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Certain foods we love may contain disgusting ingredients we are in the dark about. Staying  is an integral part of our well-being, but what constitutes healthy? We often limit ourselves to believing stereotypically “healthy” foods are safe to eat, when in fact they contain hidden toxic ingredients. Reading the ingredients on the packaging of a product is easy, but understanding what those ingredients are and how they are processed is more difficult.

According to a Southern California based registered dietitian who wishes to stay anonymous: “Ultimately, eating whole foods that are minimally processed, if at all, is the best we can do for our health (fewer ingredients, the better!).” While there are more companies attempting to make the transition towards healthier products, many popular brands continue to use questionable ingredients. It is essential for us to recognize what those ingredients are, and understand the potentially harmful effect they can have on our health.

Disgusting Ingredients #1: Chocolate

According to The Chocolate Store, the average American consumes 11 pounds of chocolate per year. Certain chocolates, such as Kit Kat, Cadbury, and Hershey products, are known to contain an ingredient called PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate). This is how large corporations work around the expense and hassle of putting actual chocolate in their chocolate. PGPR replaces cocoa butter in chocolate products and gives Hershey products their unique, slightly bitter taste and smell. While considered safe in small amounts, PGPR can cause liver enlargement in larger intakes.

Disgusting Ingredients #2: Cereal

According to statistics, the average American consumes about 160 bowls of cereal per year. Many cereal products are labeled as “healthier” breakfast options, but they are anything but healthy. Leading cereal brand, Kellogg’s, is known to  include the herbicide (weed killer) glyphosate in some of its products. The glyphosate is left residually on treated crops which are then directly used in cereal. In larger quantities, products containing glyphosate have the potential to cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, can cause malformations in infants, and may actually be, according to researchers, “the most important factor in the development of a wide variety of chronic diseases.” It is definitely an ingredient to be avoided.

Many sugar based cereals also contain corn syrup which is banned in other countries due to its negative health implications. Primal Blueprint certified health coach Tom Shearer says:

At breakfast time, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone consume cereal, as what you really need in the morning is protein and fats. Consuming cereal results in a huge glucose spike, which creates a demand for insulin. Instead, I would opt for Bulletproof Coffee or one of my favorite breakfasts: bacon, pastured eggs, and avocado. If a person insists on eating cereal, I would advise them to go for something that is made with quinoa or rice, and has a low sugar content.

Keep in mind that this high protein and fat breakfast is part of a ketogenic Paleolithic diet, which does not necessarily work for all body types.

Disgusting Ingredients #3: Packaged Cookies

It is alarming to learn that such a popular product like Oreo cookies contains a copious amount of herbicide residue within its ingredients. This should be a wake up call particularly for parents who allow their children to consume such large amounts of these snacks. Glyphosate and similar herbicides have been linked to cancer and birth defects in children. Consuming larger amounts of Oreo cookies also means the consumption of greater amounts of trans fat. Trans fat consumption has been linked to cardiovascular disease.

Disgusting Ingredients #4: Iced Tea And Soft Drinks

Most of us know that soft drinks manufactured in the U.S. are made using corn syrup, which is dangerous in large quantities; but there are other nasty ingredients in these drinks as well. Many products such as Diet Nestea, Diet Fanta, and Diet Sprite are also known to include an ingredient called sodium benzoate, also known as E211. Sodium Benzoate is a salt derived from benzoic acid that is used as a preservative in foods. Horribly enough, it is also the main ingredient of various paint stripper products, spot removers, and rubber cements. According to research done at Southampton University in the UK, tests on products containing the ingredient have been known to lower the I.Q. in children and increase hyperactivity in children aging from three to nine years old.

Disgusting Ingredients #5: Microwavable Popcorn

Not all popcorn is necessarily harmful to our health. Certain plain popcorn is considered a safe option. Flavored popcorn however is a different story. As an example, popular popcorn brand Orville Redenbacher’s is known to include ingredients that contain trans fat and large quantities of hydrogenated oil. Additionally, the bag containing the popcorn is lined with perfluorooctanoic acid, which is the same toxin found in teflon pots and pans. It can stay in the human body for long periods of time and has been linked to infertility and cancer. The disgusting ingredient hydrogenated oil is only a single molecule away from being plastic. So, make sure you check the ingredients before diving into your favorite popcorn. Popcorn can be made from scratch and sweetened using more natural sugars. This offers a much safer alternative to some of the microwavable popcorn we find in stores.

Disgusting Ingredients #6: Potato Chips

Pringles and other stackable potato chips are dangerously addictive due to the high amount of salt included and the crunchy texture. They are also known to include acrylamide, a toxin created during the processing of the food. Acrylamide is a known cancer-causing toxin that is created when potato chips are cooked at high temperatures. When cooked at higher temperatures, the chips will acquire more of a crunchy texture, making them more addictive to the consumer. Acrylamide is also present in the manufacturing of items such as construction adhesives, varnishes, and asphalt. Look for healthier alternatives such as Pop Chips, which contain a healthier level of salt and avoid this harmful toxin.

