Grocery shopping can be an overwhelming experience in itself, especially when trying to keep the family healthy with the most natural, nutritious items in the store. While trying to make good decisions for ourselves and our family, we are burdened by the seemingly foreign language descriptions of nutritional information and ingredients. Causing us to feel confused and overwhelmed, we often throw the items in our cart without actually knowing what we’re really purchasing.
Decoding ingredient lists and food labels is a science most of us are unfamiliar with. To help lessen the confusion, I’ve created a food labels translated guide, hoping to simplify the nutritional scope into more understandable measures.
Here are 10 alarming ingredients you avoid as often as possible:
1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is found in processed foods like salad dressings, low-fat yogurt, canned meats, frozen meals, potato chips, canned soups and some flavored crackers. MSG is a dangerous ingredient as it’s known as an excitotoxin, a neurotoxic chemical additive that harms nerve cells by overexciting them. Consuming MSG regularly damages and even destroys a large number of brain cells and can lead to serious health problems, including neurological disorders. Also, consistent consumption of MSG is linked to appetite stimulation and weight gain/obesity. For more information on this “silent killer”, click here.
2. Aspartame: One of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners, and also referred to as a man-made poison. Aspartame is also an excitotoxin, like MSG, causing headaches, dizziness, blurry vision and gastrointestinal damage. Research shows this “safe” and popular additive can destroy your immune system by consistent consumption. Some say it is like digesting an insecticide, and many researches conclude that aspartame is one of the most dangerous FDA approved substances available to consumers. Aspartame is found in NutraSweet, Equal, Canderel, Spoonful, Natrataste, AminoSweet and many others. Swap your dangerous sweeteners with the natural Stevia drops. For more information on aspartame, click here. (photo credit here)
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA corn sugar, glucose/fructose syrup, fruit fructose): Mostly all HFCS is made from genetically-modified corn, and is the number one source of caloric consumption in the US diet. It has been directly linked to weight gain and the development of diabetes. If this isn’t enough to scare people away from this harmful ingredient, HFCS is also a major contributing factor to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and insulin resistance (the causing agent of Type 2 Diabetes) and high blood pressure. HFCS is found in soda, salad dressings, breads, cereals, yogurt, soups, lunch meats, pizza sauce and condiments. Get the Skinny: On average, Americans consume 12 teaspoons of HFCS a day!
4. Agave Nectar: Another highly processed sweetener. Agave Nectar contains the highest amount of fructose among all commercial sweeteners. Fructose is mainly broken down in the liver and then converted to fat. Stay away from it!
5. Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate: Both of these chemicals are used to preserve meats. When added to meats, the nitrates are converted into nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are strongly associated with an increased risk of cancer. Get The Skinny: The World Cancer Research Fund expressed that eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat (lunch meat) every day increases your risk of cancer by 20%. Nitrates are found in cured meats, ham, bacon, corned beef and hot dogs, pate, pickled pig’s feet, canned meat, smoked salmon, dried fish and jerky. If you’re a lunch meat lover, try the Applegate Organics brand of lunch meat which contains no nitrates. For more information on the dangers of sodium nitrate, click here.
6. Refined Vegetable Oil (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil and peanut oil): Refined vegetable oils are made by elaborate mechanical and chemical processes to derive the oil from the seeds. The refining process contains chemical solvents, extremely high temperatures, deodorization, and bleaching, which removes the natural vitamins and minerals from the seeds. Also, most vegetable oils are hydrogenated, meaning the mechanical process creates trans fatty acids which are known to contribute to heart disease and some cancers. Refined Vegetable Oil is found in most processed foods such as crackers, granola bars, baked goods, and standard cooking oils and margarine. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative. I love this brand from LouAna.
7. Potassium Bromate (“enriched flour”): This ingredient is used as an additive in foods to increase the volume in some breads, rolls and flours. It has been shown to cause cancer in animals and is banned in Canada and several other countries. In some states, a cancer warning is used on the label, and the FDA has asked bakers to “voluntarily” stop using it. Enriched flour is the equivalent to putting pure starch in your system (keep in mind that when added with water, starch turns into a paste…think of how your body tries to digest that!) Your body reacts to enriched flour the same way it reacts to pure sugar, by going on sugar highs and lows. Enriched flour is found in most commercial baked goods in the US, including Wonder Bread, Sunbeam, some Home Pride products and flour.
8. Margarine: Margarine and other hydrogenated oils are packed with trans-fatty acids which is a main cause of coronary and heart disease and other chronic illnesses. While substituting butter with margarine was a health fad that plateaued fast, make the healthy swap back to butter with this pasture-raised, all natural brand: Kerry Gold.
9. Table Salt: First, let’s clarify a huge misconception. Salt is not equal to Sodium. Salt is a chemical. Salt is man-made. Salt is not a natural element that digests properly or does anything nutritious for our bodies. It is true that our bodies need sodium, but sodium and salt are completely different. Most salts sold in commercial supermarkets contain over 30 synthetic chemicals. (Read more at The Health Dangers of Table Salt)
Additionally, salt is bleached. Salt’s toxicity levels are so high, it drastically increases blood pressure, causes fluid retention by absorbing water and other fluids in the body (causes gout), taxes the liver and kidneys and causes obesity. Get rid of table salt and add Himalayan Salt. Himalayan Salt is the purest form of salt and is not contaminated with any toxic ingredients. This salt is actually good for your body as it provides the nutrients your body needs.
10. Low-Fat & Fat-Free Products: Another health fad that has been scrutinized is the low-fat diet. Low-fat negatively effects our bodies because producers add more sugar and preservatives to keep the full-fat taste. Plus, all fat isn’t scary! People need good fat for many reasons: it helps most organs function correctly, benefits the skin, is needed so your body can absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, S, E, and K, helps produce endorphins, etc.
Make These Healthy Swaps:
- Instead of enriched flour, try: rye flour, oat flour, almond meal, almond flour, millet flour, quinoa flour, brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, and whole grain wheat products (bread, rolls, etc.) *NOTE: Many people have a tolerance issue with wheat products caused by food allergies and sensitivities. If you experience discomfort or physical reactions to wheat, try gluten-free products instead. For more information, read 11 Signs You Should Try A Gluten-Free Menu.
- Instead of refined vegetable oils, try coconut oil.
- Instead of margarine, try natural, pasture-raise butter.
- Instead of table salt, make the switch to Himalayan salt.
- Instead of using artificial sweeteners, use Stevia drops.