The home-cooked meal is dying a rather sad death as more of us turn to processed foods to satisfy our appetites. This can spell bad news for your health. Apart from the obvious problem of consuming too many calories and too much fat, these eats can also make you crave sugar more than ever and destroy your relationships.
Sadly, avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats isn’t enough to make packaged goods any better for you. When you swap these ready-to-eat foods for whole ones, you end up consuming significantly less fiber. Time reported this can negatively change your gut bacteria, leading to obesity and other diseases. What’s more, the story went on to say the ingredients added to processed foods to boost the fiber content simply don’t have the same positive effect on your body as the kind that comes from real food.
Additionally, packaged products are brimming with food additives. While the FDA has given many of them the green light, at least in certain quantities, many of them have been linked to some less-than-desirable outcomes. The next time you see one of these five unhealthy additives on a food label, you may want to rethink your diet.
1. Monosodium glutamate
Perhaps the most famous and hotly debated food additive, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the secret ingredient that makes many of our favorite takeout foods so savory and delicious. You’ll even find recipes calling for it in the ingredient list. Though the flavor might be great, MSG has been linked to a number of health problems.
For starters, MSG consumption may contribute to an expanding waistline. One study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported, after adjusting for all other lifestyle factors, ingesting MSG was associated with being overweight. And the bad news doesn’t end there. MSG has been linked to headaches, nausea, and chest pain. One rodent study even found the additive can wreak havoc on your liver and kidneys.
If you know and love the savory flavor MSG brings to the table, you’ll be happy to know certain foods can give you the same taste without the consequences. Try adding mushrooms and soy sauce to your next stir fry.
In effort to cut back on sugar, many people turn to artificially sweetened beverages and foods. The problem with this strategy is the sugar substitutes don’t lead to the same dopamine release that the real stuff does. In simpler terms: Sugar makes you feel good and sugar substitutes don’t. Some research suggests those who regularly consume these sweeteners may be at a greater risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease.
More commonly known as Splenda, sucralose is one of the most popular sugar substitutes. Whether it’s any worse than other sweetener is a matter of debate, but you might want to know just how saccharine it is. According to CBS News, sucralose is a whopping 600 times sweeter than table sugar.
3. Allura red
Have you ever wondered why products bearing cherry, fruit punch, and strawberry flavors are so astoundingly red? It certainly isn’t because they’re brimming with fresh fruit. The secret ingredient is food dye, allura red in these instances. Aside from giving foods a vivid red hue, this ingredient adds absolutely no nutritive value to foods. It could actually be doing more harm than good.
Many of the products that boast such bright colors, like breakfast cereals, juice drinks, and candy, are targeted toward kids, and they’re suffering for it. Research has linked the additive to increased incidence of ADHD. It sort of seems silly to risk it just so your child can enjoy a cherry ice pop.
4. Palm oil
After the backlash food companies endured when consumers got wind of how bad trans fats are, many began a mad rush to switch partially-hydrogenated oils to something less offensive. For many, palm oil is now the fat of choice. The thing is it’s still high in saturated fat. Though some studies have suggested saturated fat isn’t as evil as we once believed, there’s still plenty of research that’s demonstrated ingesting this type of fat can lead to cardiovascular disease.
There’s also the health of our planet to consider. The sudden interest in switching to palm oil is driving an alarming rate of deforestation. According to The Guardian, this clear-cutting contributes to 12% of the greenhouse gases behind climate change.
5. Sodium phosphate
Restaurant chefs manage to keep meat wonderfully moist by perfecting their cooking techniques. Mass production facilities do it by pumping their cold cuts with sodium phosphate. Eat This, Not That! explained phosphates are a necessary nutrient in our diets, but it’s easy to go overboard with processed foods. According to one review, consuming too much of this additive can contribute to cardiovascular disease. You can find meats without sodium phosphate, but you definitely have to do a thorough search.