Ever wonder what’s really in the food sold at grocery stores around the world? People keep asking, “What ingredients should I avoid?” Here is a short list that covers all the most toxic and disease-promoting ingredients in the food supply.
I hope you find this article helpful on the hidden toxins in food. My suggestion, as always, to my clients and students is to read labels, read labels, read labels.
Toxic, cancer-causing chemical ingredients formed in foods when carbohydrates are exposed to high heat (baking, frying, and grilling). They’re present in everything from bread crusts to snack chips, and because they aren’t intentional ingredients, acrylamides do NOT have to be listed on labels.
This is a Chemical sweetener that causes neurological disorders, seizures, blurred vision and migraine headaches.
Highly processed form of protein containing free glutamate and used to mimic the taste-enhancer chemical MSG.
A hormone mimicking chemical found in nearly all food packaging plastics. Active in just parts per billion, BPA is a toxic ingredient that promotes cancer, infertility and hormone disorders. It also “feminizes” males, promoting male breast growth and hormone disruption.
Milk proteins! Hilariously, this is widely used in “soy cheese” products that claim to be alternatives to cow’s milk. Nearly all of them are made with cow’s milk proteins.
This is just another name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (see below). Frequently used in infant formula.
FD&C Red #40, for example, is linked to behavioural disorders in children. Nearly all artificial food colours are derived from petroleum, and many are contaminated with aluminium.
Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs)
Nearly all conventionally grown corn, soy and cotton are GMOs. They’re linked to severe infertility problems and may even cause the bacteria in your body to produce and release a pesticide in your own gut. If you’re not eating organic corn, you’re definitely eating GMO corn.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
A highly processed liquid sugar extracted with the chemical solvent glutaraldehyde and frequently contaminated with mercury. It’s also linked to diabetes, obesity and mood disorders. Used in thousands of grocery items, including things you wouldn’t suspect like pizza sauce and salad dressings.
The fats in the milk are artificially modified to change them into smaller molecules that stay in suspension in the milk liquid (so the milk fat doesn’t separate). While it makes milk look better on the shelf, it’s also blamed for promoting heart disease and may contribute to milk allergies. Raw milk is healthier, which is why the government outlawed it.
When you see anything hydrochloride, such as Pyridoxine Hydrochloride or Thiamine Hydrochloride, those are chemical forms of B vitamins that companies add to their products to be able to claim higher RDA values of vitamins. But these are synthetic, chemical forms of vitamins, not real vitamins from foods or plants. Nutritionally, they are near-useless and may actually be bad for you. Also watch out for niacinamide and cyanocobalamin (synthetic vitamin B-12).
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
This is a highly processed form of (usually) soy protein that’s processed to bring out the free glutamate (MSG). Used as a taste enhancer.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils
These are oils that are modified using a chemical catalyst to make them stable at room temperature. This creates trans fatty acids and greatly increases the risk of blocked arteries. It also promotes what should be termed as “sludge blood,” which is thick, viscous blood that’s hard to pump. This is usually diagnosed by doctors as “high blood pressure” and (stupidly) treated with blood-thinning medications that are technically the same chemicals as rat poison (warfarin).
The acid used in sodas to dissolve the carbon dioxide and add to the overall fizzy-ness of the soda. Phosphoric acid will eat steel nails. It’s also used by stone masons to etch rocks. The military uses it to clean the rust off battleships. It absolutely destroys tooth enamel. Search Google Images for “Mountain Dew Mouth” to see photos of teeth rotted out by phosphoric acid.
A liquid used in the automotive industry to winterize RVs. It’s also used to make the fake blueberries you see in blueberry muffins, bagels and breads. (Combined with artificial colours and corn syrup.)
The processed white salt lacking in trace minerals. In the holistic nutrition industry, it is called “death salt” because it promotes disease. Real salt, on the other hand, such as “dirty” sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, is loaded with the trace minerals that prevent disease, such as selenium (cancer), chromium (diabetes) and zinc (infectious disease). Much like with bread and sugar, white salt is terrible for your health. And don’t be fooled by claims of “sea salt” in grocery stores. All salt came from the sea if you go far back enough in geologic time, so they can slap the “sea salt” claim on ANY salt!
A cancer-causing red colouring chemical added to bacon, hot dogs, sausage, beef jerky, ham, lunch meats, pepperoni and nearly all processed meats. Strongly linked to brain tumours, pancreatic cancers and colon cancers. The USDA once tried to ban it from the food supply but was out-manoeuvred by the meat industry, which now dominates USDA regulations. Sodium nitrite is a complete poison used to make meats look fresh. Countless children die of cancer each year from sodium nitrite-induced cancers.
The No. 1 protein source used in “protein bars,” including many bars widely consumed by bodybuilders. Soy protein is the “junk protein” of the food industry. It’s made from genetically modified soybeans (often grown in China) and then subjected to hexane, a chemical solvent that can literally explode.
An artificial chemical sweetener sold as Splenda. The sucralose molecule contains a chlorine atom. Researchers have repeatedly found that artificial sweeteners make people fat by actually promoting weight gain.
The bleached, nutritionally deficient byproduct of cane processing. During sugar cane processing, nearly all the minerals and vitamins end up in the blackstrap molasses that’s usually fed to farm animals. Blackstrap molasses is actually the ‘good’ part of sugar-cane juice. Molasses is often fed to farm animals because every rancher knows that farm animals need good nutrition to stay alive. Amazingly, conventional doctors don’t yet realise this about humans, and they continue to claim that eating sugar is perfectly fine for you. Sugar promotes diabetes, obesity, mood disorders and nutritional deficiencies.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
TVP is usually made of soy protein which is extracted from genetically modified soybeans and then processed using hexane, an explosive chemical solvent (see protein above). TVP is widely used in vegetarian foods such as veggie burgers (most of which also contain MSG or Yeast Extract, by the way).
A hidden form of MSG that contains free glutamate and is used in many ‘natural foods’ products to claim NO MSG. Yeast extract contains up to 14% free glutamate. You’ll find it in thousands of grocery store products, from soups to snacks and crisps.
Food Label Tricks
Here’s a trick food companies frequently used to pack more sugar into their products without making sugar look like the first ingredient. Ingredients labels, you see, must list the most prominent ingredients first, and some consumers might freak out of they saw a box of cereal that said “Sugar, whole grain wheat, corn,” and so on…. Instead the company uses three or four different forms of sugar to distribute them farther down the label like this:
“Whole grain wheat, sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids…” This way, the first ingredient looks like “whole grain wheat” when, in reality, the cereal might be over 50% sugars.
How to buy honest food!
Shop at your local farmer’s market, food co-op or natural food stores. Look for organic labels certified by the soil association. This is a legitimate claim to being certified organic. Read the ingredients labels. If you see names of chemical you cannot pronounce, don’t buy it. Buy more unprocessed food ingredients and make your own meals rather than buying ready-to-eat, processed foods, which are almost universally formulated with disease-promoting ingredients. Grow some of your own food! The best food you can ever eat is food from your own garden.
It’s important to remind yourself that each day we move towards health or sickness, make the choice to move towards health by eating natural unprocessed foods.
In good health,
A long-time vegan, lover of animals, nature and life and passionate about human ecology. As an eternal optimist, increasing the number of people worldwide to switch to a wholefood, plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle is her mission. Together with her husband Bill Tara, they have created The Human Ecology Project.