Top 12 Food Ingredients To Avoid

by Tatiana Alcazar

May 15, 2021

sweets that contains food ingredients to avoid
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Do you know which harmful ingredients might be hiding in your favorite foods? If you don’t, then now is the time to make it a habit to read food labels. While you may not think the food you eat is unhealthy, there are several food ingredients to avoid that are used as preservatives or for flavoring.

Over time, they can mess with your health, throwing your body’s hormonal balance out of whack, or worse. 

Some of these ingredients are not always easy to spot on food labels, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled when you are grocery shopping for your family. 

Discover The Top 10 Food Ingredients To Avoid

Nowadays, most foods we eat are processed in some way. Rule number one is to go easy on processed food. But, if we must, let's take a look at 10 heavily consumed offenders.

1. Trans Fat 

Let’s get right to one of the biggest offenders in the food world right off the bat. Trans fats can also show up on labels as hydrogenated oils, and it uses them both to make food taste better and give it longer shelf life. 

While that sounds good on the surface, your body will not agree with these food ingredients to avoid. Trans fats can boost your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol, meaning a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 

While artificial trans fats have been banned in many countries, there are still some foods that have naturally occurring trans fats including fried fast food, margarine, non-dairy creamers, and more. 

2. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are marketed as the safe alternative to sugar, but it turns out they carry their own warning labels. In fact, this food ingredient to avoid offers little to no nutritional value. Your body is probably better off digesting pure sugar, something it recognizes (unless you’re on a low-sugar diet.) 

You can often find the ingredients of these sweeteners listed as sucralose and aspartame. They have been linked to obesity because these fake sweeteners can trick our cells into storing more fat. There’s also some research to suggest that they may affect brain health and lead to dementia.

3. Processed Sugars

While your body relies on sugar for proper functioning, too much of it or the wrong kinds can send you down a dangerous path. For example, too much sugar of any kind, studies show, increases the risk of diabetes  and even cancer

The added challenge is that sugar is often listed on labels as something you might not recognize. For example, you might see high fructose corn syrup, dextrose sucrose, maltodextrin, and others used in place of “sugar.” 

Instead of sugar, try honey as a natural alternative–honey actually tastes sweeter, so you can use less of it for the same results. 

4. MSG

The fourth on the list of the food ingredients to avoid is the Monosodium Glutamate, more commonly known just as MSG, is in a wide variety of foods including frozen dinners and salty snack food. It’s also often used by restaurants to enhance flavor. 

Some research suggests MSG might overstimulate your brain, meaning you’ll feel hungry more often and might overeat as a result. While there’s still controversy around the safety of MSG, some people claim it causes headaches, sweating, and other short-term symptoms

Red flags to look for on labels that suggest the presence of MSG include glutamic acid, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, and sodium caseinate. 

5. Sodium Nitrate

This sounds like something you might use to blast through rock, but it turns out it can have a negative effect on your body, so might as well include this food ingredient that you need to avoid.

Processed meat uses nitrates to extend their life, and there have been some evidence to suggest a link between them and cancer. You’ll find them in meats including bacon and sausages. In fact, you may recognize sausage with sodium nitrates because it may remain a bit pink even after being cooked through. 

6. Carrageenan

You might not hear about this food ingredient as much as some of the others, but it’s still worth paying attention to this, which is one of the food ingredients to avoid. 

Typically it is extracted from seaweed and used as a thickener in some low-fat dairy products. It’s also used to make some kinds of toothpaste thicker. 

The trouble with this additive is that, as research has suggested, it may play a role in gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s disease, which is a problem of the digestive tract that’s thought to be caused by an autoimmune response. 

7. Xanthan Gum

The potential problems of this ingredient include excessive gas and increased stool, due to the fact it swells in the intestines

You may have come across this ingredient on salad dressing bottles, as well as on sauces and soups. It is used as a thickener in these products and is also being used in gluten-free products to improve the texture.

However, this additive may have some health benefits (such as lower blood sugar after consuming certain foods like rice).

8. Sodium Benzoate

They use this as a preservative in many soft drinks to keep mold and bacteria under control. It is not so much harmful on its own, but if it’s an ingredient in a drink that also has vitamin C, it could become an issue. 

