5 Processed Food Ingredients to Avoid

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While many of us would prefer daily homemade meals consisting of fresh, whole foods, long, hectic days may necessitate a few short cuts. That’s when busy families often turn to processed foods. That might be a frozen entrée, boxed meal kit, canned soup, or even a protein bar in a pinch.

While these food items tend to be convenient, cheap, and easily accessible, the level of additives has increased dramatically in recent years. Some ingredient lists are now so loaded with complex terms, it nearly takes a science degree to make sense of them. If you do periodically resort to processed foods, an educated label scan will help you avoid some of the less desirable additives. For example:

Refined sugar

Sugar is added to everything from soup to nuts. If you consume a lot of processed foods, your sugar intake can add up rapidly. Too much refined sugar can lead to weight gain, depress the immune system, and promote diabetes. A healthier bet is to enjoy sugars found naturally in whole foods, as well as low-glycemic sweeteners like agave nectar, stevia, and xylitol─which also has impressive dental health benefits.

High fructose corn syrup

This product, a sweet, highly refined form of cornstarch, appears in countless packaged food items, drinks, and condiments. Unlike other forms of sugar, high fructose corn syrup is processed directly through the liver and stored as fat. Again, agave nectar, xylitol, and stevia are delicious, healthy alternatives.

Artificial colors

These chemical compounds─from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color─have been linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches. Fortunately, natural colors (derived from beets, carrots, and other veggies) are replacing artificial colors in many food products.

Artificial Flavorings

Why delete them? Well, they may be useful in mimicking numerous flavors, but these cheap chemical mixtures are associated with allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma. Instead, why not gear your palate back towards the natural flavors of fresh, whole foods, especially organic fruits and vegetables?

Artificial Sweeteners

While some sweeteners are healthier than sugar, others are highly processed, chemically-derived additives with questionable benefits. For example, Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Equal®, NutraSweet®, Saccharin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® and Sorbitol may be linked to dizziness, headaches, and more. Stevia and xylitol are safer, more natural “diet” choices.

There are many other additives a wellness-minded person might wish to avoid, but minimizing these items is a great start. Here’s to your naturally healthy life!

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