Although some of them have been used for centuries, the use of certain food additives is becoming really widespread and some of them are extremely dangerous for your health, I would say toxic even.
I'm not talking about the once-in-a-while consumption of a certain processed food containing additives, which can't harm anyone. I am talking about daily use. Statistics show that the average American spends about 90% of his/her budget on this kind of food; which means that if you open an American fridge or look up on the shelves you'll find tons of canned, dehydrated, artificial or processed stuff, which is extremely unhealthy, and its persistent consumption can cause health problems.
Typically these food ingredients are very difficult to identify, both for the variety of names and codes they're labelled with and the very minuscule fonts used to lists them on the ingredient list.
Here is the list of the top 10 toxic ingredients.
Go get your detective glass and start reading labels!
1) HFCS - High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a highly-refined artificial sweetener made from corn starch and found in almost all processed food such as: bread and baked goods, salad dressing, candies, yogurt, soda etc. And according to some studies has become the number one source of calories in the US.
Indeed, its easy handling and cheap cost made it the number one granulated sugar replacement: The amount of refined sugar we consume has declined over the past 40 years, while we're consuming almost 20 times as much HFCS.
HFCS is linked with weight gaining, it increases your LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects.
Also, recent researches published by the American Association for Cancer Research found that the fructose in HFCS promotes cancer growth, specifically pancreatic cancer.
2) Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite (NaNO3- NaNO2)
Both of them are chemical compound used as a food additive to preserve and give to cured meats, smoked fish and poultry a nice red pinkish color. Although their purpose seems harmless, these ingredients are highly carcinogen and their consume is linked with gastrointestinal cancer and heart diseases.
In fact, under certain conditions, they can form nitrosamines compounds, molecules that cause cancer in animals and humans.
Also, in massive doses, nitrite - and nitrate, which under some conditions changes to nitrite - can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia. In our body, nitrites, indeed, have the ability to change the structure of the hemoglobin into methemoglobin: the binding of oxygen to whom results in an increased affinity for oxygen in the remaining heme sites. This leads to an overall reduced ability of the red blood cell to release oxygen to tissue and it may occur in tissue hypoxia.
Can't give up on eating salami, bacon or ham? Choose the uncured ones.
Sodium Nitrate is listed under its INS number 251 or E number E251, Sodium Nitrite has the E number E250.
3) MSG - Monosodium Glutammate
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. While the Glutamic acid is naturally present in our bodies, and in many foods, such as tomatoes and cheese, the ones exploited by the processed-foods industry is chemically produced through hydrolysis of vegetable proteins with hydrochloric acid to disrupt peptide bonds or by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses.
The substance produced has the ability to excite our taste buds and make everything taste delicious, which wouldn't be a big deal if it hasn't been shown that high levels of MSG can seriously screw with brain chemistry causing damage to areas of the brain unprotected by the blood-brain barrier.
4) Artificial Colors
Food dyes are one of the most common ingredients in processed food used with the purpose to make your meals or drinks more desirable and appealing.
Nothing against that if they wouldn't have been linked to some serious health problems.
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133)
Banned in Norway, Finland, and France. May cause chromosomal damage.
Found in candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods.
Red dye #3 (also Red #40 - a more current dye) (E124)
Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission.
Found in fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more!
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
Banned in Norway and Sweden. Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.
Found in American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more! (source Food Matters website)
The slogan "Eat the Rainbow" is still cool but go natural, please!
5) BHA & BHT
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), also listed with the label of E320, and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are two organic compound widely used by the food industry as preservatives due to their antioxidants proprieties as they can prevent rancidification of food containing fats.
Although declared safe from FDA, The U.S. National Institutes of Health reported that they may form cancer - cause reactive compounds in our body potentially leading to cancer.
Also, they can disturb your hormone and neurological system.
BHA is in tons of food: pick up a bag of chips, a box of cereal, a package of frozen sausages or simply eat a gum, and you have a high probability to find BHA and or BHT (or even worse, both of them) in the ingredients list.
6) Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial Sweeteners are sugar substitute used to give some sweet taste to drinks of food without all the calories of sucrose.
Aspartame, known also as NutraSweet, Equal and codified ad E951, is the most famous one. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but its effect on the human body is not as sweet as it tastes: is a neurotoxin and carcinogen.
Some studies claim that is the most dangerous substance on the market, with a wide range of health effects ranging from mild problem such as memory issues, headache and dizziness, to more serious ones, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, and emotional disorders.
Avoid Acetisulfame K, Saccharin (Sweet'N Low, SugarTwin), and Sucralose (Splenda) too.
7) Sulfur Dioxide
Sulfur Dioxide is a chemical compound with antimicrobial and antioxidants proprieties, used as a preservative for dried fruits such as dried apricot, raisins and prunes and added to fruit juices, cereal bars, breakfast cereal to prevent discoloration, ripening, and rotting.
Checking food labels for it, and for sulfites in general, with numbers in the range E220-228, is helpful; however, companies are required to list it only if there are more than 10 parts per million (ppm) in the finished product.
Whilst harmless to healthy persons when used in recommended concentrations, it can induce asthma and respiratory problem when ingested by sensitive subjects, even in high dilution.
It also destroys vitamins B1 and E.
8) Trans Fats
"Trans fats, or trans-unsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fat that occur in small amounts in nature, but became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods and frying fast food starting in the 1950s. Trans fat has been shown to consistently be associated, in an intake-dependent way, with increased risk of coronary artery disease, a leading cause of death in Western nations."
As matter of facts, Trans fats have the power to increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, while decreasing the amount of HDL (the good one) in our bodies. Trans fat is abundant in fast food restaurants. Here is a list of health issues linked to a high consume of trans fats: Alzheimer's disease, coronary artery disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver dysfunctions, infertility, depression, deficit in memory.
Keep them in mind while you're enjoying your fries!
9) Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and it's famous for the anti-fungal proprieties.
Pick up a soda can and you'll surely find it as an ingredient (E211). Indeed, it is heavily used by the soft drink industry, and not only in that. This chemical compound it is primarily added to acidic foods such as prickles, sauces, vinegars in order to enhance their flavor.
When mixed with ascorbic acid (well known as Vitamin C), Sodium Benzoate create an unfortunate side effect: it forms benzene known as a potent carcinogen, which contribute to the formation of many different types of cancer.
10) Potassium Bromate
Last but not least, Potassium Bromate, used in the Unites States, as a flours additive to improve elasticity and strength of the dough and allow it to rise higher.
In 1999, the International Agency on Research for Cancer declared that potassium bromate was a possible human carcinogen. Since that, it has been banned in a number of country including Europe and Canada, but not in the United Stated, where studies have found it in more that 86 baked goods found on supermarket shells.
Check out your bread, rolls, French toast or pastry dough before buying. Please!
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