They believe the combination of these two ingredients to create benzene, which is a carcinogenic substance. The FDA set five parts per billion limits of benzene in water for safe drinking, but through testing in 2005, it was found that many fruit drinks with both ingredients exceeded this limit. 

9. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) 

This preservative, along with butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), can lead to some health issues when consumed in large quantities. They found that it will disrupt your endocrine system and may also be a cancer-causing agent. 

Not only will you find BHA and BHT in foods, but they are also widely found in cosmetics

10. Artificial Colors

Food coloring with names like Red no. 40 and Yellow no. 6 have possible links to ADHD disorder. What’s worse is that they suspect it causes chromosome damage and can also lead to thyroid cancer. 

While the jury is still out on how harmful artificial colors can be in food, it’s best to avoid them–particularly the ones already mentioned, along with Blue 1 and 2. 

12. Yeast Extract 

Also known as autolyzed yeast extract or hydrolyzed yeast extract. It is usually used in some food to add savory flavor in soy sauce, canned soups, stews, cheese and salty snacks. 

It brings out the “Umami” flavor, which is more like monosodium glutamate (MSG). Therefore, those people who are sensitive in glutamate may cause headaches, numbness and swelling. 

Furthermore, the yeast extract is adequately high in sodium. So if you reduce its consumption, it may help you lower your blood pressure. 

Although it's hard to avoid this ingredient because most of our foods may contain a small amount, it still may cause health issues for most people. 

Try to avoid this ingredient, instead you may try to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. 

12. Guar Gum

Lastly, guar gum is also a food ingredient to avoid. Guar gum is also called guaran. Generally it is lower in calories and high in fiber and has properties that thickens and stabilizes the food. Food manufacturers commonly use it in cold foods such as ice cream, salad dressings and pastry fillings.

Some people use it as a treatment for diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and high cholesterol though further study is needed for the effectivity. However, consuming too much of it without drinking enough water may cause blockage of esophagus and intestines. 

Nevertheless, it is safe to consume if taken in moderation. 

Learn The Food Ingredients To Avoid

Knowing which food ingredients to avoid, or which ones to eat in moderation can help you reduce your risk of adverse effects. You can maintain a healthy diet without the need for preservatives and other potentially harmful additives. Consider detoxifying and refresh your body it may help you remove harmful toxins from your body.

Did you find this article useful? If so, be sure to visit often for more health content or contact us for more information. 


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  6. Dowden, Angela."The truth about the nitrates in your food." 13 Mar. 2019, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190311-what-are-nitrates-in-food-side-effects
  7. Cochrane Rizoldi, Zara. "Understanding Crohn’s Disease." healthline, 30 June 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/crohns-disease
  8. " Xantham Gum." WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-340/xanthan-gum
  9. "Carbonated Soft Drinks: What You Should Know." U.S Food and Drug, 2 Jan. 2018, https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/carbonated-soft-drinks-what-you-should-know
  10. "The Dirty Dozen: BHA and BHT." David Suzuki Foundation, https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-bha-bht/
  11. "Does Red Food Dye Cause ADHD or Hyperactivity?" ChildrensMD, 3 Sept. 2013, https://childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/toddler-pre-school/does-red-food-dye-cause-adhd-or-hyperactivity
  12. Lewis J.H., "Esophageal and small bowel obstruction from guar gum-containing "diet pills": analysis of 26 cases reported to the Food and Drug Administration." Oct. 1992, Pubmed.gov, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1329494/
  13. Theurer, Amber. "Spring Cleaning: 5 Easy Ways to Refresh & Detoxify Your Body." 30 Mar. 2021, Ivee, https://iveeapp.com/5-ways-to-refresh-and-detoxify-your-body/

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About the author 

Tatiana Alcazar  -  A software engineer, former IBMer, co-founder of Naravis Corporation and a mom, with a passion for finding the solution and root cause to everything that comes across, including health. It has been a long journey since founding Naravis and trying to find solutions to my leaky gut syndrome and pursue natural health. Throughout this journey I have learned an enormous amount of information (acquired knowledge) and I feel it's my duty to share my knowledge and my experience with you.

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