Does Your Favorite Food Contain One of These Toxic Ingredients?
With our typical fast-paced, sometimes hectic lifestyles, we often turn to convenience foods to save time. Unfortunately, many of these foods contain ingredients that have been linked to serious health concerns. Does your favorite food contain one of these 13 toxic ingredients?
All of the following ingredients are approved for use in our food supply by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, many are banned in other countries who find sufficient supportive evidence to link the ingredients to detrimental health effects.
“If you see any of the following ingredients listed on the nutrition label, don’t buy the product,” warns nutritionist Mira Calton who has written a new book entitled “Rich Food, Poor Food” released last month.
Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 (Artificial Coloring Agents)
Recently, a petition was launched on Change.org calling on Kraft Foods to remove artificial dyes, especially FD&C Yellow #5 and #6 from their Macaroni and Cheese products. These colorings have been associated with hyperactivity, allergies, migraines, and in some cases, cancer. In addition to mac and cheese, the colorings are also found in baked goods, candy, gelatin, and some soft drinks.
Instead of relying on a packaged product to feed the need for the comforting cheesey-ness of mac and cheese, make it yourself quickly and simply by adding a half a cup of water and a third of a cup of pasta to a coffee mug and microwave on high for two minutes. Stir and repeat until the pasta is soft. Stir in a quarter cup of milk and a half of a cup of shredded cheese.
Blue 1 and Blue 2 (Artificial Coloring Agents)
Both of these ingredients can be found in candy and beverages, such as sports drinks. As with other artificial colors, blue dyes are linked to ADHD in children. A study published in the journal Science found that the colorings interfered with the cognitive function of hyperactive kids, leading to poor performance on tests that measured their ability to recall images. Blue #2 specifically has been linked to brain cancer risk on animal studies.
Plain old water is the best rehydration for most children and adults even during active periods. However, for a change, try a drink that is not colored with artificial food dyes, such as pure fruit juice, Gatorade Natural Thirst Quencher, or Capri-Sun.
Olestra was created to replace the fat in snack foods such as potato chips and approved by the FDA in 1996. It was recently listed by Time Magazine as one of the 50 worst inventions of all time. Yes, it did remove the fat from our food, however, it also negated the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins. There were also very undesirable side effects, including cramps, gas and loose bowels. In addition, it didn’t work – a 2011 Purdue University study found that rats fed foods containing Olestra ate more overall and gained more weight than those who simply ate regular full-fat chips.
While it’s best to skip high-fat snacks all together and instead choose naturally flavored low-calorie foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, sometimes you just need a treat. Worry more about the portion size of the product you are eating versus seeking out a snack that contains artificial fat substitutes.
Brominated Vegetable Oil
Brominated vegetable oil or BVO is an emulsifier and flavor carrier in fruit-flavored beverages such as Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Fanta, and PowerAde. (Note: Gatorade has recently announced that the company is removing BVO from its products.) Brominated vegetable oil contains the element bromine, an ingredient used with some flame retardants in furniture and plastics. BVO can build up in the fatty tissue and create reproductive and behavioral problems. It can also disrupt thyroid function by displacing iodine. Other research links the ingredient to organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia and hearing loss.
Again, it is best for many reasons to limit soft drink and caloric beverage intake. Try sparkling water with a lime or lemon wedge added for a citrus flavored fizzy drink.
Potassium Bromate (Brominated Flour)
This is a flour-bulking agent that helps strengthen dough and reduce the amount of time needed for baking. However, it is made with the same chemical ingredient found in BVO – bromine. Bromates have been banned in numerous countries including the UK and Canada. In 1991, California declared the ingredient a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. Look for this ingredient in rolls, wraps, flatbreads, bread crumbs, and bagel chips.
Learn to make your own breads and rolls using a bromate-free flour such as King Arthur Flour. While these might take extra time to make, the avoidance of health risks is well-worth the effort. King Arthur Flour website contains many recipe ideas for your favorite breads, cakes, and holiday offerings.
According to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules – if an ingredient is too hard to say, it is likely not one you want in your food. This chemical banned in Singapore, Australia, and the UK has been linked to asthma or other allergic reactions and nutrient damage within the food product. And the product isn’t even really necessary. It is used to bleach flour to speed the process for delivery to consumers. Waiting just one extra week for flour to whiten naturally could save consumers the health risks associated with adding extra ingredients.
Azodicarbonamide is found in breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes and packaged baked goods. To avoid it, try Ezekiel Bread, Udi’s bread and bagels, Nature’s Own Whole Wheat Bagels – or make your own!
BHA and BHT (Preservatives)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hycroxytoulene (BHT) are used as preservatives in foods such as canned soups, cereal, and crackers. Both of these ingredients have been found to increase the risk of cancer in animals. BHA in particular is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Meat products are another food that may contain one of these preservatives. Look for brands that do not contain BHA or BHT and add your own natural preservative. Rosemary, sage, or some other organic herbs and spices can be very effective in preventing oxidative decay in meat – extending its shelf-life without the need for artificial preservatives.
rBGH and rBST (Synthetic Hormones)
These ingredients - scientifically known as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and recombinant bovine somatotropin rBST) are typically found in dairy foods from cows that have been injected with growth hormones to boost milk production. These negatively affect the cow plus they boost the level of another hormone in humans called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) which is linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers in some human studies.
Look for milk products that state that the farmer has not used growth hormones on his dairy cows. Products listed as “organic” are not allowed by the US Department of Agriculture to contain milk from animals that are treated with either growth hormones or antibiotics. Be sure to look for specific language against these ingredients. The terms “natural” or “free range” do not mean that the food comes from animals not treated with these chemicals.
You have probably heard of arsenic being found in drinking water. High levels of the chemical are related to an elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and infant mortality. However, there are other foods to be aware of that could potentially contain arsenic, including poultry (by ingesting arsenic-laced chicken feed), rice (which takes up arsenic through groundwater), and apple juice.
The chemical is added to help reduce infections and boost bird growth, however, human ingestion can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections. Shop for organic poultry products instead.
What you can do to eat less toxic ingredients
It may not be possible to avoid every single ingredient that may or may not cause negative health effects. But you can make an effort to eat less processed foods, which are those that are more likely to contain synthetic chemical additives that are linked to detrimental effects. “Real Food” eaters follow these rules for meals and snacks:
1. Choose Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry, especially lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
2. Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese (look for organic when possible)
3. Choose 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains
4. Eat Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised) – for those concerned with mercury intake, avoid excess consumption of certain fish such as swordfish, tuna, sea bass, marlin, and king mackerel.
5. Choose only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation) Remember to avoid deep fried foods and fast foods.
6. Drink beverages such as water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened (ie: honey, fruit juice concentrates) coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer! Skip refined sweeteners such as sugar, corn syrup, cane juice or artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Nutrasweet.
7. Snack on foods like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn