10 deadly ingredients to avoid when grocery shopping

reading labels


Okay maybe the word deadly is overdoing it. But when I read what diseases some food additives can cause, I felt like I wasn’t too far off. Living a healthy lifestyle lately seems to encompass more than just eating foods that are labeled to be healthy or good for you. With the increasing awareness of food related disease and obesity in our children, it feels more important now than ever to make good choices at home. The Center of Disease Control, CDC, estimates that over 1/3 of children in the U.S. are currently obese. That’s a lot of kids. But it’s not only about obesity, (especially for many of our little South Asian skinny kid genes). Apparently the kids with more food allergies, with problems with weight, with their immune system amongst other issues, eat a heck of a lot of processed food.

I remember seeing this info graphic via Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last year that always stuck with me. As I teach yoga to kids, I’ve committed myself to providing not only my own child with healthy choices, but carrying that into my teaching to my students as well… which is why I love his non-profit and stance on real food for kids everywhere.


Jamie Oliver food revolution

I’m not saying I don’t give my child any processed food. I just try to limit it. I’m a momma on the go too, and sometimes, I just don’t have fruit or veggies sliced up and ready to eat for my toddler. Sometimes, it’s only those damn stinky cheddar bunnies that will calm her down when she wants a quick snack. I get it, I’ve been there. But besides looking for the magic word Organic on boxes, it’s important to read the ingredients of everything you buy. Nowadays, there a ton of fillers, chemicals and weird stuff added to something as simple as a jar of salsa.

Here are 10 of the big no-no’s to look out for:

1. Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavorings are derived from chemicals made in a laboratory, offer absolutely zero nutrition and are in so many processed foods, even in common foods like bread, cereal, flavored yogurt, soups mixes, and juice mixers so they can be hard to avoid. Every single artificial flavor in the food industry has some kind of health effect. The most severe include neurotoxicity, organ, developmental, reproductive toxicity and cancer. Whoa.

2. Hydrogentated Oil

Hydrogenated oils are oils that are often healthy in their natural state, but are quickly turned into poison, for lack of a better word, through the manufacturing and processing they undergo. They take these naturally healthy oils such as palm, kernel, soybean, corn oil, my beloved coconut oil or canola oil and they heat it anywhere from five hundred to one thousand degrees. Then they just become preservatives, because all the enzymatic activity in the oil has been neutralized during the hydrogenating process and just sit in your body rather than breaking down or providing any health benefit.

3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

The food additive MSG has a bad rep for being only in Chinese food take out. But its actually something that hides behind names such as natural flavoring, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, caseinate, textured protein, hydrolyzed pea protein and many more. Currently, labeling standards do not require MSG to even be listed in the ingredient list of thousands and thousands of foods. So for those people who are sensitive to it or even allergic, beware! The long term effects of it can even be Alzheimer’s Disease.

4. Sugar

The single largest source of calories for Americans comes from sugar. (The American Diabetes Association says we have 29.1 million Americans with Diabetes). Sugar is in soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and hidden in almost all processed foods–from cold cut meats to pretzels to ketchup. And for us mommas, what’s alarming is many infant formulas have the sugar equivalent of one can of Coke! If it’s not a natural sugar, like strawberries for instance have, it doesn’t belong in your food. And as dentist, this is especially important to me to keep those teeth cavity free!

5. High Fructose Corn Syrup

There’s been a big controversy on this. A few years ago, the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the term ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative label declaration for high fructose corn syrup, because too many people were getting upset about High Fructose Corn Syrup. The problems the Genetically Modified corn syrup has on the body? Things like insulin resistance, diabetes hypertension and weigh gain. 🙁

6. Potassium/Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate can convert into lethal carcinogenic poison when combined with absorbic acid. In research, I found information via Professor Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of Sheffield, who tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his laboratory. What he found alarmed him, (and me): the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA in the “power station” of cells known as the mitochondria. His findings: “These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether.” Your mitochondria are completely essential to your cell processes and your overall health; they are the powerhouses of the cell as the organelle that is responsible for aerobic cellular respiration and the production of ATP (energy) for the many cellular processes to undergo. You can view mitochondria under an electron microscope (make sure you apply a stain as well using a carefully controlled pipette; these serological pipettes are available in multiple sizes for reference).

Both ingredients are harmful and often shows up in random foods such as apple cider, low-fat salad dressing, maple syrup, jelly, canned olives, and bottled pickles.

7. Artificial Coloring

Food colorings are surprisingly still on the market even though they are linked to cancer. These dyes such as Blue 1 and 2, Red 3, Green 3, the popular Yellow 6, have been linked to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney, thyroid tumors and bladder cancer in mice.

8. Sucralose

Splenda is comon sucralose and they are simply chlorinated sugars or chlorocarbons. Chlorocarbons are not nutritionally compatible with our metabolic processes.

9. Aspartame

Other names of aspartame are NutraSweet and Equal. Studies show that aspartame is a multi-potential carcinogen, even consumed daily at 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. It’s in many chewing gums so watch out the next time you pick up some up from the drugstore.

10. Polysorbate 80

Polysorbate 80 has been found to negatively affect our immune system. The Food and Chemical Toxicology research even has shown that Polysorbate 80 causes infertility. It is commonly found in a child’s favorite summer-time treat, ice cream. Try to stick to local and natural ice cream brands when purchasing this family dessert.

There are a ton more, I know, but for starters, I listed out these ten. I try to stick to buying foods that have short ingredient lists to keep it simple when I am going to buy processed. And most of the organic, natural brands out there seem to have some good items out, but it’s never too much to be mindful of what you bring home. It’s also fun to try something different if you are used to buying processed. What are the things you can easily replace that processed item with?

Some tips: Home-made apple juice instead of store bought, baked kale chips instead of buying a bag of chips, frozen coconut water/fresh fruit ice pops, (watch out for my recipe on that soon), instead of manufactured ones.

Remember, the old saying that your own mom might have said to you too,”you are what you eat!” 😉

What are some ingredients you avoid when grocery shopping?


P.S. There’s a lot of studies and facts listed here so wanted to include some of my references:







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