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Unhealthy Ingredients Not To Eat

August 12, 2021

Being able to read a nutrition facts label is a great first step in taking control over your own health. Even if something is labeled as healthy, it could contain an ingredient that in reality is actually very unhealthy for you. Unhealthy fats, artificial ingredients and unnecessary preservatives are hazardous to your health and unfortunately a lot of the foods that are hard to resist like sweet treats and comfort foods are loaded with these things. The ability to recognize ingredients like the ones listed below on a nutrition facts label will help you make healthier choices and find alternative foods that do not contain these very unhealthy ingredients. Some of these ingredients are known to cause weight gain, increased body fat, raise glucose levels and be carcinogenic. 

  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Advanced Glycation End (AGEs) (inflammatory oils)
  • Alkali processed cocoa
  • Ammonium sulfate
  • Arsenic
  • Artificial colors/flavors
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Aspartame
  • Azodicarbonamide (bleaching chemical)
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • Canola oil
  • Calcium chloride
  • Caramel coloring
  • Carnauba wax
  • Carrageenan
  • Cottonseed oil/partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil
  • Corn syrup
  • Diglycerides
  • Disodium inosinate
  • Fiber-less fruit
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • High heat (charred foods)
  • Lard/hydrogenated lard
  • L-Cysteine hydrochloride
  • Maltitol
  • Margarine
  • Monoglycerides
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Nitrates/Nitrites
  • Palm oil
  • Phthalates 
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Potassium bromate (bromated flour)
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Preservatives
  • Propylene glycol
  • Red #40
  • Refined carbs
  • Refined white flour
  • Saturated fats
  • Sodium
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium citrate
  • Sodium nitrite
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP)
  • Sorbitol
  • Soybean oil/Hydrogenated soybean oil
  • Sucrose
  • Sucralose
  • Sugar/added sugar
  • Sugar alcohols
  • Sulfites 
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Vegetable oil/hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Yellow 5/Yellow 6

Some common foods you might not realize contain ingredients from this list are coffee cream, instant oatmeal packets, “light” butter substitutes and salad dressing. All of these items have soybean oil in them which can cause chronic inflammation, increased body fat and fatty liver. Not all oil is bad though, finding foods and using oils like avocado, coconut, and olive can actually be a good source of healthy fat in your diet. Another common category that most people would assume to be healthy but is not are bottled smoothies and fruit juices. Both of these contain now fiber-less fruit after blending and juicing, which makes them fall short on nutritional value. They also almost always have a lot of added sugar, sometimes in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or fructose. This can cause the juices and smoothies to have more sugar in a serving than a donut. Even if something is labeled diet or low fat, you can not assume it has all healthy ingredients in it. Take for example diet ice cream, it contains polysorbate 80. This is a preservative that can cause inflammation in the intestines. Another food that contains the same preservative is pickles, specifically the popular brand Vlasic. Reduced fat peanut butter seems to be healthier by the name of it but really the ingredient list goes on forever and contains added sugars, sodium and preservatives. You’re actually better off just getting full fat natural peanut butter with a short ingredient list, this way the additives are kept down to a minimum. 

Recognizing unhealthy ingredients on a nutrition facts label is a great start in taking control of your eating habits. Finding healthier alternatives to some of the common foods you buy that contain unhealthy ingredients will help you achieve an overall better lifestyle. If you need help educating yourself on nutrition facts labels and how to make better diet choices, please contact us. 

By Dharmendra Verma

Dharmendra Verma, MD finished his residency training in Internal medicine at the University of Texas, Houston along with MD Anderson Cancer Center, where subsequently, he received subspecialty fellowship in Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

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