This roundup of 7 ingredients to avoid & why is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of reading food labels. Companies are adding countless artificial food ingredients/additives to our foods without us even realizing it. What is even worse is when “healthy” food products market themselves with labels such as Gluten Free or Soy Free or Dairy Free to sound healthy but then they add so many other artificial ingredients that are no good for you!
And let me just stress that I AM NOT PERFECT. In an ideal world, I would never ever consume any of the following ingredients below. HOWEVER, life isn’t perfect & there are going to be situations where cravings hit and that snack your friend is eating looks to delicious to resist, OR you’re at a restaurant and they use some of these ingredients in their meals & that is OK.
It is important to be AWARE of these harmful ingredients marketing to consumers. I am incredibly conscious in my grocery shopping and day to day consumption of food. If you can cut these ingredients out 80-90% of the time, then that is a HUGE improvement in my eyes. when in doubt – ONE ingredient food WINS. Unprocessed, real food, will keep you fuller, more satisfied, and healthier in the long run.
So here goes, 7 ingredients to AVOID & why:
1. Canola Oil
Canola oil is one of the most widespread ingredients found in processed foods, restaurants, and sold in ‘health’ grocery stores.
What is it? Canola oil is a vegetable oil from the canola plant and developed from the hybridization of rape seed. Highly refined and GMO.
Why is this bad? Canola oil contains a heavy source of Omega-6’s which leads to inflammation.
There are also a variety of health risks from consuming canola oil including inflammation, hormone disruption, celiac disease, cellulite, strokes, alzheimer’s, asthma & lung inflammation, and more.
You can read more about the history of canola oil here.
Popular Snacks with Canola Oil: Doritos, Snyder’s Mini Pretzels, Biscoff Cookies, Cheetos, Oreos
“Healthy” Snacks that are using Canola Oil: Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs, Nature’s Bakery Whole Wheat Fig Bars, Muscle Milk, Veggie Straws
Some healthy oil alternatives to look for instead: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil.
2. Soy Lecithin
What is it? Lecithin is a food additive that comes from several sources — one of them being soy. It is generally used as an emulsifier or lubricant when added to food. It also has uses as an antioxidant and flavor protector.
Essentially what this is doing is keeping your food from separating from each other. It also keeps your food from getting sticky.
Why is this bad? While lecithin is naturally occurring in soybeans, it’s usually extracted using harsh chemical solvents.
Soy lecithin is derived from SOY which comes from crops almost fully genetically modified in today’s age. It can be difficult to avoid soybean and corn crops completely as most crops grown in North America are genetically modified. Soy also contains a high concentration of isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Studies show that “low doses of phytoestrogens are generally found to stimulate growth of breast cancer cells.”
It is best to avoid soy completely and sunflower lecithin is a healthier alternative in your ingredient list.
Common side effects can include: diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain or fullness
Common health effects include: increased risk of cancer, potential risk of birth defects, potential allergic reactions, increased toxins, and nutritional deficiencies.
Yeah, no thank you.
- Popular Snacks with Soy Lecithin: Teddy Grahams, Oreos, Cheez It, Rice Krispies Treats,
- “Healthy” Food with Soy Lecithin: Nature’s Made 100% Whole Wheat Bread
HEALTHY FOOD ALTERNATIVES:
Granola Butter: The cleanest ingredients & legit tastes just like teddy bears without all the crap. Variety of amazing flavor options!
Ezekiel Bread: A much much healthier bread alternative with 0 cornmeal, 0 soy, and all Organic, Sprouted ingredients.
You can also skip the bread altogether and check out my post covering How to Make Sweet Potato Toast.
- tertiary butylhydroquinone
- butylated hydroxyanisol
What is it? TBHQ is a phenolic preservative and stabilizer used in cosmetics, varnishes, lacquers, baby skin care products and resins.
Why is this bad? TBHQ is in fact, a chemical preservative which is a form of butane. This chemical is used in the stabilization process of explosive compounds. TBHQ is found as a preservative in beauty products and food as well.
Consuming high doses (between 1 and 4 grams) of TBHQ can cause nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vomiting.
There are also suggestions that it may lead to hyperactivity in children as well as asthma, rhinitis and dermatitis. It may also further aggravate ADHD symptoms and cause restlessness.
A number of studies have found it to be mutagenic (DNA damage) or carcinogenic (cancer-causing) at high doses.
TBHQ is a phenol, so it does have the potential to interfere with the way estrogen and estrogen receptors work in the body.
