Reading Labels 101: What to Avoid

Grazing up and down the grocery store aisles can lead you to be tempted and misled into buying a certain product. With the millions of products available on grocery store shelves, reading labels can be confusing if you are uneducated of the lengthy, chemical names listed on the box. These chemical additives and labels are usually found in diet foods, fried foods, fast foods, packaged foods and sweetened foods. It is important, when trying to avoid toxic chemicals that you are knowledgeable of the harmful effects they have on your body. Turn the box or bag around and read through the ingredients before you throw it in your cart; you could be saving yourself or your family from serious health issues!


  • MSG: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a poisonous, brain-damaging ingredient. You can catch it commonly labeled as “glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein, and yeast extract”. MSG works as an excitotoxin, stimulating your brain cells and taste buds, making us consume more than we would usually eat. Because MSG messes with your brain cells, it is known to lead to severe neurological disorders, headaches, depression, eye damage and more. MSG has also been linked to obesity and weight gain, heart palpitations, and chest pain. You can find MSG in products such as: frozen dinners, salad dressing, chips, Chinese food, canned meat, canned soups and crackers. Monosodium Glutamate has been deemed a “silent killer” and should be avoided at all costs. Is losing brain cells really worth that bag of Doritos?


  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: Also known as corn sugar, glucose syrup, fructose syrup and fruit fructose, this genetically-modified corn has been directly linked to weight gain, diabetes risk, heart disease, increased belly fat, and when consumed, is directly sent to your liver and converted to fat. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is very inexpensive making it more prevalent in numerous processed foods. HFCS is generally found in soda, condiments, sauces, lunchmeats, soups, salad dressings, cereals, breads, and yogurts. HFCS is hidden among several grocery store shelf items and is very toxic for our health.


  • Artificial Colors: Artificial coloring is dangerous, especially for children. It causes hyperactivity and hypersensitivity in kids and is known to worsen symptoms of ADD and ADHD. Artificial dyes are used in beverages, candies, baked goods, cereals, boxed mac and cheese, pickles, cosmetics, pharmaceutical drugs and more. Artificial coloring such as Red #40, Blue #2, and Yellow #5 have been connected with tumor growth and cancerous agents. Artificial dyes in the food you and your children are consuming have been derived from coal tars and other unnatural chemicals. Keeping children away from artificial coloring is crucial for their behavioral well-being.


  •  Trans Fat: Trans fat is an example of a fat you want to avoid because of its negative impact on LDL levels, the bad cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Allowed by the FDA, trans fat is permitted to be labeled on products as “trans fat free” even if it contains 0.5 grams or less. Trans fat can also be listed as shortening, partially hydrogenated oil or hydrogenated oil. These oils are made from vegetable oils that have been blasted with hydrogen in order to transform them from liquids to solids at room temperature. Manufacturers use this procedure to increase shelf life and consistency of the product.


  • Artificial Sweeteners: Eating products that are artificially sweetened are proven to cause weight gain, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, DNA damage, nervous system damage and even increased cancer promotion. Artificial sweeteners are scary and found in products as several different names and even brand names, such as: Aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal, Sucralose, Splenda, Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K), Neotame, and Saccharin (Sweet’N Low). All of these sugar staples should be avoided and recognized as listed in ingredients or as individually sold products. They stimulate our appetites, destroy the good bacteria in our intestines, alter GI function, and promote weight gain. Artificial sweeteners are in no way “sweet” for our bodies.


  • Low-Fat and Fat-Free: You may be thinking that by buying products labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free” you are doing justice to your health, when in reality, you are simply feeding your body more processed carbohydrates and sugar. Manufacturers add more harmful, refined ingredients to maintain the products taste in order to label it “fat-free”. Our bodies need healthy fats in order to function properly and to help absorb vitamins and other nutrients. Don’t be fooled by fat-free and low-fat products, instead buy sources that provide good fats, like olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish!


  • Artificial Flavors: Artificial flavoring is an open-ended labeling term. When it appears on a label as “artificial flavors” it could be composed of up to 50 or more different chemicals. What one word on a bag of chips says could mean hundreds of combined, unnatural chemicals. Manufacturers use artificial flavoring because it is cheap and can mimic natural flavors easily. Artificial raspberry and butter flavoring are associated with brain plaque that has been prominently associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Allergic reactions, dermatitis, hyperactivity and tampering of enzymes, RNA and thyroid have also been traced back to artificial flavorings.


  • Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate: Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate are used to chemically preserve, color and flavor meat and fish. These preservatives are also added to meats and fish to prevent the growth of botulism, a serious toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Avoid products that contain sodium nitrate and nitrite such as cured meats, ham, bacon, canned meat, smoked salmon, dried fish, jerky, hot dogs and corned beef. Buying these products organic or checking the label first is critical to reduce your risk of consuming carcinogens. This is because when combined with chemicals in our stomachs, sodium nitrite and nitrate form nitrosamines, which have been proven to increased risk of cancer. (Other preservatives like TBHQ, Polysorbates, BHT, BHA, Sodium Benzoate and Sulfites are hazardous allergens, carcinogens, and have been proven to cause other side-effects including nausea, vomiting, headaches, rashes, bowel irritability and behavioral problems. Make sure to look for these preservatives on food labels and steer clear of them!


When reading labels, it is important to avoid these ingredients at all costs. Each of these additives has shown toxic, negative effects on the bodies of humans and animals. Educate yourself before you buy and consume these ingredients. There are various and several chemical names that should be avoided and banned in our food products. Sadly, manufacturers value the profit and promotion of their companies as opposed to the health and longevity of human life. Always read before you buy!