This is a guest post by Alexander Heyne of Modern Health Monk.
There are a number of foods you might be eating on a regular basis loaded with hidden ingredients that may be affecting your health or weight loss efforts.
You see, companies are smart – they know that adding sugar to applesauce, for example, makes kids love it. They’ll also add sugar to tomato sauce, bread, and fruit juice for the same effect.
Even health foods (that are packaged) have additives to make them taste better and become more addictive. Sometimes companies do it because it saves them money (like with high fructose corn syrup). But sometimes it’s purely to increase the “addiction factor.”
Below I profile six ingredients commonly added to food that may be negatively affecting your health. Avoid them if you can!
#1 – High Fructose Corn Syrup
Sugar is added to virtually everything to make it taste better. But since sugar consumption is known to be a main driver of the obesity epidemic occurring all over the world (and people are avoiding it), sugar companies have gotten smart.
They recruited something called “high fructose corn syrup.” And then they started running commercials trying to convince you that high fructose corn syrup is the exact same as sugar (it isn’t).
In reality, high fructose corn syrup is used for a few reasons:
- It isn’t called sugar, so ignorant consumers buy it and consume it,
- It’s actually cheaper to buy than sugar, and:
- It’s sweeter than sugar
High fructose corn syrup is most definitely not sugar though.
For example, in one study scientists gave people a beverage that was sweetened with either glucose or fructose. The drink was 25% of their daily total calories, and they were told to drink it for 10 weeks to see if there would be any differences in weight/fat gain.
At the end of the study, the weight gain was similar in the two groups, but what was interesting was that only the fructose group had numerous other negative effects, including:
- Fat synthesis in the liver
- Increase triglyceride levels
- Increased levels of half a dozen bio-markers of heart disease
The majority of these other negative affects are all early indicators of heart disease. Not good!
The research thus far is clearly showing that this is most definitely not the same as sugar.
Sneaky additive #1: High Fructose Corn Syrup.
#2 – Added Salt
There’s an incredible book called Sugar, Fat and Salt that talks about how in the food industry (particularly the fast food/junk industry), sugar, fat and salt are added to virtually everything to increase the addictive potential of them.
Unfortunately, many packaged foods have added salt, ranging from crackers, to candy, to bread and even certain fruity alcohols.
Sometimes you think you’re eating a healthy snack like crackers or soup, and you’re getting your daily intake of sodium in one snack.
A company that recently came under fire for this is Campbell’s. Their delicious chicken soup is marketed as if it’s grandma’s home-cooked chunky soup, but it’s loaded with salt.
Note: this bowl of Campbell’s soup already has reduced sodium, and one bowl of it still has about 40% of your daily sodium intake. These aren’t big bowls either.
Watch out for foods that are ordinarily healthy, but have lots of added salt. It’s a cheap way to make food taste better.
Sneaky additive #2: Added salt in health foods.
#3 – The “100% All Natural” Claim
“All natural” is a very sneaky label. I don’t know how the laws work in other countries, but in the United States, “100% all natural” doesn’t mean anything and the Food And Drug Administration doesn’t regulate it. That means that companies can get away with a lot of sneakiness.
I’ll give you an example.
Snapple is a popular drink that proudly displays the “100% all natural” logo on it.
Is it really all natural? Actually yes. But all natural gives you the feeling that it’s totally okay for you can consume as much as you want, and you’ll be fine.
In reality, Snapple has an insane amount of added sugar: a whopping 46g in one bottle. Believe me when I say that’s a lot of sugar – it’s actually more than a 12 oz can of Coca Cola, which has 39 g of sugar.
So technically companies can get away with saying “100% all natural” making you think that if you’re diabetic, overweight, or on a diet, you can just eat these all day and you’ll be eating healthy foods. Not true! Make sure to verify that there isn’t added sugar.
Sneaky additive #3: Sugar in “100% all natural” foods or drinks.
#4 – The “Packed With Antioxidants” Claim
The other day I was walking around the grocery store and was shocked to find well-known junk foods claiming to be “packed with antioxidants.”
Apparently (in the United States – I’m not sure about other countries) if food has a certain amount of added vitamin C (which is an antioxidant), it can claim to be a “good source of antioxidants” even if it’s a known junk food.
Let me give you an example:
“Good source of antioxidant vitamins C & E.”
I’ve found the same label on sugared up fake fruit snacks, packaged fruits, and other juice-flavored things marketed towards children.
You already know most of these foods probably aren’t the ones you should be eating – so don’t get sucked in if you see a food that might be healthy claiming it has great antioxidants.
Usually if a food naturally is good for you, you don’t need a label telling you that.
Sneaky claim #4: “Good source of antioxidants.”
#5 – Alternative Sugars
Since people know they shouldn’t be eating so much sugar, and people started avoiding sugar, food companies got smart and they started using other sweeteners so that they could avoid putting “sugar” on the label.
For example, you might buy a box of crackers in the market thinking that you’re getting a healthy snack, and you see some of the following on the label:
- brown rice syrup
- barley malt
- fruit juice concentrate
- corn syrup
These are all sneaky ways to sweeten whatever you’re eating without you realizing that you’re consuming sugar… since sugar is not listed on the package.
Keep your eyes peeled for other sweeteners that aren’t called sugar, but are sugar. Usually they’re high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, or some kind of molasses/brown rice syrup.
Sneaky additive #5: Alternative forms of sugar added. Sugar without the name “sugar.”
#6 – The “Made With Whole Grains” Claim
A few years ago, there was a massive movement towards encouraging people to eat more whole grains, and avoid the “white” stuff like white bread and white sugar. Although this was a great piece of advice and a great movement, food companies also caught on and introduced something new.
For example, if you see “made with whole grains” on the package of whatever you’re eating, you feel like you’re eating a health food that is made from whole grains, right?
Well, this isn’t necessarily true. All that it means is that whole grains are somewhere in there, but it’s not necessarily entirely whole grains (Which is probably what you’re thinking).
Sometimes you end up just eating bleached (white) flour that has been “enriched” with nutrients or has some whole grains added.
The guaranteed way to get food made from whole grains is by checking the label: the first ingredient should say “100% whole grain.”
Sneaky additive #6: Has whole grains, but isn’t entirely made of whole grains.
“So Do I Need to Read Food Labels?” NO — Here’s What to do Instead
Back in some of the previous health posts I’ve talked about, I mentioned the “king” rule: just focus on eating real food.
Foods that are obviously plants or animals, or otherwise look like they come from this planet, are real food. That also means avoiding eating boxed stuff as much as possible.
When you eat real, fresh foods, you end up bypassing all the bad stuff – added sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, and the many other things used to make food taste better.
When you focus on just eating real food, it becomes easy – no need to read labels, Google the name of an ingredient, or ponder whether or not to buy something.
How About You?
Have you been misled by a food or food label thinking it was healthy? Time to focus real food instead!
About the Author: Alexander runs Modern Health Monk, a site that shows people how to reverse health problems caused by 21st century life. Check out his free weight-loss crash course, or recent article on fixing neck and shoulder pain for office workers.