Disgusting Ingredients #7: Deli Meats

Deli meats are a popular choice amongst Americans but can have a dark side. Top brand Boar’s Head is known to include sodium nitrite within its products. Under certain conditions, sodium nitrite can damage cells in the human body and can also form into molecules that can contribute to cancer. Amanda Cross, an investigator in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Institute of Health states: “Multiple (epidemiological) studies have found a relationship between processed meat intake and increased risk of colorectal cancer”. Uncured meat can also contain nitrates, so try to reduce your intake of uncured meats too, and always look to eat fresh meat when possible.

Disgusting Ingredients #8: Cereal & Granola Bars

Cereal and granola bars are a popular snack particularly amongst children. While there are many products available that offer natural ingredients, it is important to be able to identify the harmful versions. Kellogg’s Nutri Grain and Quaker’s Chewy Granola Bars contain high fructose corn syrup and are also processed with hexane. Hexane is a chemical commonly taken from crude oil and petroleum (the same crude oil and petroleum we put in our cars). Hexane is classified as a neurotoxin and hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency. When looking for your favorite snack bars, always make sure to look for products with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) seal, since hexane is banned in organic food production.

Nutrition expert, Tom Shearer, says:

I would replace packaged cookies, potato chips, and granola bars with an occasional handful of nuts. Macadamias are great, as they contain a high amount of healthy fats and tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter chemical in the brain. There are some great bars on the market, like the Primal Kitchen range;  my favorite being the ‘Macadamia Salt.’

Disgusting Ingredients #9: Oatmeal

There is often nothing better than a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Since it’s so easy to make, it’s best to make slow-cooked oatmeal in your own at home. As one of the most popular brands on the market, Quaker’s oatmeal products contain  glyphosate residue from treated crops. Similarly to many cereal products, the glyphosate in Quaker Oatmeal is the same glyphosate used to kill weeds, with residue of the substance left on selected oats. Quaker has also been accused of using it as a drying agent for the oats shortly before harvest. Glyphosate has been linked to cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other health concerns. While it has been deemed safe in small quantities, looking for less processed alternatives or creating your own oatmeal is a better idea.

Disgusting Ingredients #10: Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is a favorite of kids and adults alike; however, it may be the most hazardous product on this list. Chewing gum is not swallowed, so its ingredients are actually ingested through the walls of the mouth. Chewing gum conflicts with the body’s ability to digest enzymes, which means it inadvertently acts as a preventer in getting the nutrients we require from food into our bloodstream.

That’s not all. The following hazardous ingredients found in chewing gum have been directly linked to causing cancer:

  • Aspartame– Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is metabolized within our bodies into both wood alcohol and formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Aspartame has also been linked to weight gain, birth defects, and brain tumors.
  • BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)- BHT has actually been banned in many countries, but remains legal in the U.S. It is used as a food preservative and is prevalent in chewing gum. It has been linked to organ system toxicity, known to cause kidney and liver damage.
  • Calcium Casein Peptone (Calcium Phosphate)- Used as a whitening agent and texturizer for the gum, this substance is a highly processed milk derivative that has been labeled with the potential to cause cancer.
  • Gum Base- Gum base is what gives the chewing gum its “ chew”. While much is unknown about what this substance actually is, it is usually a disgusting blend of elastomers, resins, plasticizers, and fillers. This means the user is potentially chewing on petroleum-derived wax, polyvinyl acetate (otherwise known as carpenter’s glue), and talc,which is linked to causing cancer.
  • Titanium Dioxide- Used as another whitening agent in the gum, Titanium Dioxide has been linked to autoimmune disorders, asthma, Crohn’s disease, as well as cancer; it should be avoided. Licorice and ginger provide healthier alternatives to maintaining fresh breath.

As an alternative to commercial chewing gum, health expert Tom Shearer says:

There are quite a few natural brands of gum out there. Most are sweetened with xylitol and use ‘chicle’ as the gum base, which interestingly is what most gums used to be made out of before chemical companies infiltrated production and began making synthetic alternatives.

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Being Diligent In Checking Ingredients Will Keep Your Diet Healthy

Having to constantly check the ingredients within your food sounds overwhelming, but once you start to recognize certain foods and certain products, you will be much more efficient at recognizing disgusting ingredients. In general, packaged food is best avoided, but if eaten, try to stick with only organic packaged food.

While the foods listed above contain many disgusting ingredients, the good news is that there are healthier alternatives readily available to take their place. The Southern California registered dietitian expert says:

Shopping the perimeter of the markets while avoiding the inside aisles, getting to know local farmers and their products at the farmers markets or CSA programs, and starting our own gardens are effective ways to bring us closer to real foods and better health.

The journey to optimal wellness is an ongoing one, but avoiding gross ingredients in our food is an integral first step to achieving good health. These small changes in diet will multiply into huge benefits later.

Christopher PaishisChristopher Paishis assistant Head Professional at Woodbridge Tennis Club in Irvine, CA. When not on the court, I enjoy hiking, camping, and spending time with my small yet, growing family. Life is what you make it, and believing in the balance of the earth and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a good place to start.

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