Food Ingredients Your Family Should Avoid

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When we adopted a new dog this year, the woman running the pet adoption agency suggested that I switch all of our dogs to holistic, natural and organic foods. I scoffed and continued feeding them Nutro since we never had a problem with it, especially during the pet food recall in 2007.

But something this woman said nagged me weeks later: “Don’t you want your dogs to live full and healthy lives?” I went on the Internet and discovered that our dog food contained toxins that could lead to terrible health issues like cancer, liver and kidney failure. After days of research, I switched our dogs to Blue Buffalo — a natural and holistic pet food that does not contain harmful ingredients.

I put all this effort into what our dogs eat, but what about my kids, my husband, my mother-in-law and me? I went through the stuff in our pantry and was shocked by what I discovered: high fructose corn syrup, refined grains and preservatives. I was potentially killing my family through food. This had to stop immediately.

I was on a mission to make all of us healthy. You can do the same.

Here’s a list of ingredients to avoid and why:

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxtoluene (BHT)

BHA and BHT are preservatives that run rampant in everyday foods. From hot dogs, processed meats and poultry to cereals and crackers. Since BHA and BHT are antioxidants, they prevent foods from spoiling and prevent oils in cosmetics from spoiling. Unfortunately, both preservatives have been linked to liver and kidney dysfunctions. Whole Foods Markets have a variety of hot dogs (chicken, turkey and beef), cold cuts and cheese from Applegate Farms that do not contain these potentially harmful ingredients.


A preservative used in spices like paprika to preserve color, Ethoxyquin has been linked to allergic reactions and kidney and skin problems in high doses. Food manufacturers have lessened their dependence on Ethoxyquin in the past few years.

Of course, it is important to note that although many studies support correlations between various cancers and these preservatives, most experiments used high dosages of the preservatives. Nonetheless, it’s easy to avoid BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin by simply reading food labels. Debates have existed for years whether or not consumption of these preservatives over long periods of time hava any lasting effects. There are vocal supporters for both sides. What should be taken away from this is that these dangers exist and BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin are synthetic, man-made preservatives. When synthetics are introduced into our bodies, our organs have difficulty processing them.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

As the name implies, HFCS contains a high percentage of fructose. Many food manufacturers replaced sugar with HFCS because it’s cheaper. HFCS is found in many foods that have low fiber content like canned pasta foods, cereals, cough medicine, soda, ice cream, syrup and sauces. You’ll be surprised to see where HFCS shows up.

Instead of Mrs. Buttersworth, use agave nectar which is sweeter than sugar. Agave also has a high fructose level, but a little bit goes a long way. Agave nectar also has a low glycemic level and allows your body to slowly digest it. To avoid HFCS, look for natural and organic food products with natural sugars.

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST)

We drink soy milk in our house because cow’s milk contains rBGH/rBST growth hormones injected into cows so they can produce up to 20% more milk than normal. Although Canada and Europe have banned these hormones, the FDA continues to allow farmers to inject their livestock with it. rBGH and rBST are artificial growth hormones that can find its way into cow’s milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt.

The Center For Food Safety has consistently asked the FDA to ban the use of these hormones with little luck.

According to a press release from Samuel S. Epstein,  aleading expert on cancer prevention, M.D., Professor Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago, School of Public health:

Most critically, rBGH milk is supercharged with high levels of abnormally potent IGF-1 [insulin-like growth factor], up to 10 times the levels in natural milk and over 10 times more potent. IGF-1 resists pasteurization and digestion by stomach enzymes and is well absorbed across the intestinal wall. Still unpublished Monsanto tests, disclosed by FDA un summary form in 1990, showed that statistically significant growth stimulating effects were induced in organs of adult rats by feeding IGF-1 at the lowest does levels for only two weeks. Drinking rBGH milk would thus be expected to increase blood IGF-1 levels and to increase risks of developing prostate cancer and promoting its invasiveness. Apart from prostate cancer, multiple lines of evidence have also incrimated the role of IGF-1 as risk factors for breast, colon, and childhood cancers.

Faced with escalating rates of prostate and other avoidable cancers, FDA should withdraw its approval of rBGH milk, whose sale benefits only Monsanto while posing major public health risks for the entire U.S. population. Failing early FDA action, consumers should demand explicit labeling and only buy rBGH-free milk. [1]

It is impossible to have hormone-free milk due to the natural hormones that occur during lactation, but it is possible to have milk without rBGH and rBST. Since organic milk is labeled as organic, it should be milk from cows not injected with synthetic hormones. As Epstien stated, buy milk specifically labeled rBGH-free or switch to soy milk –- you’d be surprised how good it tastes. Soy milk also contains isoflavones which reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Saturated and Trans Fats

Eating too many of these fats can raise your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels, cause heart disease and may raise your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These fats can be found in meats, cheese, baked goods, oils and creamers.

Choose foods that have no or little saturated and trans fats. Instead of regular cheese, choose low-fat cheese. Instead of regular beef, choose low-fat beef. Fats from fish and nuts are better for you also.

Sucrose (refined cane sugar, table sugar)

A disaccharide made up of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose, sucrose is found everywhere in pantries and grocery stores across America.

Most foods that have high sugar levels have low fiber content. Since our bodies metabolize these sugary foods quickly, our bodies have little chance of burning the food as fuel. If it’s not immediately needed for energy, fructose, when consumed, stores as fat in our bodies.

We don’t have fruit juice in our house because of the high carbohydrates and sugar content. Juice is a treat that the kids seem to live without. Fruit juice also has very high concentrations of sugar (fructose) which factors into the high caloric level. Through processing, fruit juice loses most of the fiber and nutrients usually found in raw, whole fruits. Lower your children’s consumption of fruit juice or nix the drink all together and replace it with valuable antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins found in apples, blueberries, bananas, oranges and other whole fruits.

White Flour, Enriched Flour, and Refined Grains

Processed white flour and refined grains do not give the human body enough nutrients and fiber it needs. Enriched flours have lost key nutrients during processing (bran and germ are removed) and are later “enriched” with a some nutrients, but not enough to make a difference. Again, since essential nutrients and vitamins are lacking the body is not able to process these foods properly and are absorbed too quickly after consumption.

Look for breads that are labeled “whole wheat.” Even if the packaging says “multi-grain” or “wheat” these breads have been heavily processed and vitamins have been stripped away.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, especially when you have constant cravings for soda and Ding Dongs. You don’t need to eliminate every single item from your pantry and refrigerator. Be smart about the foods you bring home, read food labels and learn about the foods and ingredients you consume every day. Teach your family that there are delicious, healthier alternatives to the foods they love. The rewards are limitless.

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