“Five Common Food Ingredients to Avoid” by Conscious Food Network

On December 20, 2013

This article was so good it didn’t need any changes so I’m just reposting it right from the Conscious Food Network‘s newsletter. 



Unless you are one of the rare ones, it’s likely you are purchasing some of your foods in a package (almond milk, nuts, mustard, salad dressings, etc).  Sometimes a product may include an ingredient that is deemed acceptable by the FDA, yet is truly questionable when you look a little further.

Below is a list of some known and not-so-well-known ingredients that should be on your “avoid” list.

1. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from seaweed.  Carrageenan is used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk and other processed foods but because it is derived from a seaweed, it is deemed “natural.”

Large amounts of carrageenan seem to pull water into the intestine, and this may explain why it is also tried as a laxative.

Carrageenan is banned in Europe, as studies have shown it to be unsafe for human consumption. This ingredient causes malignancies and other stomach problems. Specifically, carrageenan contains chemicals that may decrease stomach and intestinal secretions. In studies, rats developed “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.
Brands with Carrageenan: Trader Joe’s Almond Milk, Horizon Chocolate Milk, Ben & Jerry’s, O Organics Almond Milk , Blue Diamond Almond Breeze


2. Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a preservative and is most widely found in foods such as salad dressings, carbonated drinks, jams and fruit juices, pickles and condiments. While benzoic acid is found naturally in low levels in many fruits, the sodium benzoate listed on a product’s label is synthesized in a lab.

Sodium Benzoate has the ability to deprive the cells of oxygen, break down the immune system and cause cancer. How?  At the cellular level, Sodium Benzoate deprives your cells of oxygen, sometimes completely shutting them down. This can lead to infection or cancer.

Sodium Benzoate is also used in fireworks as rocket fuel because it’s fast burning and provides a lot of thrust and smoke.

The FDA says it’s safe because the amount used to preserve foods is very low but in the EU, there are regulations controlling the maximum levels of benzoic acid for use in foods.
Additionally, Research published in 2007 for the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that certain artificial colors, when paired with sodium benzoate may be linked to hyperactive behavior.

Check labels carefully on pickles, peppers, salad dressings, jams, most condiments, vinegar, fruit juices, salsa, dips, shredded cheese, ketchup, or diet or regular soda. Don’t forget about mouthwash, toothpaste, cough syrup, cream and lotions.  Since this ingredient is found in so many foods, in total, you may ingesting more than is even considered safe by the FDA.

Brands with Sodium Benzoate: Mt. Olive Pickles, Hidden Valley Ranch Honey Mustard dressing

3. Soy Lecithin

Soy Lecithin is a very popular ingredient – one of the top 10 most used ingredients in processed foods. Lecithins are oily substances that occur naturally in plants (soybeans) and animals (egg yolks). Soy lecithin possesses emulsification properties. This means it can keep a candy bar “together” by making sure that the cocoa and the cocoa butter don’t separate. It is also used in bakery items to keep the dough from sticking, and to improve its ability to rise. Soy lecithin is extracted from soybeans either mechanically or chemically using hexane. Hexane is a colorless flammable liquid, derived from the fractional distillation of petroleum. In industry, hexanes are used in the formulation of glues for shoes, leather products, and roofing. The long-term toxicity of hexane in humans is well known and associated with a degeneration of the peripheral and central nervous systems.

According to a report by the Cornucopia Institute, hexane can persist in the final food product created.
Additionally, most soybeans used to make soy lecithin are genetically modified unless marked as non-GMO or USDA Organic.

Brands with Soy Lecithin: Ghirardelli chocolate, Cadbury, Hershey’s, Godiva, Nature Valley Granola Bars, Kashi Chocolate baked soft squares, Similac Baby Formula

4. MSG

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a processed food additive has been used for more than 100 years to season food.  It is a flavor enhancer that is known widely as an addition to Chinese food, but that’s actually added to thousands of packaged foods such as chips, crackers, soups and soup mixes, lunch meats, salad dressings, processed meats and many others.

MSG is derived from an amino acid called glutamic acidwhich occurs naturally in foods such as mushrooms, aged Parmesan cheese and fermented soybean products like soy sauce.  But, while glutamates occur naturally in everything from meat and milk to corn and wheat, MSG is strictly a food additive. MSG is approximately 78 percent free glutamic acid, 21 percent sodium and up to one percent contaminants.

There are many documented adverse side affects of consumption of MSG including fatigue, difficulty breathing, tingling, numbness, rapid heartbeat, skin rash and headaches. This is called “MSG Symptom Complex” and estimates suggest 30-40% of the US population has this sensitivity.

Some experts suggest MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage, causing brain damage to varying degrees and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
These are the names of some of the MSG-containing ingredients often found in Health Food stores:

  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Citric acid
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Maltodextrin
  • Hydrolyzed pea protein
  • Sodium caseinate

Brands with MSG:  Rice-a-Roni, Campbell’s “Healthy Kids” Soups, Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch Dressing

5. Acesulfame potassium

(ace-SUHL-faym) is a calorie free, sugar free artificial sweetener, also known as “Ace K”. Acesulfame K is 200 times sweeter than surcrose (table sugar), as sweet as aspartame, and 1/3 as sweet as sucralose and therefore, it is found in many foods and beverages.

Acesulfame potassium contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans. Acesulfame-K may contribute to hypoglycemia.

There has been a great deal of opposition to the use of Acesulfame K but the FDA has not required tests be done.  Of all artificial sweeteners, acesulfame-K has undergone the least scientific scrutiny.

Brands with Ace K: CytoSport 100% Whey Protein Powder, Muscle Milk, FUZE Slenderize

There is nothing wrong with buying a product to make your life easier, but remember to read the ingredient labels.  Look for products without any additives or preservatives.

food labels**************

I know this might seem like a lot to take in.  Questions?  Thoughts Concerns?  Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk it out.


3 Responses to ““Five Common Food Ingredients to Avoid” by Conscious Food Network”

  • Wow! With over 3,000 chemicals and additives used in processed foods these days, for sure we need to read food labels very carefully! Every shopper needs to do some research to find out which additives they consider the most important to avoid. A list carried in a wallet or purse is a handy ‘must-have’ for reference when food shopping. Avoidance is our best strategy, but that’s often not completely possible. So cutting down becomes imperative to safeguard health!

  • Hello,
    Carrageenan is NOT banned in Europe. It is used in many foods here in Europe.
    It is not allowed to be used in baby food as it is deemed harmful to them.
    It is allowed to be used freely otherwise.

  • whoah this blog is magnificent i really like reading your posts.
    Stay up the great work! You know, lots of persons are hunting around
    for this information, you could help them greatly.

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