Foods that look whole, and almost in their original form have some super sneaky ingredients in their food label. Explore 5 shocking foods that have sneaky food additives you may want to avoid.
Most of us have at least heard that it is best to eat food that is closest to its original form. This common rule of thumb is used to keep the focus on whole foods and foods that are minimally processed. And for the most part it is a good rule of thumb. But there is a sneaky sector of foods out there that look whole, and minimally processed but have unexpected food additives lurking in their food labels. Additives that your body wasn’t meant to process, that can cause damage to your gut and overall well being.
I consider myself to be an expert food ingredient label reader. In fact until this week, I didn’t even feel the need to read the labels of most foods, because I am that good. That is until I accidentally came home with a food that completely surprised me with having unwanted ingredients in the food label.
To be clear, I am not talking about food nutritional label reading (that's all bs). I am talking about the actual ingredients found in the foods you eat. Sure, it is easy to assume something like Doritos aren’t going to have the best ingredient profile. But did you consider foods that seem “whole” and “clean” also have unwanted additives? Foods like shredded cheese or guacamole, foods that should really only include a handful of ingredients have additives that could be affecting your gut and overall health.
If you consider yourself an expert food label reader or are just learning about what ingredients you should be watching out for, you need to read this article. This article will show you 5 foods that seem like they should be “clean” but in fact have a lot of really gross additives. And by gross I mean cancer causing, inflammation givers, bad for you ingredients. In fact, I was completely blown away by food number 2 when I brought it home.
So let’s dive in to 5 shocking foods that have sneaky food additives you should definitely be reading the food ingredients on. To help you learn more about reading labels for each of the foods I have included an ingredient list from actual products you can buy. They are unnamed, but I have given an example of a good ingredient list and bad ingredient list for each one.
When you think of bacon you probably think “it's meat so that is one ingredient”. Then you probably know that some bacon has nitrates or some type of preservatives so there's another ingredient. But in fact most of the bacon on the market has over 3 non food additives.
I learned that bacon can have some particularly nasty ingredients in it when I accidently bought the wrong kind. I somehow managed to buy bacon that had some “flavor” added to it and that is what sparked my attention to read the label.
Friends, the label was so bad I threw the bacon away. And I am not a food waster, money thrower outer. But I couldn’t bring myself to eat the additives or serve them to my family.
When you read the food ingredients on bacon (and all foods) look for ingredients that you can pronounce and recognize. If you don’t know what it is, don’t buy it. Also be aware MOST bacon has sugar added. If this is something you avoid it’s going to take some digging to find sugar free bacon.
Bad bacon label
- Cured with salt, sugar, water, dextrose, Sodium nitrate, artificial flavor, maple flavor, propylene glycol, sugar, dextrose, sodium erythorbate
Here is a a great article on propylene glycol and the effects it has on your body.
Some of the long and short term effects sodium erythorbate can have on the body include headaches, gout, fatigue and dizziness.
Good bacon label:
- Pork, Water, Salt, Turbinado Sugar, Seasoning (Cultured Celery Juice Powder, Sea Salt).
Bacon without sugar would have even less ingredients.
2. ????Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo is the one that got me. Pico tricked me and my pretty awesome abiltiy to know what foods have crap ingredients. If I would have had to place a bet I would have bet that in addition to the necessary ingredients like tomatoes onions etc, that at most, pre made pico de gallo had some type of citric acid to prevent discoloration. I was wrong.
What the EFF friends?! Is it really necessary to add SO many additives to a natural food? I guess so when you want it to stay good for longer than a few days.
So lesson learned, don’t assume because you can see the ingredients thru the clear container, you can see ALL the ingredients.
Bad Pico de Gallo label
- Tomato, Onion, Bell Peppers, Jalapeños, Salt, Cilantro, Garlic (Ground Garlic, Citric Acid), Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Sodium Benzoate (to Help Protect Flavor), Potassium Sorbate (to Help Protect Flavor), Xanthan Gum, Ascorbic Acid, Beet Powder (for Color), Capsicum (Propylene Glycol, Natural Extractives of Chili Peppers, Water)
Good Pico de Gallo label
- Tomatoes, yellow onion, jalapeno pepper, cilantro
Phew! Doesn't it just give you less anxiety reading the good label versus the bad label?
3. ????Shredded Cheese
Shredded cheese has grossed me out for some time now. For the longest time I assumed the only thing that would be in cheese, is freaking milk and whatever else you make cheese with.
Wrong friends. Shredded cheese needs to stay in pretty little strands so that you don’t get home from the store with one big hunk of cheese. It also has to stay good for a really long time. So what does that mean? It means you end up with an ingredient list that looks like this:
Bad cheese label
- Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes) Potato Starch, Corn Starch, Dextrose, and Calcium Sulfate (Added to Prevent Caking), Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor)
Yum. I love me some mold inhibitor. Here is the even trickier piece. See how they added “natural” in front of mold inhibitor? It is not natural. It is an anti-fungal medication used to treat fungal infections of the eye.