- Found In: Cheez It, Rice Krispies
What is it? Maltodextrin is used as a thickening agent for foods and can commonly be found in pastries, cooked cereals, meat substitutes, candies, soups, soft drinks, and more. This is a white powder food additive that is usually added to improve texture, enhance flavor, and increase shelf life.
Maltodextrin is manufactured using starch derived from corn, wheat, or tapioca, and soluble in water.
Why is this bad? Maltodextrin has an even higher glycemic index (GI) than your standard table sugar. When you eat this, your blood sugar spikes which is high risk for people with diabetes and insulin resistance. Products with high GI will enter your bloodstream quicker versus a slower absorption of healthier ingredients that will keep you full longer.
Maltodextrin also can affect the balance of your gut bacteria reducing the good bacteria in your gut which can lead to a variety of health issues such as IBS or Crohn’s Disease.
Potential Side Effects: Inflammation, Bloating, Gut Issues, Increased risk of IBS, Gas, and weight gain.
“Healthy” Products using Maltodextrin: Beyond Meat Burger
Healthier Alternatives as thickening agents: Arrowroot Flour, Tapioca Flour
5. ENRICHED FLOUR
What is it? Enriched flour goes through a process stripping the flour of natural vitamins and minerals. Factories start with the whole grain which contains 3 layers: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. To make this flour, the bran and germ are both stripped, both of which contain fiber, protein, and minerals.
The final layer, the endosperm is then ground into flour. The flour is then BLEACHED using harsh chemicals such as chlorine or benzoyl peroxide to make it white. Vitamins are then added back in including Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, and Riboflavin once processed.
What this means? This flour has been heavily processed stripping it of all nutritional value for longer shelf lives.
Why is this bad? Enriched flour has been attributed to the rise of celiac disease. Essentially it can trigger sugar spikes followed by a crash. This can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Enriched flour also does not satisfy your hunger with all of the fiber being stripped. Essentially what this means is more hunger = higher profit for large corporations.
Gold Fish, Teddy Grahams, Chex Mix
6. NATURAL FLAVORS &/or ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS
Natural flavors in my opinion are one of the most deceiving labels you can find on an ingredient list. It sounds harmless right?? Doesn’t natural make it healthy?? WRONG.
Natural flavors can often be worse than even artificial flavors. Food companies are not required to disclose what is in their ‘natural flavors’ so chemicals and additives are often disguised under this name.
Natural flavors solely means that it is derived from plant and animal sources. However, there are still a variety of chemical additives often included. In addition to the natural flavor source, natural flavors can contain UP TO 100 DIFFERENT CHEMICALS AND PRESERVATIVES.
Why is this bad? There is really no way to truly know what is lumped into this one harmless sounding ingredient. Your best bet is to steer clear of it and opt for real, whole food ingredients where there is no uncertainty behind what goes into it. This uncertainty is why natural flavors made the list of 7 ingredients to avoid & why.
- Doritos, Rice Krispies Treats, Chex Mix, Fruit Gushers, Cheetos, Pringles, Teddy Grahams, Oreos
“Healthy” Snacks: Highkey Keto Caramel Clusters, Stretch Island Fruit Leather Snacks, Orgain Protein Bars, Pro Bar, Pure Protein Bar
Healthy Alternatives: Lara Bars, GoMacro Bars
This ingredient SOUNDS harmless as is is derived from red seaweed. Nothing wrong with that right?
Studies in the 2000’s tested this on human cells and discovered that carageenan, even low levels of it, causes inflammation in colon cells.
Where is carageenan commonly found? It is often used as a thickening agent in dairy, deli meats, and dairy alternatives.
I was thrilled to see some popular brands like Applegate Farms and Califia Farms have STOPPED using carageenan in their products. 👏 👏 (Califia still has some questionable ingredients but it is a step in the right direction).
Ultimately, it is important to be aware of the harmful effects of carageenan. Make sure to keep an eye out for this ingredient in your food labels!
Snacks with Carageenan: Fruit Gushers
And that is a wrap on 7 ingredients to avoid & why! There are SO many other food products not listed above that you can also find these ingredients in so remember to read your food labels at the grocery stores! I bet you will be extremely surprised once you start digging into food labels. Even more what is disappointing is the amount of toxic ingredients going into food products marketed to children.
To conclude, read your food labels to scan for the 7 ingredients to avoid & remember, real, whole foods will ALWAYS win!