7 Worst Ingredients in Food

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7 Worst Ingredients in Food

More than 3,000 food additives — preservatives, flavorings,  colors and other ingredients — are added to US foods, and this is one of the  key reasons why I recommend avoiding most of the processed foods that contain them.

While many well-meaning nutritionists will teach you the  importance of reading food labels, the easiest way to eat healthy is to stick  with foods that need no food label at all… When was the last time you saw an  ingredients list on a grass-fed steak or a bunch or broccoli?

There’s a good chance, though, that you do eat some  processed foods, and if this is the case reading the label is invaluable. There  are literally thousands of ‘red flags’ to watch out for in the foods you eat, but  a handful take the proverbial cake for worst of the worst.

The Seven Worst Ingredients in Processed Foods

Andrea Donsky, founder of NaturallySavvy.com, did a wonderful job of highlighting  seven ingredients you should avoid eating in the infographic above. She refers to them as the “Scary Seven.”1 If  you see any of these on a food label, promptly put it back on the shelf; if you value your health, you don’t want to be  putting these in your body. Let’s take a look at each in detail:

1. Artificial Sweeteners

Experiments have found that sweet  taste, regardless of its caloric content, enhances your appetite, and consuming  artificial sweeteners has been shown to lead to even greater weight  gain than consuming sugar. Aspartame has been found to have  the most pronounced effect, but the same applies for other artificial  sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, sucralose and saccharin.

Yet, weight gain is only the beginning of why artificial  sweeteners should generally be avoided. Aspartame, for instance, is a sweet-tasting  neurotoxin. As a result of its unnatural structure, your body processes the  amino acids found in aspartame very differently from a steak or a piece of  fish.

The amino acids in aspartame literally attack your cells, even crossing  the blood-brain barrier to attack your brain cells, creating a toxic cellular  overstimulation, called excitotoxicity, similar to MSG.

Further, inflammatory bowel disease  may be caused or exacerbated by the regular consumption of the popular  artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose), as it inactivates digestive enzymes  and alters gut barrier function.2

Previous research also found that sucralose can destroy up to 50 percent of  your beneficial gut flora.3 While you certainly don’t want to overdo it on sugar, there’s little doubt in  my mind that artificial sweeteners can be even worse for your health than sugar and even fructose.

2. Synthetic Trans Fats

These are common in foods that  contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, such as crackers, chips, most  store-bought baked goods, and any fried foods, just to name a few examples.  Synthetic trans fats are known to promote inflammation, which is a hallmark of  most chronic and/or serious diseases.

For  instance, in one 2010 study, post-menopausal women who consumed the most daily  synthetic trans fat had a 30 percent higher incidence of ischemic strokes.4 Synthetic trans fats have also been linked to:

  • Cancer: They interfere with enzymes  your body uses to fight cancer.
  • Diabetes: They interfere with the  insulin receptors in your cell membranes.
  • Decreased immune function: They  reduce your immune response.
  • Problems with reproduction: They  interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones.
  • Heart disease

Your  intake of trans fats should be as low as possible; no “safe upper limit” has even been established because, quite  simply, there is none.

3. Artificial Flavors

What’s  particularly alarming when you see a word like “artificial flavor” on an  ingredients label is that there’s no way to know what it actually means. It  could mean that one unnatural additive is included, or it could be a blend of  hundreds of additives. Strawberry artificial flavor can contain nearly 50  chemical ingredients, for example.5

Or take the artificial flavoring  called diacetyl, which is often used as a butter flavoring in microwave  popcorn. Research shows diacetyl has several concerning properties for brain  health and may trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Genetically engineered flavor enhancers can also be listed under the artificial flavor (or natural  flavor) label.

4. Monosodium Glutamate  (MSG)

This flavor enhancer is most often  associated with Chinese food, but it’s actually in countless processed food products  ranging from frozen dinners and salad dressing to snack chips and meats. MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it  overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain dysfunction  and damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening  learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s  disease and more.

