The majority of the foods in the typical American diet are processed, filled with harmful ingredients that contribute to a variety of health issues.
“Most of us don’t think of the food we eat as poison, but some of the ingredients commonly found in processed foods can be considered toxic,” Jillian Michaels at Everyday Health said. “Any [store-bought] food that has been canned, dehydrated or had chemicals added to it is a processed food, and these foods make up about 60 percent of the average American diet.”
To reduce the amount of toxins ingested from food, try avoiding the following common food additives:
Short for monosodium glutamate, MSG is used to increase the flavor in foods ranging from frozen dinners to salad dressings.
MSG is naturally occurring in some foods, such as meat and cheese. The glutamates used in other foods, however, are not natural and are stripped of proteins through a process called “hydrolysis.”
According to Mercola, MSG is an “excitotoxin” which can damage or kill cells and harm the brain. Mercola further says the toxin can cause learning disabilities and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
2. Refined Grains
Products ranging from low-fiber cereal to white rice fall into the category of refined grains, which Reader’s Digest claims can raise a person’s chance of a heart attack by up to 30 percent.
Refined grains are harmful because nearly all of the nutrients – including fiber, vitamins and minerals – are removed in an effort to increase a product’s shelf life, Michaels said. As a result, the body digests these grains quickly, raising a person’s blood sugar and insulin and creating health problems.
“Don’t be fooled by deceptive label claims such as ‘made with wheat flour’ or ‘seven grain,’” Reader’s Digest stated. “Or by white-flour breads topped with a sprinkling of oats, or colored brown with molasses. Often, they’re just the same old refined stuff that raises risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks, insulin resistance, diabetes and belly fat.”
When reading an ingredient list, look for a whole grain among the first ingredients, the magazine suggested. The product should also have at least three grams of fiber per serving.
3. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are used in processed foods to keep people eating a product, as studies have shown that sweeteners increase a person’s appetite. But the sweeteners do more than make consumers gain weight, as a variety of health problems can occur as well.
Aspartame, a common artificial sweetener, is an excitotoxin like MSG, said Jim Healthy with Underground Health Reporter. Used in more than 6,000 products, aspartame can cause headaches, dizziness, blurry vision and gastrointestinal issues, in addition to being carcinogenic.
Mercola also noted that the artificial sweetener sucralose can cause inflammatory bowel disease and destroy beneficial gut flora.
“While you don’t want to overdo it on sugar, there’s little doubt in my mind that artificial sweeteners can be even worse for your health than sugar and even fructose,” Mercola wrote.
(Read “3 ‘Healthy’ Sweeteners That Actually Are Bad For You,” here.)
4. Artificial Coloring
The European Union has added warning labels on many foods containing artificial food coloring for years, with Britain itself striving to remove most artificial food coloring since 2009. However, 15 million pounds of artificial coloring is added to food that Americans eat, Mercola said, with the nine dyes used in the United States believed to cause everything from cancer to allergies.
Used to make packaged food appear vibrant and fresh, artificial food colors – which Healthy said are created from petroleum – are associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, while Michaels said that some artificial colors can cause thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney and brain cancers.
“Always seek out foods with the fewest artificial chemicals, especially when shopping for your kids,” Michaels said.
What ingredients would you add to the list? Are you allergic to any of the items on the list? Share your comments in the section below: