Ultimate Guide to Health – What Ingredients Should Be Avoided

As we become busier and busier, we tend to reach for a bowl of cereal, a frozen meal, or a granola bar. While this is easier, it is certainly not healthier. Food has become as on the go as we are. What makes this a concern is when we don’t know what we’re putting in our bodies.

person holding a healthier snack, pomegranates
Pomegranates are safe unless you’re Persephone – source

Preservatives, chemicals, additives, and other ingredients aren’t always the best.

Studies have found that some of these ingredients can harm the gut microbiome, leading to more nutrition deficits and illness. Some have even been outlawed in parts of the world like the European Union.

But with so many ingredients added, some I can’t even pronounce, how do you find out what’s safe, and what’s harmful?

Look no further. Being healthier does not have to be difficult, check out this complete guide to ingredients.

Additives to Avoid to be Healthier

Additives are usually things to make food look or taste better, but some are extremely detrimental to health!


Bromates are found in many baked goods and bread. This causes many stomach problems and may lower the level of nutrient absorption in the food product. Many animal studies have linked it to kidney damage and cancer.

It is illegal in the European Union, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Nigeria, remaining legal in the US.

Trans Fat (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil)

This is a type of unsaturated fat that undergoes hydrogenation. This process puts vegetable fats under extremely high pressure, creating trans fatty acids.

Baked goods, popcorn, bread, and many other foods may contain it. Trans fat is linked to inflammation and heart disease. Many studies also link trans fat to diabetes.

Artificial Coloring

Food dyes have been used to brighten the appearance of food to make it look more pleasing to eat. However, studies have found that some such as Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, have been associated with allergic reactions.

There is also a concern with food dyes and hyperactivity in children.

Red 3 increases the risk of thyroid cancer, though it has been replaced with Red 40 in most foods.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

This is a common food additive used to enhance flavor. It is found in many canned goods, frozen dinners, and savory snacks.

MSG consumption has been associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome, like insulin resistance, but this may not be due to MSG directly. MSG itself is just used to enhance the taste of flavor, making you crave the food more. This may lead to overeating food that is not too healthy. Many food companies make processed foods using this ingredient to make food more addicting.

Some people have reported feeling adverse reactions such as headaches and sweating, but these have no evidence and may just be anecdotal.

Mono and Diglycerides

This is an additive found in many food items such as sauces, peanut butter, margarine, candies, desserts, sauces, jams, and frozen foods.

This ingredient has been linked to cancer and birth defects and should be avoided when possible.

rBGH and rBST 

This is a hormone that is used to increase milk production in cows.

This boosts levels of insulin-like growth factor, which has been associated with many cancers.

Companies are not required to disclose this however food without this ingredient will specifically say “No rBGH or rBST.”

Preservatives to Avoid to be Healthier

Here are all the things that make food last a long time, but that are harmful to the body. The healthier option would be avoided if possible.


This is an extremely common preservative used to extend the shelf life of many food items. It is found in carbonated drinks, dressing, fruit juices, and condiments.

Many studies have found side effects such as allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. One study found that when combined with vitamin C, benzoate can turn into a compound associated with cancer.


This is found in processed meats to prevent bacteria growth and add flavor and color. In high heat, these nitrates can transform into a compound that negatively affects health, such as leading to a high risk of cancer.


This is a preservative used in canned products, meat, beer, and many snacks.

This preservative has been thought to affect the nervous system and cause behavioral problems. It is also linked to the development of cancer.


Sulfites are used to keep fruits and vegetables from spoiling. This can cause allergies, and headaches, and has been linked to cancers.

Filler Ingredients to Avoid to Be Healthier

Fillers are used because they are cheap and taste good, but they usually don’t add any nutritional value and can even be bad for your overall wellbeing. Something like white sugar is often called empty calories because it offers no nutritional value.

While many fillers are not extremely detrimental, they certainly won’t make you healthier.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn used in sodas juice, candy, snacks, and cereal.

It contains high amounts of fructose, which causes serious health issues, such as weight gain and diabetes. This ingredient can even trigger inflammation in cells, leading to other illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Furthermore, it is made of empty calories with no nutritional benefit to the body.

Artificial Sweeteners

These are used in many diet foods and drinks to add sweetness and reduce calories. These include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium.

However, some have found adverse side effects such as headaches and a rise in blood sugar levels.

Check out this list of sugar substitutes that are safe and what to avoid today!

Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors are simply chemicals that mimic the taste of something else. Studies have found concerning effects, however.

For example, one animal study found that it reduces red blood cells and can have toxic effects on bone marrow cells.

Ingredients to be Mindful of

Here are some ingredients that aren’t bad, but should be noted, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system. Being healthier is not the same for everyone. While some can tolerate the ingredients below, others cannot.

Guar Gum

This is a fiber used to thicken food and has many health benefits associated, such as reducing irritable bowel syndrome. It may lower blood sugar and cholesterol too!

In high amounts, it can cause bloating and cramping though.

This ingredient is heavily regulated, with strict guidelines to prevent complications.

Xanthan Gum

This is a common ingredient used to thicken. It is completely fiber.

It contains health benefits, such as lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and increased fullness. However, in large amounts, it may lead to digestive problems. In food, it is well-regulated and will never reach high amounts.

But, if you experience any discomfort, limit or eliminate it!


This is a compound that comes from seaweed and is used to preserve and thicken food.

In animal studies, it has been found to trigger inflammation, raise blood sugar levels, and increase glucose intolerance.

The Takeaway

There are many ingredients in food, some of which have harmful effects on the body.

More research should be done on many of these preservatives and additives to ensure they are safe. For now, it is better to avoid them than regret consuming them later

Gut health in particular is damaged by many of these additives and as we know, gut health is vital to our wellbeing. We should always try to increase gut microbiota health, not lower it!

Be mindful of reading the nutritional label, watching out for ingredients to avoid, and trying to avoid added sugars, though they sneak in there from time to time. Being healthier can be easy with the right knowledge!

Let’s learn more about nutrition together and cultivate wellbeing one day at a time!

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