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Label Reading: 5 Sneaky Ingredients to Avoid

I've been hearing some great feedback from readers on the Go Green 21-day Challenge including increased energy, better digestion and everyone loves checking
Sep 29, 2015 | Joy McCarthy

I've been hearing some great feedback from readers on the Go Green 21-day Challenge including increased energy, better digestion and everyone loves checking their pH! It's not too late to join, find out more here.

I get a lot of questions on ingredients in foods and supplements so I wrote this post to help you navigate ingredient labels a little easier. If there's something you are still curious about please post in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can between Vienna's feedings and burps ;)

I'm going to start off with sneaky ingredients that are best avoided in supplements (and in food!). There are more than 10,000 potential ingredients in food and supplements that fall into the category of additives, according to the Centre for Science and Public Interest. I've just selected a handful of the more common ones you might see.

Top Sneaky Ingredients to Avoid in Supplements & Food

Artificial Sweeteners

The two most popular ones are aspartame and sucralose. They are man-made chemicals in a lab -- nothing food-like about them and you'll find them in many protein bars and powders marketed as "weight-loss" products.

The problem: Research from the Center for Human Nutrition, Washington University School of Medicine showed that when the brain detects a sweet taste this can actually illicit an insulin response -- not good if you are trying to keep your blood sugar balanced or inflammation in check. Diet pop drinkers actually tend to gain more fat when they consume beverages made with artificial sweeteners, as shown in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Older studies have shown that artificial sweeteners (aspartame in particular) fuel tumour growth in rats. Anecdotally, I've had many clients completely eliminate headaches and migraines by cutting out artificial sweeteners.

Artificial Flavours

The worst part about "artificial flavours" is that food manufacturers do not have to disclose what chemicals these flavours contain. This means you're playing "Russian roulette" if you have sensitivities to certain chemicals. You also can't be certain it is free of genetically modified or synthetic ingredients. The best thing you can do is avoid any supplement or food with artificial flavours.

The problem: There is too much unknown about these chemical flavours. A simple rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Would your great-grandmother have eaten this?" and if the answer is no, you are best to avoid it too. 

Artificial Food Dyes

Dyes are big business because they are one of the most common food additives. They are chemicals to synthetically alter the colour of food, basically make a processed food look more appetizing. 

The problem: Most food dyes are coal tar derived and can be carcinogenic including Red # 3. There are far too many issues with food dyes to list here but check out Learn more here.

Sep 29, 2015 BY Joy McCarthy
Bill   •   October 1, 2015

You'll also find BHT in virtually every Kellogg's cereal. Including the varieties meant for children. Yikes!


Marianne Greer   •   October 7, 2015

I can not believe that Centrum Vitamins have BHT in them! I will be sure to spread the word. That is just wrong. Why can't they just go with a shorter expiration date and not worry about the shelf life. You have opened my eyes.


Nicki S.   •   April 29, 2019

You talk about "ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS" but, what about when a package says " Natural Flavors", is that the same thing or something different?

Joy McCarthy   •   April 29, 2019

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