It takes determination and work to maintain healthy eating habits. Sure, eating healthy is the ultimate goal, but things like sugar, chips, fast food, soda, caffeine, alcohol, and so many other foods can get in the way. All of those foods and many more packaged and processed foods are abundant in most grocery stores, and regularly consuming those foods may be more harmful to your health than you realize.
To avoid health complications down the line, it is recommended to refrain from eating anything that is unnatural and concentrated. The link between allergies/sensitivities and food additives/chemicals is strong, considering the average American household allots about 90% of their grocery budget for processed foods. Avoiding possible health complications can be as easy as consuming whole foods in their natural state. The bioavailability and nutritional profile in whole foods is more beneficial than any processed food that contains a small percentage of vitamin C, for example.
The 80/20 rule should be applied to clean eating. People will naturally indulge, and that’s acceptable, on occasion, but these indulgences should only comprise 20% of the diet. Let’s say that you eat a fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and quinoa and sweet potatoes with sautéed vegetables for dinner. That’s a perfectly balanced day, but then you decide to have a glass of red wine and a couple pieces of dark chocolate or some pita bread and chicken. That’s an acceptable 80/20 day. It doesn’t have to be an even 80/20 split all the time because some days you may get 87% of your calories from healthy foods and 13% from not-so-healthy foods. To help you make more educated food choices, here are ingredients to avoid at all times.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Known as HFCS, high fructose corn syrup is probably the number one source of calories consumed in the American diet. It is prevalent in a plethora of processed foods and it has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol, and tissue damage. It is important to be cautious when purchasing food because the food industry has noticed a decline in food purchasing with products containing HFCS. It has been renamed, so look out for fructose, fructose syrup, or fructose corn syrup on the ingredient lists.
Found In: Candy, flavored yogurt, salad dressings, most processed foods, cereals, canned vegetables, nutritional bars, and breads.
When you look at labels, common artificial food colorings include Red #40, Blue #1, Yellow #5, Red #2, caramel coloring, bixin, or Citrus red #1. There are many more, but these common food dyes can lead to eczema, asthma or behavior problems in children, reduce one’s IQ, and interrupt the brain-nerve transmission.
Found In: Fruit juices, salad dressings, sodas, processed cheese, candy, and macaroni and cheese.
Sodium Nitrites & Nitrates
These common food additives are used by food manufacturers to preserve, flavor, and add color to processed lunch meats, hotdogs, smoked fish, and bacon. Sodium nitrites and nitrates are highly carcinogenic upon entering the human body. They can wreak havoc on the bloodstream and damage internal organs.
Found In: Hotdogs, bacon, processed meat, corned beef, smoked fish, and luncheon meat.
These are the fats that you never want to consume. You can identify trans fats in foods if you see hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. Trans fats are used to extend the shelf life of processed foods and are dangerous because of their cholesterol-raising nature. People who consume a lot of foods containing trans fats have a higher risk of developing strokes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and heart attacks.
Found In: Chips, baked goods, fast foods, margarine, and crackers.
Sulfur additives are toxic and consuming them can lead to a variety of respiratory issues, hypotension (low blood pressure), and even anaphylactic shock. Sulfur dioxide kills vitamins B1 and E, and children are not recommended to consume it.
Found In: Dried fruit, juices, beer, vinegar, potato products, wine, and soft drinks.
BHA, BHT & TBHQ
These three preservatives are used to keep foods from changing color, becoming rancid, or changing flavor. BHA, BHT, and TBHQ are oxidants that can negatively affect the neurological system and may form cancer-causing compounds in the body.
Found In: Jello, shortening, candy, frozen sausages, gum, potato chips, cereal, microwave popcorn, margarine, cooking spray, fast foods including processed hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and fries.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
This amino acid is commonly used in Asian cuisine as a flavoring agent. MSG is an excitotoxin, which is a substance that overexcites cells to the point of serious damage or death. Regular consumption of MSG can lead to depression, eye damage, fatigue, obesity, and frequent headaches.
Found In: Frozen dinners, luncheon meats, cookies, seasonings, certain Asian restaurants, some canned soups, and many snacks.
Regular sugar, though still not great for the body, is actually safer to consume than artificial sweeteners. These are commonly found in “diet” or “sugar free” foods. Aspartame, which is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin, is the most common artificial sweetener that can have adverse effects on the brain. Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners can lead to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, emotional disorders, migraines, multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer’s disease. Other artificial sweeteners you should stay away from or limit are sucralose, acesulfame K (ACE K), saccharin, and sugar alcohols.
Found In: Sugar free gum, sugar free sodas, pudding, breath mints, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, no-calorie waters and drinks, salad dressings, and drink mixes.