Never buy foods with these 7 ingredients

Processed foods are filled with many unhealthy ingredients like preservatives, flavorings and dyes.

More than 3,000 food additives are poured into our foods — and even our medications. Many of these chemicals are linked to prostate cancer, other cancers, heart disease, diabetes and a wide range of health problems.

It is difficult to avoid all processed foods, but learning how to avoid the seven worst ingredients can help you focus on what to look for when reading labels.

If you see any of the following ingredients on a food label, you may want to put the box back on the shelf and keep shopping. These ingredients are detrimental to your health and should be avoided if possible.

In fact, if you have been suffering from unexplained headaches, bowel troubles or allergy-like symptoms, it may be time to look at your diet and eliminate some of the ingredients in processed foods.

Here’s a closer look at each type of additive and the health problems associated with it.

1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer found in many frozen dinners, salad dressings, chips and meats. MSG is mostly made up of the same neurotransmitter used by your pancreas, eyes, brain, nervous system and other organs for initiating processes in your body.

MSG overexcites your cells and causes the nerves in the brain to fire rapidly and repeatedly, leading to damage or death. This additive may worsen or trigger Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. MSG commonly causes headaches as well as heart palpitations, and an increased desire to eat more food.

You have to use caution in reading labels for MSG: It can hide under other names and be included in a variety of other additives such as yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, vegetable powder, glutamate, caseinate and natural flavor.

2. Artificial Sweeteners

One of the biggest myths about artificial sweeteners is that they can help you lose weight. Found in diet foods, low-calorie foods, drinks and liquid medications, artificial sweeteners are meant to reduce the amount of sugar and calories consumed.

However, ingesting artificial sweeteners can lead to even greater weight gain than results from consuming sugar. Artificial sweeteners are found under the names aspartame, sucralose (Splenda), saccharin and acesulfame potassium.

Artificial sweeteners can also cause headaches and dizziness, and some of them have even been linked to cancer. The amino acids in aspartame launch an attack on your cells, creating a toxic cellular overstimulation similar to the one that MSG causes. Artificial sweeteners, especially sucralose, inactivate digestive enzymes, changing the function of the gut barrier. That can cause or worsen inflammatory bowel disease. Research has shown that sucralose destroys up to 50 percent of your beneficial gut flora.

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3. High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup is an inexpensive alternative to sugar, but the cost to your health is that it can tax and damage your liver the same way that alcohol does. The fructose in high-fructose corn syrup goes directly to your liver, where it is metabolized into fat to be stored in your fat cells. It leads to obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance and other related health problems. You can find this additive in sodas, juices, many processed foods and liquid medications.

4. Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors are used to mimic the taste of natural ingredients and make processed foods taste better. This category is very vague, though. One artificial flavor can contain almost 50 chemicals. Artificial flavors can contain genetically modified flavor enhancers, as can “natural flavor.” Artificial flavors are linked to allergic reactions and behavioral reactions.

5. Artificial Colors

Each year, 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes are poured into U.S. foods. Nine of the approved food dyes are linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children, as well as allergy-like reactions and sinus problems. These colorful dyes may make food, candy and even over-the-counter medicines look more attractive; but you should try your best to avoid these deceptive dyes.

6. Trans Fats

Trans fats are the least healthy fats you can eat. These solid fats originated as healthier, liquid vegetable oils but were hydrogenated to form a solid fat that can cause many health problems. Avoid these completely. Trans fats can raise your triglyceride level and low-density lipoprotein level (LDL) (otherwise known as your bad cholesterol), increasing your risk for a heart attack. Trans fats are linked to prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

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7. Preservatives In Processed Foods

Processed foods have a lot of preservatives because these additives lengthen a food’s shelf life. Problems associated with preservatives can include allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, possibly cancer, etc.

Preservatives to avoid include BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), TBQQ (tertiary butyl hydroquinone), sodium nitrate, sodium nitrate and sodium benzoate as well as polysorbate 60, 65 and 80. Both BHA and BHT can affect the neurological system of the brain, alter your behavior and potentially cause cancer.

TBHQ is a chemical preservative linked to cancer that can also cause tinnitus, nausea and vomiting. Sodium nitrate (not to be confused with naturally occurring dietary nitrates in foods like beets and spinach), commonly found in cured meats (hot dogs, deli meat and bacon), has been linked with higher rates of stomach, colorectal and pancreatic cancer. It is worth it to buy nitrate-free options. Sodium benzoate, found in juices and sodas, has been linked to allergies.

The sulfites found in dried fruits, flavored vinegar and wine are other preservatives that cause undesirable reactions. They especially can affect people with asthma. Sulfites may cause headaches, rashes, bowel irritability and behavioral problems.

Reading Labels And Eating Fresher Foods

Even though it is important to read and understand food labels so you know what you are putting in your body, it is important to note that not all foods require a label.

Organic, whole and natural foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts do not require a label because they are fresh and without added ingredients. If you eat a whole-food diet, you will be a lot healthier and won’t have to worry about what you are putting in your body.

The Mediterranean diet supports the consumption of whole foods and natural ingredients. Because the Mediterranean diet focuses on fresh seasonal produce, heart-healthy oils, fish and whole grains, it has been associated with many heart and other health benefits.

Mediterranean diet prostate benefits include the reduction of inflammation, support of the body’s defenses against cancer, reduction in saturated fats, an extremely low level of trans fats, low level of sugar, a large amount of antioxidants and the elimination of processed foods.

Several studies have demonstrated that eating a Mediterranean diet can help men prevent or reduce symptoms of prostate cancer,(BPH) and prostatitis.

When you are shopping, try to stick to the aisles where you find generally fresher products and avoid the processed foods aisles that contain long lists of preservatives, sweeteners and unnatural ingredients. Carefully read the labels for foods and medicines so you can avoid the seven worst types of ingredients in processed foods. Doing this can help you protect your brain, heart and overall health.

Following these simple guidelines will help you eat better and eliminate unhealthy ingredients.

After excluding some of these additives from your diet, you may notice that you feel better, too. If your headaches, allergies and bowel troubles end after changing your diet, your problems may have been caused by additives in your processed foods.

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Dr. Geo Espinosa

By Dr. Geo Espinosa

Dr. Geo Espinosa is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and certified functional medicine practitioner recognized as an authority in holistic urology and men’s health. He is Clinical Assistant Professor and holistic clinician in Urology at New York University Langone Medical Center. As an avid researcher and writer, Dr. Geo has authored numerous scientific papers and books including co-editing the Integrative Sexual Health book, and author of the best selling prostate cancer book: Thrive, Don't Only Survive.