Ingredients to Leave Off Your Grocery Shopping List
Some ingredients are great for our health, but others need to be dumped all together. Read on to learn more about 5 common ingredients that might need to take a hike from your diet.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
- Ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA)
- Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
MSG stands for Monosodium Glutamate. Glutamate does occur naturally in some instances. It is responsible, in part, for the iconic flavor of ‘umami’, a savory flavor present in soy and mushrooms. Think Worcestershire sauce or beef in brown gravy. Those flavors encompass ‘umami’.
Unfortunately MSG has become a common additive in foods you wouldn’t even think of. You can identify it on labels hiding under other names such as autolyzed yeast extract or protein isolate. MSG can have negative effects in some people, including chest pain, weakness, nausea, headache, or even heart palpitations and seizures! I don’t know about you, but these are things I definitely wish to avoid! MSG is added to foods for that salty, addicting flavor. They know it gets you hooked on their foods and wanting to buy again, but they don’t care that it may negatively affect your health. You can easily learn more about this additive’s negative side effects and other sneaky names by googling it.
Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, is primarily found is citrus-flavored sodas and sports drinks. So if you don’t drink either of these, you might not worry too much about it. BVO is a synthetic chemical made from oil bonded to bromine. Just googling the element bromine can quickly make you realize why we wouldn’t want this stuff in our bodies. Bromine is corrosive and can be toxic! I’m sure it’s a bit different once its reaction with vegetable oil takes place, but still! They use this reaction to keep oils from separating and rising. BVO is a problem when it is consumed over time, because it can build up in the body and cause toxicity and various other problems. I would check labels and get this stuff out of your house if I was you. Sparkling water with lemon is a great replacement to citrus sodas and coconut water is much more nutritious than sports drinks. Try these options instead.
EDTA stands for Ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid. Long, I know! EDTA is not harmful to the body in and of itself; doctors use it to get heavy metals out of the blood. This can help with things like lead poisoning. EDTA is added in many foods and can be used for a variety of reasons, like to help foods keep their color longer. In other words, it’s used as a preservative. Large amounts of EDTA can be toxic, so I recommend avoiding it when possible. Its use has also been linked to things such as nausea, dizziness, headache, and even blood clots. Due to EDTA’s ability to interfere with metals, it can even have effects such as low potassium/calcium levels or anemia.
The side effects from taking EDTA can get fairly serious, so I would look at labels to avoid it. It is commonly found in canned goods; I see this all the time while at the store shopping. Canned beans are an example where it can be hard to avoid. If you look around, though, you can usually find a brand of beans that only has water and salt added to them. This is much better than a long list of preservatives. If you can’t find ones like this, opt for dried beans instead. Be careful to avoid large amounts of EDTA, especially if you’re taking prescription medications.
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are found in many foods, even though they are known to be unhealthy. These oils have been hydrogenated to make them solids at room temperature. Think of vegetable oil, like corn oil, on the shelf at the store. It’s a liquid. But then think of margarine; this oil is more solid. Unfortunately partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are full of trans fat. This fat is not helpful to health and should be avoided. Not all fats are inherently bad for you, but this is one to take out of your diet. Look for ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ on the food label to avoid trans fat. Products are allowed to list 0 trans fat if is has less than half a gram per serving. So it can still contain some trans fat if it says zero grams!
Olestra is another ingredient to avoid when possible. It is a replacement for certain fats, and is commonly found in foods such as potato chips. It’s usually found in low-fat or fat-free snack foods. These foods have been produced to seem healthier with less fat in them. We now know that fat in and of itself and is not a bad thing for our health. There are certain fats to eat less of, but many fats are required in our bodies to absorb certain nutrients and to help our brains work well.
Consuming olestra has some negative side effects, too. It can negatively interfere with nutrient absorption, especially fat-soluble vitamins. This is why you often see these vitamins added to foods with olestra. Eating foods with olestra has also been tied to gastrointestinal upset, such as cramping, gas, and diarrhea. Good reasons to avoid this no-fat additive! Many other countries have banned the use of olestra in foods, but the US has not. The US used to require a label specifically for olestra-containing foods, warning of this, but they have removed that requirement.
Thanks so much for reading and learning about food additives and ingredients that can be dangerous to our health. As you can see from this article, it is better to eat more fresh, unprocessed food for best health. There are many more harmful ingredients that I haven’t mentioned here. Learn to read food labels and keep your eyes peeled for suspicious additives and preservatives. When in doubt, make your own foods from fresh, whole ingredients. Your body will thank you for it! Feel free to contact me if you have questions about a certain ingredient or how to read nutrition labels and what to look for.