Part  of the problem is that free glutamic acid (MSG is approximately 78 percent free  glutamic acid) is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system,  eyes, pancreas and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body.  Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to claim that  consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say  otherwise.

5. Artificial Colors

Every year, food manufacturers pour  15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into U.S. foods — and that amount  only factors in eight different varieties.6 As of July 2010, most foods in the European Union that contain artificial food  dyes were labeled with warning labels stating the food “may have an  adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” The British  government also asked that food manufacturers remove most artificial colors  from foods back in 2009 due to health concerns.

Nine  of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are linked to health  issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions — and  these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.7 For instance, Red # 40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the  appearance of immune system tumors in mice, while also triggering hyperactivity  in children.

Blue  # 2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods and more, was linked to brain tumors.  And Yellow 5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal and more, may not only be  contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s also linked to  hyperactivity, hypersensitivity and other behavioral effects in children.

6. High-Fructose Corn Syrup  (HFCS)

It’s often claimed that HFCS is no  worse for you than sugar, but this is not the case. Because high-fructose corn  syrup contains free-form monosaccharides of fructose and glucose, it cannot be  considered biologically equivalent to sucrose (sugar), which has a glycosidic  bond that links the fructose and glucose together, and which slows its break  down in the body.

Fructose  is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ  that has the transporter for it. Since all fructose gets shuttled to your  liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts  of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver  in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. And just like alcohol, fructose is  metabolized directly into fat – it just gets stored in your fat cells, which leads to mitochondrial  malfunction, obesity and obesity-related diseases.

The  more fructose or HFCS a food contains, and the more total fructose you consume,  the worse it is for your health. As a standard recommendation, I advise keeping your TOTAL fructose  consumption below 25 grams per day. For most people it would  also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as  you’re virtually guaranteed to consume “hidden” sources of fructose  if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food.

Fifteen  grams of fructose is not much — it represents two bananas, one-third cup of  raisins, or two Medjool dates. Remember, the average 12-ounce can of soda  contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of  soda alone would exceed your daily allotment.

7. Preservatives

Preservatives lengthen the shelf-life of foods, increasing  manufacturers’ profits – at your expense, since most are linked to health  problems such as cancer, allergic reactions and more. Butylated  hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives that  affect the neurological system of your brain, alter behavior and have the  potential to cause cancer. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a chemical  preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you.

The preservative sodium benzoate —  found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – has been found to  cause children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible. Sodium nitrite, a  commonly used preservative in hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, has been linked  to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers. And the list goes on and on…

US Processed Foods May Be  Even Worse Than Those in Other Countries

Many  of the food additives that are perfectly legal to use in US foods are banned in  other countries. The banned ingredients include  various food dyes, the fat substitute Olestra, brominated vegetable oil,  potassium bromate (aka brominanted flour), Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH,  rBST and arsenic.

When foods  are processed, not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the  textures and natural variation and flavors are also lost. After processing,  what’s left behind is a bland, uninteresting “pseudo-food” that most  people wouldn’t want to eat. So at this point, food manufacturers must add back  in the nutrients, flavor, color and texture to processed foods in order to make  them palatable, and this is why they become loaded with food additives. If you live in Europe, you may have more options than  Americans, as you may be able to find some processed foods that do not contain  any synthetic additives.

Still,  swapping your processed food diet for one that focuses on fresh whole foods is  a necessity if you value your health. Remember, people have thrived on  vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries, while  processed foods were only recently invented.

If you want  to eat (and be) healthy, I suggest you follow the 1950s (and before) model and  spend quality time in the kitchen preparing high-quality meals for yourself and  your family. If you rely on processed inexpensive foods, you exchange  convenience for long-term health problems and mounting medical bills. For a  step-by-step guide to make this a reality in your own life, simply follow the  advice in my optimized nutrition  plan along with these seven steps to wean  yourself off processed foods.

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Original Source: Mercola


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