Artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners have saturated the food supply for more than four decades. We are on the precipice of discovering what our toxic food industry has done to our bodies and our environment. There is a heightened awareness and a sense of caution on the minds of most grocery shoppers, so let’s make it easier for them. Here are 25 of the most common toxic ingredients you must avoid in foods. The discovery of even one of these ingredients on a food label means “stay away.”
This list is by no means all inclusive as there are dozens of other culprits, but these are the most commonly used by the food industry with little regard to consumer’s health.
1. Artificial Flavors
Artificial flavorings are derived from chemicals made in a laboratory and offer absolutely no nutritional value and are a magnet for processed foods. They show up in almost everything today, including bread, cereals, flavored yogurt, soups mixes, and cocktail mixers, so they can be hard to avoid. Every single artificial flavor in the food industry has some kind of detrimental health effect. These include neurotoxicity, organ, developmental, reproductive toxicity and cancer.
2. Enriched Wheat
Wheat is already one of those grains that should be avoided, but the key word to watch out for is ‘enrichment’. That means niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, and iron are added after these and other key nutrients are stripped out in the first place during the refining process. That applies to whether it’s wheat, rye, or other grains. Enriched flour is really just refined flour that has had a few nutrients re-added to it, but not enough to make any food made from this nutritionally worthy.
3. Hydrogentated or Fractionated Oils
Fractionating oil is a process most often used on palm and palm kernel oil that involves heating the oil, then cooling it quickly so that it breaks up into fractions (hence the name). The key thing is that the filtration process separates out most of the liquid part of the oil, leaving a high concentration of solid unhealthy fat behind which is terribly toxic for human consumption.
Hydrogenated oils are oils that are often healthy in their natural state, but are quickly turned into poisons through the manufacturing and processing they undergo. They take these naturally healthy oils such as palm, kernel, soybean, corn oil, canola oil or coconut oil and they heat it anywhere from five hundred to one thousand degrees. They then become fantastic preservatives because all the enzymatic activity in the oil has been neutralized during the hydrogenating process. Hydrogenated oils are the closest thing you can get to plastic sludge running through your body. If you see “hydrogenated” anywhere on an ingredient list, run like the wind.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
The food additive “MSG” is a slow poison which hides behind dozens of names, such as natural flavoring, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, caseinate, textured protein, hydrolyzed pea protein and many others. Currently, labeling standards do not require MSG to be listed in the ingredient list of thousands of foods.
MSG is not a nutrient, vitamin, or mineral and has no health benefits. The part of MSG that negatively affects the human body is the “glutamate”, not the sodium. The bound glutamic acid in certain foods (corn, molasses, wheat) is broken down or made “free” by various processes (hydrolyzed, autolyzed, modified or fermented with strong chemicals, bacteria, or enzymes) and refined to a white crystal that resembles sugar.
There are a growing number of Clinicians and Scientists who are convinced that excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, including migraines, seizures, infections, abnormal neural development, certain endocrine disorders, specific types of obesity, and especially the neurodegenerative diseases; a group of diseases which includes: ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and olivopontocerebellar degeneration.
The single largest source of calories for Americans comes from sugar. Sugar is loaded into your soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and hidden in almost all processed foods–from bologna to pretzels to Worcestershire sauce to cheese spread. And now most infant formula has the sugar equivalent of one can of Coca-Cola, so babies are being metabolically poisoned from day one if taking formula. Sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver — the least understood of sugar’s damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar. If it’s not a natural sugar, it doesn’t belong in your food.
6. High Fructose Corn Syrup
A few years ago, the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the term ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative label declaration for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The reason? Too many people were finding out how lethal HFCS was for the human body.
7. Potassium Benzoate and Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Benzoate can convert into lethal carcinogenic poison when combined with absorbic acid. Professor Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology, tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his laboratory. What he found alarmed him: the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA in the “power station” of cells known as the mitochondria. “These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether.” he stated.
Potassium benzoate often shows up in seemingly innocuous foods such as apple cider, low-fat salad dressings, syrups, jams, olives, and pickles. It is just as hazardous as Sodium Benzoate so read your labels.
Food colorings still on the market are linked with cancer. Blue 1 and 2, found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to candy and beverages, has been linked to bladder cancer. The widely used yellow 6, added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy, has been linked to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney.
Acesulfame-K, also known as acesulfame potassium, represents one of the food additives used for sweetening aliments and drinks. It is approved by the FDA, but there are several potential problems correlated with consumption of this food additive. Even though there are many studies that attest its safety, acesulfame potassium is still suspected of causing benign thyroid tumors. In rats, the development of such tumors took only 3 months, a period in which the concentration of this additive in the consumed food was between 1 and 5 percent. This is a very short period of time, so the substance is believed to have significant carcinogenic properties. Methylene chloride, a solvent used in the manufacture of acesulfame potassium, is the substance that may give the food additive its potential carcinogenic characteristics.
