If you are what you eat, then you could be toxic, loaded with preservatives and completely artificial. Additives – often shockingly dangerous ones – are rife in the processed foods that you may consume. Worse, these ingredients that aid in packaging and long-term food preservation have FDA approval. About 90% of an average American household’s food budget is spent on processed foods, making frighteningly vast numbers of people vulnerable to severe health risks. Here are several of the dangerous foods and ingredients that could sabotage your well-being.
The Sour Side of Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame, better known as Equal and NutraSweet, lurks in foods that are labeled “diet” or “sugar free,” such as diet sodas, diet Coke, Coke Zero, jello, iced tea, chewable vitamins and breath mints. Aspartame is responsible for more cases of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Yes, it’s that dangerous. It’s a neurotoxin and a carcinogen that can lower your IQ and damage short-term memory. Aspartame can trigger a plethora of disorders such as lymphoma, diabetes, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety attacks and seizures. Losing a few pounds is not worth the multitude of ailments aspartame can inflict.
Candy Isn’t Dandy
The multicolored candies at the supermarket or the movies beckon you with their rainbow hues. But at the end of that rainbow, instead of a pot of gold, there’s more likely a pot of shellac. That’s right – the same shellac used in varnishes and sealants. For a shinier, more attractive appearance, shellac is slathered on candy, pills, coffee beans, and even on apples and other fruits and veggies. Walk away from the candy’s temptations, and scrub your produce – even if it’s organic, there’s a good chance it’s coated in shellac. These waxes can be stubborn, so you’ll need to scrub hard. And if you have to scrub hard, imagine how your stomach reacts to these coatings.
Caramel Coloring Catastrophe
Caramel coloring abounds in soft drinks, La Choy soy sauce, Stove Top stuffing, and a variety of sauces, breads and pastries. An artificial pigment, it’s relatively safe when made solely with sugar – but, disturbingly, it’s often made with ammonia. Yes, ammonia, the potent chemical that’s used in fertilizers and household cleaners – and that you’re not supposed to ingest. When the coloring is concocted this way, it releases chemicals that have caused cancer in mice, and has even been categorized by California’s government as “known to cause cancer.” However, companies aren’t required to divulge whether or not ammonia is part of their dubious recipe, so you should steer clear of anything listing caramel coloring in their ingredients.
If you’re not feeling well, chicken soup may make you feel worse, not better. Johns Hopkins University researchers tested fowl feathers and discovered foul feed additives, including antidepressants, banned antibiotics, arsenic, allergy medications, Benadryl’s active ingredient (Diphenhydramine), caffeine, and a plethora of various prescription and non-prescription drugs. To avoid such polluted poultry, go organic. Organic regulations strictly prohibit the use of antibiotics – as well as all of the dubious substances mentioned – in chicken feed.
Dying for Food Dyes
Soda, fruit juices and salad dressings contain artificial colors which could induce childhood behavior problems and substantially reduce IQ. Cancer has also been connected to food dyes during animal studies. Blue Dye #1 and Blue Dye #2 – the same dye used to dye blue jeans blue, and found in pet foods, candy, sports drinks and soft drinks – may damage chromosomes.
Red Dye #3 and Red Dye #40 are used in cherry pie mix, fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, ice cream and bakery products. They’ve caused thyroid cancer and damaged the chromosomes of lab animals. As if that wasn’t chilling enough, these red dyes can also hinder brain-nerve transmission.
Then there are Yellow Dye #6 and Yellow Tartrazine, abundant in lemonade, American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated drinks. These dyes increased the number of kidney and adrenal tumors that developed in lab animals and may damage chromosomes. These are high prices to pay for pretty-looking food.
A Gulp of Wood Pulp
Wood pulp in food gives roughage a whole new dimension. Cellulose is an inexpensive filler made from nontoxic wood pulp or cotton, and is utilized to thicken ice cream, shredded cheese and salad dressing without adding fat or calories. Since cellulose is fibrous, it shows up in many so-called “healthy,” high fiber snacks and cereals – it’s even managed to infiltrate organic products. How to avoid it? Make sure you read food labels and keep your distance from anything containing microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), cellulose gum, cellulose gel and carboxymethyl cellulose.
Azodicarbonamide is a dough conditioner that’s found in Dunkin’ Donuts bagels and McDonald’s burger buns. It sounds innocent, but this chemical has a sinister side – it’s mainly used to produce industrial plastic and foam. And to top it all off, the FDA actually approves of its use for food. After studying azodicarbonamide, the World Health Organization determined that it triggers asthmatic symptoms, and that exposure to it should be strongly curbed. Here’s another idea: avoid it completely.
We’re getting into sticky territory here, but there might be a suspicious substance in your chewing gum. Namely, it’s lanolin, which is the oil that sheep’s wool produces. The greasy discharge is used as a softener in foods and is ambiguously labeled as a “gum base.” Lanolin’s softening properties are also used in skin and hair care products, as well as cosmetics. If you want to avoid lanolin altogether, get the vegan versions of these products, so there will be no question as to what you’re putting on or in your body.
If you’re a vegetarian who relies on cheese for protein, you may be unknowingly consuming meat. How is this possible? Numerous cheeses are made with rennet, which contains an enzyme removed from the fourth stomach of newborn calves. If this isn’t enough to completely spoil your appetite, rennet is used as a cheese curdler, sometimes concurrently with pepsin – an enzyme obtained from the stomach glands of hogs. If you’re still undeterred from eating cheese, scrutinize food labels, and be skeptical of anything vaguely referred to as “enzymes.”
Bladders and Beer
Here’s some sobering info for beer drinkers: you may be imbibing fish bladders. The brewing process typically involves using a form of collagen called isinglass, which is produced from the swim bladders of fish. Isinglass adheres to the beer’s yeast and descends to the bottom, resulting in a much clearer liquid. Additionally, it’s undetectable and hard to avoid, because it melds with the residue at the bottom of the barrel. The solution for avoiding this beastly brew? Abstain or snatch up a six-pack of vegan beer.
Feathers are not just for pillows anymore. Duck feathers – in the form of L-cysteine, a dough softener – often abound in bagels, bread, pies and cookie dough. A 2007 investigation by the Vegetarian Resource Group found that, despite the fact that there are other sources for this filler, 80% of L-cysteine was obtained from our quacking comrades. If this doesn’t exactly tantalize your palate, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to see if they use L-cysteine, since it’s often excluded from ingredient labels. To play it safe, eat products that are gluten-free or Kosher, or bake your own bread creations.
It doesn’t have to be Halloween for you to be frightened – just reading food labels can be scary enough. But armed with a little information, you can chose which foods are safe to eat – and which ones you should permanently cross off your shopping list.