. However, some of the chemicals used have been linked to various health concerns, one of which is Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). This is a stabilizer, added to many processed foods, which has been found to cause cancer in rats. BHA is thought to be ”reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer in humans and yet, it is still allowed by the FDA.
But wait, there’s more!
Sadly, it’s not just about the potential horrible diseases these chemicals may cause.
It is believed they may inhibit bacterial growth in our own gut microbiome, which is the collection of symbiotic bacteria in our gut that we depend on for our immune health and general wellbeing.
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
This is an artificial flavor enhancer. While glutamates are present in some natural foods, such as meat and cheese, MSG and similar derivatives used by the food industry are synthetically produced and have long been linked to health concerns.
The dangers of the MSG were first discovered in 1950s and 1960s when scientists found that a single dose of MSG killed the majority of cells in the hypothalamus region of the brain of mice.
Today the food industry insists that MSG is likely to be safe when consumed in moderate amounts; however, given the prevalence of MSG and derivatives in processed foods, there are widespread concerns about the short and long-term harm posed.
How to avoid MSG in foods?
The only way to make sure you are not over-consuming MSG, is to check the label. Look for ingredients such as:
- Free Glutamate (including its common salt form, Monosodium Glutamate)
- Glutamic Acid
- Monopotassium Glutamate
- Calcium Glutamate
- Monoammonium Glutamate
- Magnesium Glutamate
- Natrium Glutamate
- Yeast Extract
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Calcium Caseinate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Yeast Food
- Yeast Nutrient
- Textured Protein
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
Here are some examples of food sources with added MSG:
- Packaged and processed foods such as potato chips, frozen dinners, gravies, salty flavored snacks
- Fast-food, particularly chicken nuggets and burgers
- Soybean products such as soy sauce, soy milk and miso paste
PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OILS AND TRANS FATS
Numerous studies have found that trans fats (or trans fatty acids – TFA) intake can be linked with cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes and inflammation.
However, in spite of these concerns, Hydrogenated Oils and Trans Fats continue to be used in snack foods, packaged baked goods and for frying fast food.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recommended a complete removal of trans fats from the food supply, but whether or not countries and food corporations will heed this advice remains to be seen.
How to Avoid Trans Fats?
Again, your best solution is to check the label as trans fats are usually listed under fat and saturated fat. Look for words such as “partially hydrogenated,” “hydrogenated,” or “shortening” which indicate the presence of trans fats.
It’s also important to avoid fast foods, processed foods, pre-packaged baked goods and packaged snacks.