In past posts I have mentioned the importance of reading your food labels. In general, we want to consume the least processed foods available – which will usually have the fewest ingredients listed on their labels or no labels at all (fruits, vegetables). To help you more easily interpret your labels today I am sharing five additives that I look out for and do my best to avoid.
- Carrageenan. A natural food additive that has been derived from seaweed. It is used as a thickening agent; an emulsifier. It has been known to trigger an immune response (causes inflammation) and can irritate the gut. It has also has been shown to contribute to some kinds of cancers. Found in deli meats, almond milk, etc.
- MSG (monosodium glutamate). A synthetic food additive that is relied upon for its ability to make foods palatable. Ever wonder why you can’t stop eating Chinese food no matter how full you are? MSG is probably responsible for that – it makes food hyperpalatable. And, if you’ve ever experienced a headache after eating said Chinese food, it may also be caused by MSG, as it’s suspected to be a neurotoxin.
- Natural Flavoring. I call this one the ‘cloak’ of food labels. Natural flavors encompass anywhere between 50 and 100 trace ingredients. Since these various ingredients make up such a relatively small part of what’s in the product, food companies can sneak all sorts of unknown components in. Sure, some of them are innocent – but others, not so much. This could mean trace amounts of MSG, for example. I personally opt for foods that blatantly display all of their ingredients on the label, no matter how small the amount, so that I don’t have to wonder what they are trying to hide.
- Canola/Vegetable Oils. While avoiding these oils while eating out is virtually impossible, I try to be cognizant of them when buying premade food or cooking at home. Full of omega-6 fatty acids, which the Standard American Diet tends to be way too high in already, these oils cause more inflammation in the body. Butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or even palm shortening are better for you options.
- Gluten. I’ll be doing a post soon about why I eat a primarily gluten-free diet. But after having learned about all of the risks of a gluten-containing diet I try to avoid gluten in all of its forms. On food labels this can include artificial food coloring, food starch, glucose syrup, anything malted, and soy sauce. Baking powder also has gluten in it and an easy swap for that would be baking soda plus a little acid.