You’re on the road and your only snack option is that convenience store up ahead. You know that eating wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables is healthiest, but what if processed packaged items are your only options? How can you avoid the most health-damaging ingredients?
“The amount of chemicals used in food has really increased significantly over the last several years, says Dr. Charles Platkin, a nationally syndicated columnist and a best-selling nutrition author.
Here is Dr. Platkin’s list of the top eight food ingredients you should try to avoid:
1. Hydrogenated Oils (Trans fats)
Created as an alternative to heart disease-causing saturated fat, hydrogenated oils, also known as “trans fats” in fact proven to carry more of a risk than the fats they were intended to replace. They appear on nutrition labels as margarine, shortening, and any term that begins with the words, “partially hydrogenated.”
2. Potassium Bromate
Potassium bromate, used in commercially baked bread and in flours, has been found by some studies to cause cancer in rats. Although this chemical is allowed in the U.S., it’s banned in many other countries.
Nitrates are used as preservatives in processed meats and have been linked to stomach cancer when consumed often or in large quantities. While there’s nothing wrong with an occasional hot dog, try to buy nitrate- and nitrite-free hot dogs, or those made with turkey or chicken.
4. Certain Food Colorings
Over the years, the use of food colorings has skyrocketed, and so have health concerns, including possible food allergy symptoms, behavioral problems in children, and cancer links. Steer clear of Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3 and Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.
5. High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup is an artificial sugar, and it is one of the most common ingredients used in the food industry. It is packed with calories, has few nutritional benefits, and is widely villainized for causing obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.
6. Large Amounts of Sugar
While sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes, it contributes to obesity, which does. Sugar is difficult to spot on labels because it goes by so many different names. Keep an eye out for these: evaporated cane juice, molasses, dextrose, lactose, fructose, barley malt, corn syrup, beet sugar, and beet juice. If a food item has 20 grams or more of sugars, avoid it.
7. Artificial Sweeteners
While they don’t have calories, saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose should be avoided if possible. Saccharin has been linked to bladder cancer. “Sugar alcohols,” another group of artificial sweeteners, may cause stomach problems or have a laxative effect. They are listed on labels as xylitol, lactitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, and hydrogenated glucose. Stevia, a plant extract, is touted by many experts as a safe alternative.
8. Large Amounts of Sodium
Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, aneurysms, heart failure, and kidney damage. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,500 mg of sodium daily, which is about two-thirds of a teaspoon of table salt. Sodium is a hidden ingredient in most processed foods, from soups to pastries, often in huge amounts.
The full version of this article first appeared in Health Radar. To read more, click here.
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