You are what you eat, so you should be aware of the ingredients in your food. Many common packaged foods contain hidden dangers that can harm your health, from dangerous chemicals and preservatives to unhealthy amounts of sugar and salt.
To ensure you’re eating the safest and healthiest food possible, here are the most dangerous ingredients in the food you eat. Avoid them!
Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Commonly known as trans fat, these oils extend the shelf life of processed foods such as margarine, chips, and baked goods. These foods can sit on supermarket shelves for months without going bad, but the cost to your health is considerable.
Eating trans fat increases your risk of heart disease and stroke and should be avoided at all costs. The good news is that trans fat has been slowly phased out of many processed foods — but check the label before buying!
Check food labels to confirm your food is trans-fat-free or low in trans fats.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener in processed foods and beverages. It has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and other health issues due to its high simple sugars.
Some studies found that Americans consume more calories from high fructose corn syrup than any other added sugar. Why? It’s added to almost everything, from soda and candy to bread and condiments.
Look for foods with natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, or stevia. Read labels carefully and avoid beverages with added high fructose corn syrup.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG or Monosodium glutamate is an additive used to enhance the flavor of processed foods. It has been linked to various symptoms, including headaches, nausea, and even seizures in some people.
It’s not always easy to identify as it can be listed under other names, such as yeast extract or autolyzed yeast. To avoid MSG, look for products labeled as “No Added MSG” and check the ingredient list for any of its other names. Better yet, flavor your food with herbs and spices instead.
Artificial colors are commonly used to give processed foods vivid hues but are not without risks. It contains small amounts of lead and arsenic. Consuming large quantities can increase the risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, cancer, and other health issues.
Navigate the aisles of your supermarket with caution, as these artificial colors may be lurking in processed foods such as soft drinks, candy, and even breakfast cereals.
Look for products labeled “All Natural” or “No Artificial Colors” and opt for foods with natural colorings such as beet juice, turmeric, and paprika instead. Additionally, choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed versions with added dyes.
Commonly found in diet sodas and other low-calorie products, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose can help to reduce your calorie intake — but at what cost? Some research has linked them to metabolic syndrome, weight gain, cancer, and more.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to processed foods, opt for natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. These are still high in calories and should be used sparingly, but they contain more nutrients than artificial sweeteners.
Commonly added to processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, deli meats, and sausages, these preservatives are linked to an increased risk of cancer due to the formation of compounds called nitrosamines.
When shopping for processed meats, look for products labeled “No Added Nitrites/Nitrates” or those cured with plant-based alternatives such as celery powder. Also, get fresh proteins like chicken and fish instead of processed versions to limit your exposure to sodium nitrite/nitrate.
Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate
Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate are preservatives in many processed foods, from soft drinks to salad dressings. Benzene is a known carcinogen formed when these preservatives are exposed to high temperatures or light. That carcinogen can be found in the atmosphere but is especially dangerous when consumed through food.
Limit your exposure to these preservatives by avoiding processed foods with added preservatives. Too much preservative exposure is not good for your health, so choose fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible.
Processed grains like white flour, rice, pasta, and bread are stripped of their nutrient-dense outer layers during refining. While the remaining white, the starchy center is technically a carbohydrate, it lacks essential nutrients such as fiber and vitamins.
Also, these grains are easy to digest, so they can cause your blood sugar to spike. This is especially problematic for people with diabetes or those trying to lose weight. Choose whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats, or look for products labeled “whole grain” or “whole wheat” to ensure you get all the beneficial nutrients.
Processed foods are convenient, but regular consumption can lead to long-term health issues. To ensure you get all the essential nutrients and vitamins your body needs, look for products with simple ingredient lists or buy fresh, natural foods instead.
Eating healthy is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so make the right choices and nourish your body with wholesome ingredients.
This article was produced on Health Makes You.