I know, I know, you’re probably tired of hearing about detoxes, GMOs, and toxic ingredients in your foods, but hear me out! In the health madness we hear each day, it can be hard to not freak out every time you sit down to eat, or not to spend hours at the grocery store finding foods that are safe to eat. Most of the time, you can’t judge a package by its outer appearance, except for one little part: the ingredient list. Look out for the following 7 toxic ingredients in your foods and stay shy of these, which have been proven to be some of the most dangerous of all. Other than that, feel free to enjoy your food without fearing it may cause you to lose a limb or die of toxicity, which could rarely occur after eating just one food that might have something harmful in it.
1. Coloring Agents Yellow 5 and Yellow 6
What may sound like a friendly food dye is actually one of the most potent, toxic ingredients in foods today, along with other food dyes like reds and blues. You’ll find this food coloring in non-organic boxed mac and cheese, and this coloring is what actually gives the food its yellow-orange color, not real cheese! Yet, it isn’t just found in your favorite boxed comfort food, but even in foods like pickles, some condiments, protein bars, snack bars, cookies, frozen meals and more. Always read your labels and buy organic to avoid this contaminant. The dangerous dye is made from coal tar, which is used used to seal-coat and preserve products like industrial floors as well as to kill bugs in lice shampoo! Yikes! The Center for Science in the Public Interest has also linked this artificial food coloring to cancer, allergies and ADHD.
2. Olestra (aka Olean)
Do you all remember those popular fat-free chips that were popular several years back? They were rich in Olestra, a chemical used to fry foods that offered no fat whatsoever. Yet, this fake food scientists created actually could make you fat! In a 2011 Purdue University study, rats fed foods containing Olestra chips ate more overall and gained more weight than those fed a high-fat diet including regular, full-fat chips. Your best bet is to stay away from chips period and stop living off processed diet foods. Instead, reach for heart healthy fats from plants and healthy fats from organic eggs and even oils like olive and coconut oil. All of these healthy fats have even been linked to weight loss and prevention against diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
3. BVO (aka Brominated Vegetable Oil)
BVO, what, you may ask? This is a food you definitely want to look out for. This is a food additive which helps to thicken beverages, but I bet you didn’t know that while it can give your drink a nice, even texture, it is also used as a flame retardant! That’s pretty scary if you ask me, girls! You can find this ingredient in sodas, sports drinks and other processed foods. Your best bet? To drink water or make your own drinks at home. If you have to have soda, Zevia is a nice brand. Zevia is a carbonated beverage free of these toxic ingredients and is only made with zero calorie stevia as the sweetener.
4. Potassium Bromate (Brominated Flour)
Put down the whole grain bread! Yes, this food is one of the most processed foods you could be eating. The bad news is that it is also found in “healthy” pitas, flatbreads and tortilla wraps. So why is it so bad? This one ingredient has been continuously linked to kidney and nervous system damage, along with gastrointestinal discomfort. It is used to make bread products to cut costs for manufacturers. If you must have your wraps or sammies, be sure to stick with those products you can find in the freezer aisle, which include sprouted grain breads, wraps, tortillas and pitas, or buy an organic brand of bread like Rudi’s. My choice would be using a huge romaine lettuce leaf as my wrap to avoid any processed foods period, but you choose what works for you!
5. BHA and BHT
These preservatives found in cereals, cereal bars, snack mixes, and even foods like hummus, are also listed as “natural preservatives," so they may lead you to believe they are healthy, but guess again! These two preservatives have been found to increase the risk of cancer in animals, and BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oh, and if the food says trans fat-free but has this preservative, then guess what? It contains trans fats, now listed under the name "monoglycerides” to fool consumers. Be very cautious when buying foods with this in the ingredients list and avoid if at all possible. Buy real food and quit buying processed, which is always a safe bet, or buy organic.
6. Palm Oil
I hate to hear some studies telling people this is actually a healthy fat like coconut oil. Palm oil is found in fatty foods like chips, nut butters, and other processed foods. Yet, when a regular fat like corn, soybean or palm oil is hydrogenized and turned into a solid fat, it becomes a trans fat. This process of applying high heat to unstable fats creates a toxic fat that your body stores as fat, and has been linked to heart attacks and more. They help to keep foods fresh on a shelf for years, and eating foods like junk food that include these fats will raise your LDL cholesterol, known as your “bad” cholesterol. They could even cause you to have a heart attack. Stick with cold-pressed, virgin oils like olive oil and coconut oil as your best bet.
Oh boy, now this is one ingredient that's hard to spot, but do your investigating! Your favorite soup, bowl of ramen, chips, protein bar, or popcorn are common sources of MSG. MSG is listed under 100 different names on a food label, so it can be quite hard to spot. Here’s why you need to avoid it: MSG has been linked to a multitude of health symptoms and concerns like headaches and food cravings, and has been known to change the way the brain works and craves food. Many companies list the ingredient as “natural flavoring, glutamate, or flavor enhancers,” yet it can be listed under its true name, monosodium glutamate. Anytime you buy seasoning, be sure to buy ones with no salt or that are MSG-free, like Mrs. Dash, and stay away from processed foods that aren’t organic, or don’t say MSG-free. Flavor your foods naturally and you’ll find your appetite regulates itself if you eat a well-balanced diet.
Now, I understand it isn’t always possible to avoid all of these ingredients, but do the best you can. Don’t fear the grocery store, just shop and eat empowered. What do you think about all the toxic ingredients in foods today?