Splenda/sucralose is simply chlorinated sugar; a chlorocarbon. Common chlorocarbons include carbon tetrachloride, trichlorethelene and methylene chloride, all deadly. Chlorine is nature’s Doberman attack dog, a highly excitable, ferocious atomic element employed as a biocide in bleach, disinfectants, insecticide, WWI poison gas and hydrochloric acid. Chlorocarbons are never nutritionally compatible with our metabolic processes and are wholly incompatible with normal human metabolic functioning. Sucralose is a very common additive in protein mixes and drinks so beware all of you who love to add these into your smoothies.
The sale of aspartame, with only four calories per gram and 200 times sweeter than sugar, is sold under the trademarks NutraSweet and Equal. Results indicate that aspartame is a multi-potential carcinogen, even consumed daily at 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. That is a lower quantity than the maximum recommended by the FDA. It’s one reason you should never purchase major brands of chewing gums.
12. BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are used to preserve common household foods. Any processed food that has a long shelf life is often filled with BHA. They are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. They are oxidants, which form potentially cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.
13. Propyl Gallate
Another preservative, often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. It is sometimes found in meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum. Animals studies have suggested that it could be linked to cancer.
14. Sodium Chloride
A dash of sodium chloride, more commonly known as salt, is the culprit that the mainstream media and medical community claim we should stay away from. They’re right, but only because it’s not real salt. Common table salt (sodium chloride) has almost nothing in common with traditional rock or sea salt. If a food label lists salt, or sodium chloride as an ingredient, that’s the bad stuff and you need to avoid these foods wherever possible.
Although it’s often lauded as a healthy, cholesterol-free, cheap, low-fat protein alternative to meat, soy is NOT a health food. Any foods that list soy in any form as an ingredient should be avoided. Soy protein, soy isolate, and soy oil are present in about 60 percent of the foods on the market and have been shown to impair fertility and affect estrogen in women, lower sex drive, and trigger puberty early in children. Soy can also add to the imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
The only soy products fit for human consumption are fermented and organic and I can guarantee you will never find this type of soy in any processed foods. The majority of soy is GMO and you can’t get around this. Regardless of who I am speaking with, soy is one of those foods I use to gauge the nutritional IQ of others. You would not believe how many health practitioners and even Naturopathic Doctors still think soy is a health food. Please don’t touch this stuff.
We are at the point where all corn products, including fresh corn should be avoided. The percentage of genetically modified corn is just far too high. You will never know if you are actually consuming organic corn. Modified cornstarch, dextrose, maltodextrin, and corn oil should all be avoided. All are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. While your body needs both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to perform at its full potential, most experts recommend an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1–currently most Americans consume about 15-20 times more omega-6 acids than omega-3s.
17. Potassium Sorbate
As one of the most prolific preservatives in the food industry, it is difficult to find an ice cream without potassium sorbate. However, it is not only recommended to avoid this chemical, it’s a necessity to eliminate it from our foods. The food industry and its scientists will parrot endless myths that potassium sorbate is not a health threat because of its safety record and non-toxic profile. This could not be further from the truth.
Food and chemical toxicology reports have labeled potassium sorbate as a carcinogen, showing positive mutation results in the cells of mammals. Other studies have shown broad systemic and toxic effects on non-reproductive organs in animals. No long term studies have ever been initiated on either animals or humans, so there is simply not enough evidence to theorize what could happen after years of ingesting this preservative. However, based on short-term carcinogenic and toxic effects, is it worth the risk to find out?
18. Soy Lecithin
Soy Lecithin has been lingering around our food supply for over a century. It is an ingredient in literally hundreds of processed foods, and also sold as an over the counter health food supplement. However, most people don’t realize what soy lecithin actually is, and why the dangers of ingesting this additive far exceed its benefits.
Soybean lecithin comes from sludge left after crude soy oil goes through a “degumming” process. It is a waste product containing solvents and pesticides. The toxic hexane extraction process is what is commonly used in soybean oil manufacture today. Another big problem associated with soy lecithin comes from the origin of the soy itself. Look out for this emulsifier in ice creams, chocolate and many processed creams.
19. Polysorbate 80
Polysorbate 80 has been found to negatively affect the immune system and cause severe anaphylactic shock which can kill. Food and Chemical Toxicology has shown that Polysorbate 80 causes infertility. It accelerates maturing, causes changes to the vagina and womb lining, hormonal changes, ovary deformities and degenerative follicles. What is very suspicious about this ingredient is its addition to vaccines. Scientists are obviously aware of its ability to cause infertility yet it continues to appear in children’s vaccines. You will also commonly find this in a child’s favorite treat, ice cream.
Canola or rapeseed oil is poisonous to living things and is an excellent insect repellent. It is an industrial oil, not a food. It is a genetically modified plant designed through intensive breeding and genetic engineering techniques. The Canadian government and industry paid the FDA $50 million dollars to have canola oil placed on the (GRAS) List, “Generally Recognized As Safe”. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find products that do not contain Canola oil. Please do not buy any food product containing canola oil.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.