11 Shockingly Toxic Food Ingredients That You Should Avoid Like the Plague

by Shelby

Next time you are out grocery shopping take a moment to stop and read the nutrition label for any number of our most popular food choices and you will be met with an incredibly long list of impossible to pronounce ingredients printed in fine print. In the United States over 3,000 different food additives are approved and used in our products, including preservatives, colors, and flavorings!

Even some of our so-called ‘health foods’ will surprise us with the secrets hidden on their nutritional label! It is no surprise that nutritionists and dieticians are promoting a fresh, clean diet free from processed foods!


While many Americans are trying to eat healthier, they are limited by their lack of knowledge on the matter. Arming ourselves with an understanding of the toxic ingredients most commonly found in our foods will allow us to take the necessary steps to avoid the offending food items, working to keep our families safe and healthy.


Here are 11 shockingly toxic ingredients that you should avoid on your next trip to the grocery store:


  1. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydrozyttoluene (BHT): BHA and BHT are preservatives used in a number of foods in order to extend shelf life and prevent oxidation. The State of California has labeled BHA as a known carcinogen and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization has labeled BHA as possibly carcinogenic. You will find BHA and BHT in packaging materials, meat patties, sausage, hot dogs, beer, vegetable oils, cereals, potato chips, butter, chewing gum, animal feed and cosmetic products.


  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): HFCS is the number-one source of calories in the modern American diet, playing a significant role in the increasing obesity problem in the country. It has also been found to contribute to the development of diabetes, arthritis, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and elevated triglycerides. HFCS is commonly found in soda, salad dressings, yogurt, lunch meats, breads, pizza sauce, condiments, and cereals. It can also be identified as:
  • Corn sugar
  • Glucose/Fructose (syrup)
  • High-fructose maize syrup inulin
  • Iso-glucose
  • Fruit fructose


  1. Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate: These preservatives are most often used for the preservation of meats. They have been connected with an increased risk of a number of different forms of cancer. They can be found in pate, canned meats, salami, bacon, ham, corned beef, cured meats, pickled pig’s feet, jerky, dried fish and smoked salmon. They also go by the names:
  • Soda niter
  • Chile saltpeter


  1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is an amino acid that has been found to be neurotoxic, meaning that regular consumption of this ingredient can lead to the destruction of brain cells and an increased risk of neurological disorders. It has also been associated with increasing your appetite which in turns can lead to weight gain and ultimately obesity. This ingredient can be found in many processed foods including canned meats, canned soups, salad dressings, frozen entrees, potato chips, flavored crackers and low-fat yogurts. The trick is that it goes by many names, including:
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Vegetable protein extract
  • Yeast extract
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Textured protein
  • Soy protein isolates
  • Barley malt
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Malt extract


  1. Potassium Bromate: This additive is a bromide most often used in order to boost the volume in a number of baked goods including breads, flours, and rolls. It has already been banned in the European Union and Canada, as well as several other countries however while the FDA has asked bakers to voluntarily stop using the additive it is still legal for use in the United States. Having been shown to cause cancer in animals during testing, the state of California requires that a cancer warning is included on the label of any products including the additive. It can be found in most commercial baked goods including Sunbeam, Home Pride (but not in Entenmann’s, Arnold, Orowheat or Pepperidge Farm brands) and Wonder Bread. It can also be found in some mouthwash and toothpaste brands and is common in flour. It also goes by the names:
  • Bromic acid
  • Potassium salt
  • Bromated flour
  • “Enriched flour”


  1. Agave Nectar: While many consumers have been led to believe that this sweetener from Mexico is a healthy alternative, it contains a higher amount of fructose than even HFCS! It has been found to increase insulin resistance, elevate uric acid levels and promote fatty liver disease. It can be found as a stand-alone sweetener, or as an ingredient in ketchup and other sauces, ice cream, cereals and energy bars.


  1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil: Used to increase shelf life and stabilize flavor, this oil is a significant source of trans fats, which are incredibly difficult for the body to digest. It has been found to increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, boost bad cholesterol and contribute to nutritional deficiencies and cellular deterioration. It is important to note that ‘fully hydrogenated oil’ does not contain the harmful trans fats. Partially hydrogenated oil can be found in margarine, vegetable shortening, salad dressings, crackers, chips, breads and baked goods.


  1. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): rBGH is a genetically-engineered version of the growth hormone that is produced naturally by cows. Companies that use this product do so in dairy cows in order to boost their milk production levels. It has been associated with an increased risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers, antibiotic resistance and the early onset of puberty in girls. Also, called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), there is no requirement for this ingredient to be listed on the offending milk products. Instead, it is recommended that you assume it is in all products that are not specifically labeled ‘No rBGH or rBST.’


  1. Aspartame: Making the news time and time again, it is no surprise to anyone reading this that Aspartame has made this list! The artificial sweetener contains methanol which experts have explained is broken down by the body into formic acid and formaldehyde after consumption. It is believed to be carcinogenic and has been associated with a number of neurotoxic symptoms including blurry vision, headaches, dizziness and gastrointestinal disturbances. Aspartame is found in over 6000 products including diet and sugar-free drinks, yogurt, breath mints, gelatins, frozen desserts, sugar-free chewing gum and instant breakfasts. It goes by a number of names, including:
  • NutraSweet
  • Equal
  • Canderel
  • Spoonful
  • Natrataste
  • AminoSweet


  1. Refined Vegetable Oil: The processed used to commercially-refine these vegetable oils exposes them to a number of chemical solvents as well as bleach, stripping them of the natural vitamins and minerals included in the original seeds and creating a product with a number of serious health concerns. This process is carried out in various vegetable oils including corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil and peanut oil. The oils have been found to promote inflammation in the body, contribute to heart disease and some cancers and impair insulin response. They are found in many processed foods including granola bars, baked goods, and crackers, and are also sold as standalone cooking oils and margarine.


  1. Artificial Food Coloring: Derived from petroleum, artificial food dyes have made the news time and time again as one of the most controversial ingredients in the American diet. A number of these dyes have even been banned due to the effects they have had on subjects during animal testing. These dyes are found in a wide assortment of products including jams, puddings, baked goods, bread, frostings, candy, beverages, sherbet, sorbet, ice cream, cereal, energy bars, condiments, fast food, deli meat, fish other meat products. The list of names to watch out for is far too long to name here but includes:
  • Caramel color
  • FD&C Blue #1
  • Brilliant Blue FCF
  • Bright blue
  • Blue #2
  • Ingtotine
  • Royal Blue
  • Red Number 3
  • Erythrosine
  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • Allura Red AC
  • Yellow 5 and 6
  • FD&C Green Number 3
  • Fast Green
  • Sea Green


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