The 5 Ingredients You Should Never Consume & Why

Walking down the “Crackers and Chips” aisle in most grocery stores, you probably would not stop to think about the ingredients in your snack of choice. You might look at the nutrition label and think, "Some sodium and fat on occasion will not hurt me." You probably do not think about it any further. What you miss in this scenario are the preservatives and artificial sweeteners lurking in almost every snack food in America. Unlike sodium, even a small amount of these substances can be detrimental to your health. So, what are they?

  1. 1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil

    The first, and arguably the worst ingredient, is partially hydrogenated oil. You probably know to avoid trans fats, which doctors warn is the worst type of fat for your body, but how do you get trans fat?

    Manufacturers have made vegetable oils more solid and more stable by adding in extra hydrogen in an industrial process called hydrogenation. They traditionally have not added in enough hydrogen to fully saturate the fat, leading to the description “partially hydrogenated oils." In this process, a small percentage of the unsaturated fats become something called trans fats. These fats have particularly destructive effects on the human body even in small amounts, leading to a much higher risk of heart attack as well as other health problems.

    What’s even worse? The FDA allows products containing up to half a gram of trans fats per serving to be labeled as trans fat free, even if the ingredients still include partially hydrogenated oils. Regardless of the “trans fat free” sticker, any amount of partially hydrogenated oil is horrible for your body (even in small amounts.) So, the takeaway, read the label!

  2. 2. Sodium Nitrate/ Sodium Nitrite

    If you have ever bought pre-sliced lunch meat marketed as being perfect for turkey sandwiches, you have probably bought sodium nitrite(ate). Sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring substance in common processed meats such as bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs, smoked fish and others. This ingredient is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system, wreaking havoc on the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient. The USDA actually tried to ban the additive in the 1970s, but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products.

  3. 3. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

    High fructose corn syrup is a highly-refined artificial sweetener which has become the number one source of calories in North America. It is found in almost all processed foods including bread, yogurt and almost anything else you can think of. In addition to raising cholesterol levels and having no nutritional value whatsoever, high-fructose corn syrup can easily lead to excessive fat gain. This is due to its high fructose content, which is metabolized differently than other carbs. Our bodies are not meant to ingest it, and they don’t know how to break it down. In fact, high fructose corn syrup has been cited as a major contributor to America’s obesity epidemic.

  4. 4. Aspartame

    Another artificial sweetener, it hides behind brand names like NutraSweet and Equal. Even worse, sugar free gum like Extra, 5 and Trident use aspartame as their substitute for sugar and market it as a healthier alternative. This is so incredibly false. 

    Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. The latter, methanol, is a literal poison. Some people may remember methanol as the poison that has caused some "skid row" alcoholics to end up blind or dead. Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin. An EPA assessment of methanol states that methanol "is considered a cumulative poison due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is oxidized to formaldehyde."

    Moral of the story: Though sugar may seem like the worse choice, aspartame (and other artificial sugar-substitutes) are far worse for your body than sugar. 

  5. 5. BHA & BHT

    Butylated hydroxyanisole can be found in chips, chewing gum, butter, cereals, beer, preserved meats...you name it. Classified as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program, BHA is listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Prop 65. This is largely due to the consistent evidence that BHA causes tumors in animals. The EU classifies these additives as endocrine system disrupters that can affect hormones.

    Its chemical cousin, BHT, isn’t much better. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is found in shortening, cereals and food with fats and oils, where it is used as a preservative. BHT residues have been found in human fat, and it can easily be replaced by healthier preservatives like vitamin E. Avoid both BHA and BHT, both of which have been banned in Japan, England and many other European countries for a very long time. 

You have probably realized that each of these ingredients have a few things in common: they are chemicals synthesized in a lab. Their main purpose is to preserve food and provide a long shelf life. The problem with this, if you hadn’t already gathered it, is in addition to a longer shelf life in your cabinet, they have a long shelf life in your body. Your body can’t break them down, and they sit there and clog your arteries. 

So, the best way to avoid this? Just read the ingredient list on the foods you buy. You’ll be shocked at how many chemicals and preservatives are in your food. Many health experts recommend that if you read the ingredient list and cannot pronounce (or identify) the ingredients because they sound like some crazy chemical, do not buy it.