A seemingly extreme idea was introduced inside grocery stores a while ago – the nutrition information label. Its purpose was to aid customers by giving them an idea of what is in their food, while at the same time requiring food processors to be more transparent in regards to the ingredients inside the food they’ve produced.

These labels have caused confusion though, as “Big Food” sought new ways to sneak questionable substances, some of which have been known to cause cancer, on to the nutrition labels. They’ve done this by typing them in small print or giving them abbreviations or chemical chart names that the average customer can’t pronounce or decipher.

To help these customers, we’ve come up with a list of seven ingredients that should never be in food that you purchase:

1. Aspartame

Do not buy any food that has Equal or NutraSweet on the label because it contains aspartame, a chemical sweetener that has Phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is a neurotoxin that scientists believe can result in an alteration of brain functions, can cause mental disabilities in fetuses when consumed by expectant mothers, and behavorial changes in adults. Aspartame can also cause severe headaches, gastrointestinal distress, seizures and menstrual cycles.

2. BHA and BRT

These two chemicals are used to prevent spoilage of foods that contain oil. But with that productive use come side effects, as the chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in lab rats, hamsters, and mice. Therefore, stay far away from foods that contain either one of these chemicals.

3. Food Coloring

Food coloring is used to make foods more visually appealing, but it has an ugly side. Caramel coloring is manufactured alongside products such as harmful industrial solvents and carcinogens. Red Dye 40 and Yellow 6 are linked to aggressive behaviors and impulse problems in infants, while Red Dye No. 3 is closely linked to tumor development. Keep away from foods containing these food colorings.

4. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein


HVPs are chemically treated, flavor-enhancing protein substances that are very similar to monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Therefore, you can still end up with a headache, heart problems, migraines, and other diseases. Two members of the MSG family to stay away from are autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed yeast extract, which can cause havoc on people with suspect immune systems.

5. Parabens

Parabens are chemical preservatives normally found in beauty products, but strangely have started to show up in baked foods such as bread, pies, cakes and pastries, along with various processed meats. They are used to prevent mold growth, but studies have found that parabens used in foods can play a major factor in breast cancer and ovarian cancer in women and reduced testosterone in men. Keep away!

6. Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Partially hydrogenated oil is basically the same thing as trans fat, which most people don’t realize. Therefore, a product that contains partially hydrogenated oil also has trans fat in it even if it says that there isn’t any on the label, as products with less than a half-gram per serving are labeled as containing “0 g trans fat”. So if you see partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients, don’t purchase – even if the label claims that the food is trans fat free. While the oil makes food less likely to spoil, it also increased the likelihood of clogged arteries while raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol.

7. Nitrites

Meat tends to spoil when left unrefrigerated for a brief period of time. To counter this, food manufacturers add artificial nitrites to meat and refrigerate it. This results in a longer shelf life and gives meat a more attractive color. But ingesting the nitrites can lead to allergic reactions and migraines. Prolonged daily consumption of them can increase the risk of cancerous tumors, according to recent research.

Since nitrites are present in most foods, it’s almost impossible to complete avoid them. However, ingesting antioxidants such as Vitamin C or Vitamin E can protect your body. Also, nitrites that occur naturally, such as the ones found in vegetables, are not harmful to your health.

Additional food for thought

While it is extremely important to read labels in order to make excellent diet choices, a more radical, yet simple, approach would be to stop buying foods that have labels on them. Switch to natural, whole-grain, organic or local foods that go directly from grower to table. By taking out the middleman, you take out the potentially harmful additives and preservatives while filling your body with the healthy nutrients that it needs.

Edited by T.J. Berka

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