8 Common Ingredients Harmful to Your Health

This isn’t about losing weight, this is about getting healthy and feeding your body the food it needs.

I’m going to dare you to do something right now. It’s not going to be fun or easy, but it is simple and eye-opening, an absolute must if you plan to makeover your diet into a healthy one.

So back to the dare. Go to your pantry or your fridge or your cabinet or even your nightstand (if you’re one of those) right now and pick out a purchased and packaged item, something that you eat regularly or you always fall back on as a good snack or salad dressing or frozen meal.

Now take a peek at the nutrition label. Don’t look at the calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, etc. Let your eyeballs scan down to where the ingredients are listed.

Ingredients are listed on these products in order of quantity. This means that the first ingredient listed there is the most abundant ingredient in that particular item.

Why is this so important? There are tons of food additives and preservatives and artificial flavoring or coloring that are found in what we otherwise would think to be healthy food.

These additives are unhealthy, increase your cravings for such foods, and prevent your body from attaining a naturally healthy state, a seemingly never-ending cycle.

Alas! There is an end to these unhealthy habits! To help all you eaters out there striving to be healthy, here is a quick list of 8 of the top ingredients to try and avoid.

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Does anyone else remember the advertising campaign that consisted of commercials attempting to reassure us of the health benefits of high fructose corn syrup? Well, it is a product of a plant at the end of the day.

Don’t be fooled! High fructose corn syrup is linked to obesity, diabetes and other weight-related diseases, and it’s found in a majority of the items we eat, even things you never would have expected.

2. Monosodium Glutamate


More commonly known as MSG, monosodium glutamate is an ingredient that is found as a flavor enhancer in many seasonings, soups, salad dressings, frozen foods and most commonly in Asian dishes.

The bad thing about it is that it affects the neurological pathways to the brain, causing you to lose the sensation of feeling full. Overexposure to this ingredient can also cause issues with depression, eyesight, disorientation, fatigue and headaches.

3. Trans Fat

Although Trans Fat is not technically an ingredient, it is still something which you should make an effort to avoid. In fact, this isn’t very difficult to do, as many processed food companies have picked up on the “0 Trans Fat” trend.

Its main use is to extend food items’ shelf life. Overconsumption of Trans Fat can lead to high cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity,

4. Food Dyes

Food coloring

I’m going to reveal a disturbing fact to you right now. The common food dye Yellow 5 is known to cause serious health effects (including risk of cancer) and is so bad that in the UK, it is mandated for food companies to place a warning label on all items containing this dangerous item.

All food dyes are bad, and other negative effects include behavioral problems and decreased IQ, especially in children.

5. Sodium Nitrate (Nitrite)

This chemical is used as a preservative, and you will likely find it in processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats and corned beef.

When in the body, this ingredient chemically reacts with the blood stream and infuses different chemicals into our bodies, mostly affecting the liver and pancreas. This ingredient is so harmful that the USDA tried but failed to ban it in the 1970s.

6. Artificial Flavorings

Rows of colorful container containing food extract flavoring powder on the shelf of a Chinese street stall

Really you should probably be avoiding artificial anything at this point, but artificial flavoring is something easy to cut out of your daily routine.

Artificial flavoring consumption has been linked to obesity and weight-related diseases such as diabetes. There are other lesser known negative effects as well, including allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches.

7. Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydrozyttoluene

Now say that ten times fast! Let’s make this easier on ourselves and refer to these two foreign ingredients by their nicknames, BHA and BHT.

The fact that I can’t pronounce either of these chemical compounds is warning enough for me that I shouldn’t ingest said ingredients.

Basically, they are preservatives commonly found in cereal, vegetable oils, chewing gum and potato chips. The effects? BHA and BHT have been linked to cancer, hyperactivity, angioedema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis and urticarial.

8. Potassium bromate

It boggles my mind that food companies are allowed to put these complex chemicals into our food, the things we eat to gain nourishment and feel healthy.

Potassium bromate is found in many breads, as it acts as a catalyst for increasing volume in such products. The problem is that it has been linked to cancer. I’ll pass.

Now that you know about these 8 harmful ingredients found in our everyday foods, take the time to educate yourself about what it is exactly that you are putting into your body. Take a look at the nutrition label, and know what to look for.

Of course the occasional dose of high fructose corn syrup or Yellow 5 will not put our lives at risk, but the regular consumption of these chemically-enhanced ingredients can take a serious toll on your body and your life.

What are some ingredients that you always try to avoid? Did you have any surprising results when you checked out the labels of some of your favorite foods in your home?

About the author

Alexandra Sheehan

Alex is a self-proclaimed nomad, having lived in three different countries over the past two years. When she isn’t cooking or traveling, you can find Alex curled up with a book, at the gym, or cheering on her favorite football team.

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