It's not uncommon for companies to use confusing labels, nutrition facts and pictures to try to trick us into thinking the product is healthy, delicious and, well, food. The ugly truth is sometimes, this is far from the truth.
As a general rule of thumb, if the nutrition label includes ingredients you can't pronounce, the snack probably isn't the best thing for your bod. These additives come with some not-so-cool side effects that can include (but aren't limited to) weight gain, slowing of the metabolism, food allergies, decreased absorption of nutrients and even cancer.
Despite this, we as consumers aren't programmed to know each and every ingredient. This is why I've decided to go through hundreds of additives and artificial fillers so you can avoid the nasty side effects and be on your way to your healthiest (and happiest) body.
Here are my top five worst food additives, and why you should avoid them:
1. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners include aspartame, Equal, NutraSweet, saccharin, Sweet’N Low, Splenda and sorbitol. Artificial sweeteners are used to make the food or drink sweeter without actually adding calories or fat.
While it sounds like a good idea, the truth is, these sweeteners will actually cause your body to crave more calories than if you had just used real sugar. Besides this, there have been numerous studies done that show these artificial sweeteners actually decrease your body's natural absorption of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need to power through your day.
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
We've all heard of HFCS, but with so many products still containing it, Americans are still consuming large amounts of this additive. High fructose corn syrup is used not only to maintain sweetness, but to also maintain "freshness" in products that normally wouldn't be fresh. In addition to this, it's also a cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar.
HFCS has been found to almost "trick" the body to turn fructose into fat, causing you to gain weight. In your everyday life, high fructose corn syrup could be the reason for your bloating, drowsiness, headaches and lowered immune function. Speaking long-term, it increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
3. Monosodium Glutamate
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be listed under several names, including free glutamate, hydrolyzed proteins, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, caseinate and “natural or artificial flavors.”
MSG is used to bring out the flavor in foods, which allows the manufacturers to decrease the number of real ingredients in their products. It's a cheap alternative to using natural flavors.
A study done in 1969 revealed that large amounts of MSG actually destroyed nerve cells in the brains of baby mice. Since then, the use of MSG has been regulated. But it still has some nasty side effects, such as stunted growth, weight gain, migraines, nausea, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing.
4. Artificial Colors
A majority of the time, artificial colors will appear on your nutrition label simply as "artificial flavors." Other times, you may see them hidden as Citrus Red #1, Citrus Red #2, Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3, Red #3, Red #30, Yellow #5 etc.
You get the point. Artificial colors are used to both make the product look prettier and enhance its colors.
First and foremost, artificial colors are chemicals that are mostly comprised of coal, tar and even lead or arsenic. Ew.
Yet, they're still generally considered safe by the FDA. Outside of this, artificial colors are linked to allergic reactions (like skin rashes), fatigue, hyperactivity (including increased symptoms of ADD and ADHD) and migraines.
5. Brominated Vegetable Oil
BVO is most commonly found in soda and soft drinks in order to keep flavors in the product over a long period of time. Bromate -- the main ingredient of BVO -- is literally poison. If a child were to drink just 2 ounces, he or she would be poisoned.
If that still isn't enough of a reason, BVO also shoots your cholesterol through the roof. It can wear down your liver, thyroid, kidneys and, last but not least, your testicles. Hate to break it to you, men, but you may want to lay off the soft drinks for the sake of your manhood.
Even though this list might have scared you, it's important to know what you are putting in your body. Your body will thank you.
On a lighter note, there are some ways you can avoid these additives and be one step closer to a happier, healthier you:
- Drink water: Not only does H20 flush your system if you do happen to take in any of these additives, it also keeps you hydrated. It can help with weight loss.
- Labels are key: Hopefully, after this article, you'll be more inclined to check the nutrition labels. The more educated you are, the better you will eat.
- Go organic: US Federal Regulations don’t demand complete disclosure on product labels, which means the only way to be sure of what you're eating is through a natural and organic diet. Also, organic foods taste better, are better for you and will keep your body healthy inside and out.