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Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010 12:00 am

The majority of processed foods contain ingredients that are harmful and cause an abundance of adverse health conditions and complaints. If you include packaged foods in your diet, get in the habit of reading the label, more specifically, the list of ingredients. Become familiar and be aware of these ingredients:


1  High Fructose Corn Syrup: The No. 1 source of calories for most Americans and it causes obesity. You’ll find high-fructose corn syrup in processed food, fruit drinks, fast food, sodas, syrup that goes into your Latte from Starbucks, gum, baked goods, etc. It is extremely toxic to your liver, increases inflammation, causes obesity, oxidative stress and creates an aggressive insulin response, thus contributing to type II diabetes. Consumption is linked to an increased risk of hypertension. In addition, there are high levels of mercury in food products sweetened with toxic HFCS.

2 Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Trans Fats): Found in thousands of processed foods (breakfast cereals, cookies, chips). Trans fats are proven to cause heart disease and contribute to obesity. Restaurant food, especially from fast food chains, often serve food loaded with trans fats.

Consequences of a diet high in trans fats include inflammation, immune function, testosterone, arthritis, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, free radical production, heart disease, interference with neurological and visual development of a fetus, liver damage, obesity, osteoporosis and type II diabetes.

3 MSG – Monosodium Glutamate: A chemical (an excitotoxin) that has been associated with reproductive disorders, migraine headaches, permanent damage to the endocrine system leading to obesity and other serious disorders. It is linked to reduced fertility. MSG is used in many foods as a taste enhancer.

4 Sodium Nitrate: A preservative, coloring and flavoring commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish and corned beef. Studies have linked eating it to various types of cancer.

5 Refined Soy: When it comes to soy, much of what we read and hear about comes from the people who market it. Before you mix up a soy shake, snack on a soy protein bar or pour yourself a glass of soy milk consider this: unfermented, processed soy inhibits the thyroid, is deficient in amino acids, is toxic to infants and shrinks the brain.

There are some redeeming qualities to soy, however, these are found primarily in fermented soy products like tempeh, miso, natto and soybean sprouts. If you want to get some health benefits from soy, stick to these four forms and pass on all processed soy milks, tofu, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy cheese and other soy junk foods that are disguised as health foods.

6 White Sugar: Has a profound influence on your brain function and your psychological function. When you consume excess amounts of sugar your body releases excess amounts of insulin, which in turn causes a drop in your blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. In addition, sugar is pro-flammatory, damages skin collagen and promotes wrinkles, increases your appetite, depletes your body of B vitamins, causes joint degeneration, ADHD and other behavior disorders, stimulates cholesterol synthesis and weight gain. Opt for a healthier alternative such as stevia.

7 Sodium Chloride: Commercial table salt is highly processed and full of aluminum, chemicals and additives, which are toxic. Opt for a healthier version, such as Bragg’s amino acids, Himalayan salt or unprocessed Celtic sea salt (light pink, grey or beige color).

8 Aspartame, Splenda, Sweet’N Low, Equal: Aspartame is an artificial, chemical sweetener found in many foods and beverages including desserts, gelatins, protein powder, low calorie foods, drink mixes and sodas. It may cause cancer or neurological problems, such as dizziness, migraine headaches, weight gain, increased appetite, bloating, rashes or hallucinations. Aspartame poisoning mimics symptoms of MS. NutraSweet is in more than 7,000 foods.

Side effects: heart disease, bloating and edema, brain seizures, cancer, cravings, headaches, predispose you to Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease, rashes and hives, and weight gain, which results in obesity.

9 Food Colorings (Blue 1, 2; Red 3, 40; Green 3; Yellow 5, 6): There are food colorings still on the market linked to cancer in animal testing. There is evidence that food coloring and food additives contribute to behavioral problems in children, lead to a lower IQ, hyperactivity, ADHD, depression, hormonal dysfunction, migraines and cancer.

Take home message: Stay away from any product listing an ingredient with a color plus a number.

10 Processed/Refined Wheat and Gluten: Refined grains are void of nutrients, disrupt insulin levels and are highly allergenic for many individuals. Wheat and gluten have adverse health effects for approximately 80 percent of the population. Gluten is a protein found combined with starch in the endosperm of grains, notably wheat, rye and barley.

Gluten intolerance/sensitivity is severely misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. One estimate says that 97 percent of all sufferers don’t know they have the disease due to unfamiliarity with it among U.S. physicians.

It’s important to form a habit of reading the list of ingredients on all products. Focus on eating whole, fresh foods. This is the best way to stay away from toxic, harmful ingredients.


Paula Owens is a holistic practitioner, nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach in Ahwatukee Foothills. Visit

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