4 Ingredients You Should Never Eat Again
You are what you eat, but it’s tough to tell what you are if you can’t understand the ingredients listed in your food (what exactly is xanthan gum, anyway?). We’ll make it simpler by breaking down four ingredients you should eliminate from your diet—your health may be better for it.
Healthy hint: If you’re on Nutrisystem, don’t fret—our foods are free of these four ingredients!
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
What it is: Corn syrup is processed to turn some of its glucose into fructose, a simple sugar that gives many fruits their sweetness. Its creation was a cost-saving measure: Processed corn was cheaper than granulated sugar.
What it’s in: It’s the major sweetener in mass market, full-calorie sodas, but HFCS is lurking everywhere—it’s in breads, cereals, stuffing mixes, condiments, cookies, cough syrups, crackers, yogurt, and even relish. Check the label; it’s often ingredient number one.
Why you should avoid it: A 2012 survey and study found that Americans consume about 55 pounds of HFCS stuff every year, and it could be a source of obesity. HFCS could possibly make you gain more weight—and more of that weight potentially could be fat—than with other sweeteners. In a study from Princeton University, rats given HCFS gained significantly more weight than rats who ate table sugar, even when the calories were equal between the two groups. In the same study, it was found that long-term consumption of HCFS led to increases in body fat, especially around the abdomen, as well as increases in triglyceride levels in the blood. In this long-term study, male rats with access to HCFS gained 48 percent more weight than those on a normal diet.
2. Hydrogenated Oils:
What it is: Hydrogen gas is added to unsaturated fats, a process that makes foods that contain them last longer on the shelf without spoiling, adds texture to certain foods like pre-made frosting, and needs to be replaced less often than liquid oil when used for frying.
What it’s in: These fats can still be found in ready-made cake frostings, microwave popcorn, certain chips and snacks, and certain peanut butters. And it may even be in foods listed as trans-fat free: Foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving may be listed as containing zero grams of trans fats; “No trans fats” means no trans fats. To spot a food hiding these fats, look at the label: The ingredients list will include “partially hydrogenated” oil.
Why you should avoid it: The USDA has determined that hydrogenated oils are not “generally recognized as safe” for consumption, and with good reason: They raise and lower your cholesterol at the same time—in the wrong directions. Trans fats have been shown to increase your LDL, or bad, cholesterol, while lowering your HDL, or good, cholesterol. Trans fats have also been shown to increase inflammation in the body, which is related to multiple diseases and negative conditions, as well as increasing diabetes risk.
3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG):
What it is: MSG is an ingredient, used to enhance flavor, made by combining salt with an amino acid. It was previously added to many American Chinese foods to increase “umami,” the feeling of a food being savory.
What it’s in: Not much anymore. Most Chinese restaurants have stopped using the ingredient (note the “No Added MSG” on the front of many of their menus), and the FDA requires that if the ingredient is used, it must be on the label of the food. It’s also available in a salt shaker form as a product called “Accent.”
Why you should avoid it: MSG has been associated anecdotally with headaches, nausea, flushing, and chest pain, but this has not been confirmed by research. One study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 did find that people who ate more MSG in China were more likely to be overweight. But these overweight individuals also ate more calories and did less exercise than the low-MSG group, and the low-MSG group ate closer to the American average intake of the food additive. But you’re still better off without it.
What it is: It’s an artificial sweetener that’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar. As a result, foods and beverages using aspartame are often described as very low or “zero” calorie foods.
What it’s in: It’s sold on its own as Equal, but aspartame is also found in many diet sodas and sugar-free candies and desserts.
Why you should avoid it: Studies linking aspartame to cancer have been roundly debunked, and there is only anecdotal evidence that aspartame is related to migraine and other headaches. But diet sodas can increase weight gain: In a 26-year study, researchers found that diet drinkers gained more weight over the period than did those who drank regular soda. And a 2009 study found that diet soda drinkers have a higher risk of diabetes than those who don’t drink soda at all.
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