If you are like us, you like to pay attention to labels – especially if they are on products going in or on your body. It’s easy to shun products that contain ingredients with some ridiculous names you have to brush up on chemistry to pronounce, but some are just chemical names for normal vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs. However, many are tricky little substances ready to wreak havoc on your body over time. Let’s go through five scary ingredients that are especially prevalent in packaged food or what can seem more like ‘edible food-like substances.’ Labels are typically transparent and innocent enough. The real devil is in the details that are hiding such as what they are designed for, what they do to your body, and why we allow them in our food.

Per usual, please do your research, question everything, and be conscious about what or who you are supporting with your purchases. Remember this rule as well: if you are only consuming small amounts of these ingredients, your body will process them fine, so don’t panic. Just transition away from them.

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Artificial Flavors, Colors, and Sweeteners

Artificial flavors are designed to mimic the taste of their natural counterparts and do a pretty terrible job of it in our opinion. If you have ever tasted a home cooked meal and compare it to the processed packaged/frozen version, I’m sure that you have noticed the difference as well. Some artificial flavors are blends of many different chemical compounds – for example, artificial strawberry has 49 ingredients.

Some artificial colors used in food are derived from coal tar or petroleum products, can contain arsenic and lead, and are used in non-foods like textiles, but, hey, everyone is looking to increase their risk for cancer right? No big deal. These artificial dyes are also linked to ADD and ADHD.

Artificial sweeteners are used in place of whole or other processed sugars because they are much lower in calories and marketed towards people trying to lose weight. Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose have been identified as carcinogens. Your body converts aspartame to formaldehyde – you know … one of the chemicals used for embalming.

Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a naturally-derived food additive (from red seaweed) that is used in many foods and non-foods as a stabilizing agent. For example, it is used in many varieties of non-dairy milk to keep all the component parts together while they wait for you to drink them. Unfortunately carrageenan has been linked to digestive inflammation, ulcers, and even cancers. Luckily, there are plenty of other non-dairy milks that do not use it.

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BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

BHT is a preservative that prevents oxidation. It is used in food products as well as jet fuel, petroleum products, and embalming fluid, hooray! BHT has been linked to liver damage and is a suspected carcinogen.

Soybean Oil and Soy Protein Concentrate

Always be careful with soy! If it is not organic, you are eating its GMO variety. This is very easy to overlook when you are buying a product with soybean oil (which can be hydrogenated and super processed) or soy protein concentrate.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup

It seems like corn makes its way into everything people consume. It feeds animals that are killed to feed people and is used to create ethanol for mixing with gasoline at the pump, among many other purposes. Our focus here is on corn sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is most commonly associated with sugary beverages like soda, but corn sugar has also made its way into virtually all processed foods to court our favorite insatiable addict: the sweet tooth. Corn sugar and excessive processed sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance, and cancers. It is also typically made from GMO corn.

For better food alternatives, check out our recipe section here at One Green Planet.

Image source: Daniel Oines/Flickr