These food ingredients listed below are commonly added to processed foods in order to increase their shelf life, make them look visually appealing & colorful, improve food texture, change the taste or simply because they are cheaper to use than real food ingredients. Unfortunately, these ingredients are not added for our benefit but rather the manufacturer’s benefit.
Many food chemicals have been shown to increase the prevalence of many health concerns, cancer and numerous other diseases and still food regulators who are suppose to protect the consumer actually protect the food industry and allow them to use inferior cheaper synthetic ingredients.
1.) Processed Meats (Sodium Nitrate)
The World Cancer Research Fund recently completed a detailed review of 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer. The review found strong evidence that eating processed meat is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer and a suggested link with lung, stomach, prostate and oesophageal cancer. It was declared that even eating a small amount of processed meat on a regular basis increases bowel cancer risk significantly. More than 1-2 serving per week shows a marked increase, many people would do this daily. Their official recommendation is to avoid processed meats altogether as the official ‘data did not show any level of intake that can confidently be shown not to be associated with risk.’ There is also supportive evidence from a study involving 448,568 people that supports processed meats increasing mortality by 44% due to heart disease and cancer.
Processed meats include bacon, sausages, hot dogs, sandwich meat including fat free turkey, processed chicken breast, ham off the bone, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami and nearly all meat found in pre-prepared meals.
Sodium nitrate is added to processed meats to give it a red fleshy meat color, adds flavor, increases the shelf life and reduces bacterial growth. Did you know that the USDA tried to ban sodium nitrate in the 70s?
Keep an eye out for these numbers on ingredient lists 249, 250, 251,252.
2. ) MSG
MSG is an excitotoxin that tricks your tongue and brain into thinking you are consuming something flavorful and nutrient rich. MSG is linked to numerous health concerns when consumed in high amounts and in lower amounts for sensitive people. Problems can range from migraine, headaches, palpitations, sweating, numbness, tingling, nausea, chest pain also called chinese restaurant syndrome and longer term health problems such as liver inflammation, reduced fertility, memory loss, loss of appetite control, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and many other health concerns. Manufacturers use MSG to add an addictive savory flavor to processed foods that would otherwise have very little taste. Due to the addictive nature of MSG ‘once you pop you can’t stop’ – ring any bells? This is great news for the food manufacturers but not for your health or waist line.
MSG is commonly found in processed pre-packaged meals, savory biscuits, crackers, crisps, take-away foods, stocks, pre-made sauces, soy sauce, canned soups and many other packaged foods.
Numbers and ingredients to avoid 620-625, 627, 631, 635, Autolyzed Yeast, Calcium Caseinate, Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, Hydrolyzed Protein, Monopotassium Glutamate, Monosodium Glutamate , Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Yeast Extract .
3.) Trans-fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils
Trans fats mostly occur during the processing of polyunsaturated fatty acids in food production, it occurs when polyunsaturated oils are hydrogenated chemically to create a more semi-solid consistency, these are found mostly in deep fried food, biscuits, muesli bars, crisps, microwave popcorn, cakes, pastries, fast food, pies, waffles, pizza, frozen foods, breaded foods, processed packaged soups, stick margarines and shortening. This enables the product to have a greater shelf-life and helps to support its shape and texture.
The major health risk identified for trans fat consumption is an elevated risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), other health risks include diabetes type 2, high LDL cholesterol with reduced HDL cholesterol, obesity, Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, liver dysfunction, infertility, mood and behavioural issues.
Ingredients to look for – anything that says hydrogenated.
4.) Artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium and saccharin. These are added to foods to reduce the sugar and calorie content while still containing a sweet taste. They are also cheaper than sugar and other natural sweeteners and is said to be found in 6,000 food products in the USA.
Animal studies have indicated that a sweet taste induces an insulin response and can cause hyperinsulinemia and hypoglcemia which then causes a craving for increased calories at the next meal and may contribute to further weight and health problems.
There are a number of independent studies that have shown artificial sweeteners such as asparatame to have possible effects such as migraines, insomnia, neurological disturbances, changes in behaviour and mood and it may even increase the risk of cancer with particular concern for brain tumors. Aspartame was rejected by the FDA for many years before being approved for human consumption. This is a very controversial topic with much disagreement about it’s possible health concerns.
These are found in diet sodas, diet foods, chewing gum, breath mints, most store-bought juices, shakes, cereals, diet desserts and ice creams, confectionary, yogurt, chewable vitamins and cough drops.
These are also listed as equal, nutrasweet, splenda, 950-956, 961, 962.
5.) Artificial colors & other preservatives
Synthetic colors particularly the very deep colors such as sunset yellow, tartrazine (yellow), brilliant scarlet, brilliant blue, allura red, indigo and brilliant green have been shown to cause numerous health concerns particularly with children. Cancer, hyperactivity and allergies are some of the listed health concerns associated with these synthetic colors, which are derived from petroleum and coal tar.
Artificial colors that are of concern – 102, 104, 110, 122-124, 127, 129, 132, 133, 142, 143, 151, 155, 160b, 162, 164. These are found in lollies, candies, jelly’s, desserts, popsicles(ice blocks), popular drinks, baking mixes, pickles, sauces, preserved fruit, powdered drink mixes, sausage casings, cough syrups, medications and some supplements. These are used to enhance the appearance.
Potential hazards of artificial and synthetic colorings continue to be a subject of controversy. Modern testing methods demonstrated the toxic effects of some color ingredients previously considered harmless.
Natural food colors such as paprika, turmeric, caramel, betanin (beets), saffron, elderberry and other wonderful natural colors can be easily used instead.
Artificial bread preservatives are another concern such as 280-283 – propionate preservatives. These have been shown to cause hyperactivity in rats after ingestion.
The best thing you can do for yourself is become familiar with the ingredients on any food you purchase and become familiar with food ingredient numbers as they prefer to list these as numbers to confuse the consumer.
Interestingly for each ingredient of concern it is mostly in all the same processed foods as you will see above, it isn’t just one ingredient that posses a concern but many and what we don’t know from studies is the true accumulative effect of eating these ingredients together regularly.
Take note: When eating a wonderful anti-oxidant and nutrient rich wholefood diet, I love that there are no labels to read and you can be assured that these ingredients haven’t been added to your food.