The last time you or your kid had an eye infection did you think it might be yummy to drink the eye drops? Because apparently it is in your cheese and the FDA think that's OK.
You can totally save yourself from eating anti-fungal medication by just switching to a whole block of cheese and then shred it when you need it. Here are the ingredients in a real cheese block
Good cheese label
- Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes
Ahhh so much better. Ingredients I can read, say and understand.
Melanie Warner, author of Pandora’s Lunchbox writes about her experience with quacomole she purchased from the super market. The quacamole Melanie purchased was the kind that the store prepared in house and even packaged there. So we are talking about a food that didn’t even have to travel to the store.
Here’s what she found in her store prepared guac:
Bad guacamole label
- Hass avocado, salt, ascorbic acid, citric acid, xantham gum, amigum, text-instant, tomatoes, yellow onion, jalapeno, cilantro.
No friends, "text-instant" was not a typo. It is actually a product designed for people with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and need help with thickening liquids to make them easier to swallow. And in short, it is full of modified corn products that are all mostly GMO.
Amigum was a new one for me. I am not sure I have seen this in products that I have purchased before. But it's job is to provide a "supple texture" to cosmetic products and is used as an emulsifier in foods. Yum-my!
Side not, Pandora's Lunchbox is an awesome read. This book is a great if you are interested in learning more about the ingredients added to our foods. I found mine used and super cheap at Thriftbooks, my new favorite way to shop for books btw. If you head there and buy something look for a coupon for new customers first, it was a good discount the first time I used it.
Good guacamole label
Organic Hass Avocados, Contains 2% or Less of Water, Organic Dehydrated Onion, Organic Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Organic Granulated Garlic.
Good guacamole has exactly what you think should be in it, nothing more nothing less.
5. ????Ice Cream
Please oh please start reading your ice cream labels. Ice cream should be just like cheese. You have the ingredients to make the milk turn into ice cream and that is that.
But the truth is so far from that. First, stop eating diet ice cream. Diet “anything” isn’t the way to go. Diet food means fake food and if you are going to eat ice cream because that is what you are craving, go big or go home. Don’t eat chemicals that ruin your body. Eat real food that your body knows what to do with.
I hope that doesn't sound too soapbox-ish, but man the media has brainwashed too many people into thinking fake food is better because it is diet. Eat real food or as close to real food as possible. Always. Hence, eat real ice cream with ingredients you can pronounce in the label.
Bad ice cream label (a peanut butter fudge flavor)
- milk, sugar, fudge (sugar peanut/cottonseed and or palm oil, cocao processed with alkali, whey, corn start, soy leithin, salt, natural flavor) corn syrup, coconut oil, nonfat milk, cocoa processed with alkali, soy lecithin, nonfat milk, whe, cream, polydextrose, calcium barbonate, propylene glycol monoesters, vanilla, natural flavors, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, carrageenan, vitamin A
Good ice cream label (a peanut butter fudge flavor)
Nonfat Milk, Cream, Cane Sugar, Peanut Butter (Roasted Peanuts, Peanut Oil), Chocolate Flakes (Sugar, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Tapioca Syrup, Honey, Sea Salt.
Can you see the difference? Can you see how the good ice cream doesn’t have foods you can’t pronounce? I don’t love soy lecithin or dextrose, but I would certainly chose that over propylene glycal monesters and carrageenan.
Why is this even important?
Are you wondering why it matters if these ingredients are in our food? Although the FDA let’s these additives in our food, they are far from foods or ingredients our body recognizes as food. They are a food like substance.
Eating food like substances that our body doesn’t recognize is like hitting yourself purposefully with a hammer. Each time you hit yourself you are causing a little more trauma, a little more inflammation. Your body isn’t meant to be hit with a hammer. Does it have processes to compensate the injury? Absolutely, God is amazing like that. But it doesn’t mean you should keep hitting yourself with a hammer.
Same for your gut. Your gut can take on some pretty heavy shit with what we put in it. It can learn to compensate in miraculous ways. But when you start having symptoms like joint pain, headaches, gut issues like IBS symptoms, it is time took look deeper at the food you eat.
These tiny amounts of additives build up over a lifetime. They do affect your health and the more you know how to look out for them the better off you will be.
Challenge the norm
Consider that maybe health issues don’t come from high fat foods like ice cream but within the additives itself. Challenge the thought process that maybe it isn’t the food that is hurting our health. It’s the food like substances added to our food.
Unfortunately this list of shocking foods that have sneaky food labels could go on for a while. But I have promised to just talk about 5 .
Tell me friend, was this article help for you? Let me know below and if you want to see more just like it! I love diving into food labels and food additives.
Want to find some yummy recipes that don't have food additives? Head here-- RECIPES