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7 Nutrition Label Ingredients to Avoid

Allie McDonald | Oct 4, 2016

How many times have you been told, “Read your food labels!”? While many health professionals encourage people of all ages to be mindful of the foods they are eating and to read the nutrition labels on their food items, no one ever really explains what we should be looking out for. Many people have a hard time pronouncing a lot of ingredients much less knowing what their function is in the body. Throughout this post, I am going to highlight seven food additives and ingredients to avoid and look out for when reading food nutrition labels.

  1. Trans-Fat

    woman reading nutrition labelTrans-fats are often added to food items to lengthen the shelf-life and prevent food from spoiling. While they are very cost-effective and beneficial to food companies, they are extremely harmful to our health, especially heart health. Some researchers have found that trans-fats are twice as dangerous as saturated fats because they increase the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decrease the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). They also cause an increase in triglyceride levels! Simply replacing trans-fats with healthy fats could decrease your risk of heart disease by 53 percent.

  2. Partially Hydrogenated Oils

    Partially Hydrogenated Oil is another form of trans-fat to watch out for on nutrition labels. This type of trans-fat is known to clog arteries and contribute to obesity and heart disease.

  3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

    High Fructose Corn Syrup is one of the most common food additives and has increased tremendously over the past 10-20 years. This is because it costs less than natural sweeteners, is sweeter to taste, and mixes quite easily with many different ingredients. High Fructose Corn Syrup increases cholesterol and triglyceride levels and also causes people to overeat leading to obesity. If you see this on your food label, it is quite likely that the food item is highly processed with a lot of added sugars. This ingredient is not just found in beverages and sweets. Take a look at many baked goods, muffins, condiments, etc., and you may be shocked to see how many food items contain high fructose corn syrup.

  4. Artificial Sweeteners such as Aspartame, Sucralose, and Saccharin

    These artificial sweeteners may have a lower caloric intake than natural sugars, but they are very hard on the body’s metabolic system. Some studies have shown that these sweeteners cause an increased caloric intake throughout the day, because the brain believes since we are eating a lower-calorie food item, we can eat more of it. Look out for these when you review nutrition label ingredients.

  5. Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate

    These are again preservatives that help to extend the shelf life of food items and prevent mold growth. While they are beneficial to food companies, they can cause disturbances with thyroid levels. As we age, our thyroid hormones are often monitored quite closely, so this is an important ingredient to watch out for.

  6. Sodium Nitrites and Sodium Nitrates

    These food label ingredients are often found in processed meats such as bacon, deli/sandwich meat, and hot dogs. They have been known to cause colon cancer and lead to heart disease and obesity. This is why it is important to have good quality meats!

  7. MSG (monosodium glutamate)

    This additive helps enhance the flavor of food, but often foods containing MSG have very high sodium levels. While some levels of MSG are found naturally in foods, the processed foods with added MSG can be very harmful to brain function.

Although reading nutrition labels can sometimes be confusing and overwhelming, it helps if you have specific ingredients to look out for like the ones listed above. As we age, it continues to be very important to understand the foods going into our bodies so we can avoid harmful preservatives and additives. Feeding our body whole, natural foods with simple ingredients we can pronounce is a step in the right direction to achieving overall health.

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