The top 10 ingredients to avoid eating

Sugar is more addictive than cocaine and has a profound influence on your brain and psychological functions.

by Paula Owens — 

If you include packaged foods in your diet, you will benefit greatly from learning to read the ingredients labels before making your purchases. The majority of these highly processed foods contain chemicals, additives, sugars and fats that are harmful and cause adverse health conditions and complaints.

Here are the top 10 ingredients to avoid:

1. High fructose corn syrup — HFCS is the number one source of calories for most Americans and causes obesity. It is found in processed food, fruit drinks, fast food, soft drinks, gum, baked goods and even the sweetener in your Starbucks latte.

HFCS is extremely toxic to your liver, increases inflammation, causes obesity and oxidative stress, and creates an aggressive insulin response, thus contributing to type 2 diabetes. In addition, there are high levels of mercury in food products sweetened with toxic HFCS.

2. Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) — Partially hydrogenated oils are found in thousands of processed foods (breakfast cereals, cookies, chips and many other packaged “comfort” foods). Trans fats are proven to cause heart disease and contribute to obesity. Many restaurants, especially fast food chains, serve food loaded with trans fats.

Consequences of a diet high in trans fats include: increased inflammation, decreased immune and testosterone function, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, liver damage, obesity, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and elevated blood pressure. Trans fats also interfere with neurological and visual development of the fetus and are believed to be responsible for lower IQs and learning disabilities. (The American IQ has dropped 20 points in the past 20 years.)

3. Monosodium glutamate — MSG is a chemical (also known as an excitotoxin) that has been associated with reproductive disorders and reduced fertility, migraine headaches and permanent damage to the endocrine system, which leads to obesity and other serious disorders. MSG is used in many foods as a taste enhancer. It can be labeled by other names and is found in an array of staple food items, so be on the lookout for other hidden sources such as: carrageenan or vegetable gum, textured protein, chicken, beef, pork, smoke flavorings, bouillons, broth or stock, barley malt, malt extract, malt flavoring, whey protein, whey protein isolate or concentrate, soy sauce or extract, autolyzed yeast or yeast extract.

4. Sodium nitrate — This is a preservative, coloring and flavoring commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish and corned beef. Studies have linked eating it to various types of cancer.

5. Refined soy — When it comes to soy, much of what you read and hear comes from the people who market it, and not from nutrition experts. Before you mix up a soy shake, snack on a soy protein bar or pour yourself a glass of soy milk consider this: unfermented, processed soy inhibits the thyroid, is deficient in amino acids, is toxic to infants and shrinks the brain.

There are some redeeming qualities of soy, however, and these are found primarily in fermented soy products like tempeh, miso, natto and soybean sprouts. Avoid all processed soy milks, tofu, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy cheese and other soy junk foods that are disguised as health foods.

6. White sugar — Sugar is more addictive than cocaine and has a profound influence on your brain and psychological functions. When you consume excess amounts of sugar, your body releases excess amounts of insulin which, in turn, causes a drop in your blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. In addition, sugar is pro-inflammatory, damages skin collagen and promotes wrinkles, increases your appetite, depletes your body of B vitamins, causes joint degeneration, ADHD and other behavior disorders, stimulates cholesterol synthesis and weight gain. Opt for healthier alternatives, such as stevia or agave nectar.

7. Sodium chloride — Commercial table salt is highly processed and full of aluminum, chemicals and additives which are toxic. Healthier versions are available, such as Bragg’s amino acids or Celtic sea salt (don’t be surprised by its light pink, grey or beige coloring).

8. Aspartame, Splenda, Sweet’n Low, Equal, NutraSweet — These artificial chemical sweeteners are found in many foods and beverages including desserts, gelatins, protein powder, low calorie foods, drink mixes and sodas. These laboratory concoctions may cause cancer or neurological problems, such as dizziness, migraine headaches, weight gain, increased appetite, bloating, rashes or hallucinations. Aspartame poisoning mimics symptoms of MS.

NutraSweet is found in more than 7,000 foods. In addition to the previously mentioned effects, NutraSweet can cause: heart disease, bloating and edema, brain seizures, cravings, headaches and hives . It can also predispose people to Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Food colorings — These include Blue 1, 2; Red 3, 40; Green 3; Yellow 5 and 6. There are food colorings still on the market linked to cancer (based on research gleaned from animal testing). There is also evidence that food coloring and additives contribute to behavioral problems in children, lead to lower IQs, hyperactivity, ADHD, depression, hormonal dysfunction, migraines and cancer.

Red 40 is found in soft drinks, candy, gelatin desserts, pastries, pet food and sausage. It is linked to hyperactivity disorders and migraines. Red 3 is used to dye cherries and is found in fruit cocktail, ice cream, candy and baked goods. It has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. This harmful artificial color causes cancer and changes in brain chemistry. (Next time your kids are sick, take a moment to read the list of ingredients in children’s cough syrup. You will find it loaded with artificial colors.)

Green 3 is a potential allergen and has been linked to bladder cancer. Green 3 is added to candy, mint jelly, cereals and beverages. Blue 1 and 2 are found in beverages, candy, baked goods, cereals and pet food, and have been linked to allergies and cancer.

Yellow 5 is the most notable artificial color because it causes the most immediate allergic reaction in people sensitive to salicylates such as aspirin. Yellow 6 has been linked to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. Yellow 6 is added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods and candies.

An important take-home message: avoid any ingredients described with a color plus a number. There are plenty of products on the market made without these toxic artificial colors.

10. Processed/refined wheat and gluten — Refined grains are void of nutrients, disrupt insulin levels and are highly allergenic for many people. Wheat and gluten can cause health problems for approximately 80 percent of the population. Gluten is a protein combined with starch in the endosperm of grains — notably wheat, rye and barley. Gluten intolerance/sensitivity is severely misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed — one estimate says that 97 percent of all sufferers don’t know they have the condition, due to its relative unfamiliarity among U.S. physicians.

The signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance are many. The ultimate effect of this hidden wear and tear is the slow destruction of the healthy mucosa, or lining tissue of the small intestine, that can cause an autoimmune response similar to an allergic reaction. In some cases, there may be symptoms in childhood such as allergies, asthma, anemia, recurring infections, a constant upset stomach or milk intolerance.

Other symptoms include nasal and throat mucous, the heavy feeling of food sitting in the stomach, bloating, gas and diarrhea with periodic constipation, mental fogginess and skin rashes. In severe cases, as with celiac disease, there can be seizures, psychosis, violent behavior and withdrawal.

Try eliminating gluten products for three to four weeks and see if you feel better. Know also, that there are many great tasting and healthy gluten-free alternatives available in stores today.

It is important to form a habit of reading the ingredient lists on all products. Finding a favorite, reputable health food store can be half the battle in avoiding dangerous foods and additives. Often these stores do the detective work for you, but stay vigilant and learn for yourself what is healthful and what isn’t. Remember that eating whole, fresh foods is the best and easiest way to avoid toxic, harmful ingredients.


Paula Owens holds a master’s degree in holistic nutrition and a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She is a nutritionist, fitness and weight loss expert, and the author of The Power of 4. 480-706-1158, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 5, Oct/Nov 2009.

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