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Top Seven Scary Ingredients in Supermarket Foods

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by monicadear

The human body has evolved to be a lean, mean, athletic machine, and we are  suited to being strong, fit, and consuming whole foods like grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish and lean meats. While I am not against the occasional bubble gum, cheesecake, or potato chips for me and the kids, we do insist on healthy food for mealtimes, and we choose organic as often as possible.

Here are seven items  on my "watchlist" when I read labels on packaged food-- if I see these in the list, I put the item aside and choose a different option. 

Note that chemical studies and industry will tell you there is nothing wrong with these products; however, I personally like to have fewer than 7 ingredients in my food, so the use of one of these is typically a "trigger" for me to put the item away and preferably head to the organic produce or natural foods aisle.

1) Aspartame - originally known as Nutrasweet, this is usually found in chewing gum as a sweetening agent. Dries out my mouth!

My Alternatives: honey, cane sugar, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, sucanat


2) High fructose corn syrup (also look for crystalline fructose) - a derivate of corn,you'll find it in most on-the-shelf United States produced canned sodas and juices as well as in baked goods like pastries. Gives me headaches!

My Alternatives: honey, cane sugar, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, sucanat

3) Monosodium glutamate (MSG) - a flavor enhancer, usually found in canned soups, ramen/dried noodles, and "flavor packets" or spice packets. Adds a taste that's "fermented" or "saltier" - generally known as the "unami" flavor. Makes my mouth burn!

My Alternatives: bleu cheese, seaweed, black pepper, Chinese 5-spice, sea salt, Dr. Bragg's, mustard


4) Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans-fat) - semi-solid fat used for mouth feel and consistency - found in basically in any restaurant french fries, and in commercial pies, crackers, cookies, muffins, cake icing, salad dressings, and other foodstuffs. I challenge you to go into any gas station convenience store and find a product without this! The partial hydrogenation process creates additional hydrogen bonds between the molecules, which makes the liquid oil more semi-solid, but also means it takes even more energy to "break" those bonds.

My Alternatives: canola oil, olive oil, butter in small amounts


5) Blue No. 2, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 - I'll put aside any item with "red" or "blue" or "yellow" and a number -- usually these are found in tinted foodstuffs like candies, pet food, gelatin, or things that requires coloring. Another headache-inducing set of chemicals for me-- and why would you want to ingest something so obviously artificial?

My Alternatives: on many natural foods that are colored, you'll see alternative coloring agents like beets, turmeric, raspberries, blueberries, green tea, and cacao powder


6) White flour - I still get a craving for this but basically my head hurts and then I fall asleep after eating white flour, due to the insulin spike. For any kind of baked goods, check ingredients and go for a whole grain alternative.

My Alternatives: wheat flour, oat flour, soy flour. A great bread is "Ezekiel", which is made from sprouted grains and beans.


7) Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate - usually in sausages, cured meats, bacon, and hams. These are usually necessary to prevent diseases in the meat but can also give me itchy palms.

My Alternatives: home-cooked meats, organic chicken that you pull apart yourself, heritage meats from your local butcher

Bonus Problem: Bisphenol A (BPA) - often found in baby bottles, water bottles, in the lining of canned foods, and in hundreds of other substances, some scientists have published concerns regarding the exposure of children, infants, and fetuses to this chemical, which exerts very weak hormone-like effects. The European Union and Canada have banned BPA use in baby bottles.

My Alternatives: steel cans such as from Klean Kanteen, breastfeeding, reduced reliance on canned foods

What you put into your own body can stay there, literally forever. The "Experimental Man" project at National Geographic has an excellent feature on chemical testing - the man himself has posted a "chemical report card" showing he has 165 toxins detected in his body, absorbed from simply living and eating, out of 320 tested items like metals, pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, flame retardants, phthalates, and more.


We can reduce our chemical load by checking ingredients on our food, and being more choosy about what we decide to consume through our food and drink.

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