Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid

A quick walk down almost any isle of the grocery store will expose you to a host of toxic ingredients that are fueling the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Items in which many consider to be “food” more so resemble science projects, as the majority of the ingredients are chemicals most have never heard of and that surely don’t sound like anything anyone would want to eat. In other words, they’re “frankenfoods”.

You are probably wondering, “So how do I know which foods are safe and which to avoid?” A good rule of thumb is if the food has more than 5 ingredients, or multiple ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf. Otherwise, here is a quick and dirty list of some of the top offenders that should be avoided as often as possible.

  1. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils AKA trans-fats –  The purpose of these fats is to prolong the shelf life of products. They have been shown to increase bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, slow your metabolism, and cause obesity, heart attacks, dementia, inflammation and cancer. The FDA has declared trans fats unsafe and banned their use. However, small amount still remain in the food supply. Commonly found in: peanut butter, non-dairy creamer, baked goods
  2. High fructose corn syrup – This is a highly processed sweetener made from corn. It is incredibly cheap to make and even sweeter than sugar. As reviewed in this study, it has been associated with increased risk of fatty liver when consumed in excess amounts. It has also been show to lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Commonly found in: ice cream, pop, desserts, peanut butter, bread, salad dressing, canned fruit, candy
  3. Artificial sweeteners – This group includes aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet). According to this study, (plublished this month!)  high intake of artificially sweetened beverages (>2 per day) was associated with an increased risk of stroke, coronary artery disease and all-cause mortality. Commonly found in – diet pop, “sugar-free” foods, yogurt, gum, zero calorie flavored water
  4. Artificial flavors – These are fake flavors used to make frankenfoods taste more palatable. Each flavor can contain up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals, solvents and preservatives such as BHA, propylene glycol, MSG, parabens, and more. The FDA recently banned 7 ingredients used to make artificial flavors as they have been shown to cause cancer in animal studies. However, food companies have TWO years to remove these ingredients from their products. They are also not required to disclosed if their product contains these ingredients, leaving consumers completely clueless to what they are consuming. Refer to this article for more information on this topic. Commonly found in: cereal, candy, desserts, drink mixes, pop
  5. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Used as a flavor enhancer. It increases food cravings and has been linked to chronic pain, headaches, obesity, depression, and mental disorders. Commonly found in: Chinese food, frozen meals, chips, salad dressing
  6. Carrageenen – Commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Although it is derived from seaweed and considered a “natural” ingredient, it has been associated with a host of issues, particularly related to the gastrointestinal system. The inflammation it causes can lead to ulcerations and bleeding. According to research conducted by Joanne Tobacman, MD, there may also be a connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer. Commonly found in: almond milk, coconut milk, ice cream, deli meat, cottage cheese
  7. Artificial colors – These have been linked to anything from hyperactivity in children to cancer. Commonly found in: ice cream, baked goods, cereal, pop, gum, popsicles, fruit snacks
  8. Canola oil/soybean oil/corn oil – These are highly processed oils that go rancid very quickly, which causes inflammation when consumed. Refer to my previoud post, Fat: Friend or Foe, for more information on this topic. Commonly found in: chips, bread, nuts, granola bars, baked goods, cereal, salad dressing
  9. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – A synthetic preservative shown to be an endocrine disrupter. National Toxicology Program has classified it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Commonly found in: Sausage, pepperoni, pizza, canned soup, instant potatoes, potato chips, drink mixes, spaghetti sauce, gum
  10. Butlated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – Another synthetic preservative. This one has been shown to impact the signaling that tells us we are full, which could contribute to overeating and obesity. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals. Commonly found in: potato chips, cereal, instant potatoes, dry beverage and dessert mixes, gum

Did you find one of these ingredients in any of your favorite foods? Which one? Comment below!

Fat: Friend or Foe?

It is no secret that over the past several decades fat has developed quite a bad reputation. Nowadays, you can find just about low-fat anything in the store, and if a food is naturally low fat or fat free, you bet it will be advertised across the label.

The initial demonization of fat primarily stemmed from one study – the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys. This study examined the association between diet and heart disease. It concluded that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease. However, it was later discovered that only the countries that supported this theory were included in the study.

Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, fat is not only an important, but an essential component of our diet. It is needed for normal growth and development, hormone production, fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E and K), energy, healthy skin and nails, and proper cell function. With that being said, some fats are more healthy than others, while some aren’t healthy at all.

Saturated Fat

Found in foods such as animal meats, butter, ghee and coconut. This group of fats tends to be the most demonized from low-fat supporters. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are best for cooking at high temperatures as they are the most chemically stable and will not oxidize or become rancid. This is because all of the bonds in this fat molecule are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds so there is no room for free radicals to enter and oxidize the fat.

Trans Fats

This group deserves every bit of heat it has been getting! Trans fats are the worst types of fats. They have been linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Avoid foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. These oils are frequently found in peanut butter, baked goods, fast food, margarine, shortening, non-dairy creamers, and crackers.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable, but not quite as stable as saturated fats. In this type of fat molecule, “mono” indicates there is one space for a free radical to enter. This group is found in various oils such as olive, avocado, sesame, flax, macadamia, walnut, and hemp. These oils should be unrefined, expeller-pressed or cold-pressed to avoid high heat and chemical processing that will damage the oils. With that being said, these oils should not be used for cooking. Instead, use them in cold salads, condiments, etc.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

These types of fats have the multiple binding sites exposed, making them the least stable type of fat. However, this does not mean that this type of fat can not still be healthy. In fact, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs that are essential for our health. Our body is unable to make them so it is essential we obtain them though our diet. However, since they are the least stable, it is important to avoid ones that have been heavily processed or exposed to high heat. Oils that have been oxidized can cause inflammation in the body. Highly processed oils to avoid include vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil.

FATS AND OILS SAFE
FOR COOKING

FATS AND OILS SAFE FOR
COLD USE

Butter
Ghee or clarified butter
Lard (pork fat)
Duck fat
Lamb fat
Goat fat
Coconut oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Avocado Oil
Nut Oils (Macadamia, Walnut)
Seed Oils (Sesame, Flax, Hemp)

*High quality extra virgin olive oil may also be used for cooking or roasting at lower temperatures.

FATS AND OILS TO AVOID

HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES OF FAT

Margarine
Vegetable Oil
Canola Oil
Sunflower Oil
Soybean Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Corn Oil
Cottonseed Oil
Vegetable Shortening

Olives
Grass-fed meats
Fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon)
Avocado
Egg yolks from pastured eggs
Nuts (raw is best)