Since I’ve had my daughter in 2005, I am becoming more aware of what is in our food. You would think that if an ingredient was in our food, it would be safe. Well it’s not and we are all eating these ingredients not knowing what we are feeding ourselves as well, as our kids. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has come up with a list of the Dirty Dozen that we should avoid.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen Ingredients:
1. Nitrites and Nitrates
Nitrites and nitrates, often added to cured meats, including hot dogs, sausages, and lunch meats, made the EWG’s list because they are classified as probable human carcinogens when ingested.
2. Potassium Bromate
Used to help dough rise during baking, potassium bromate really has no business in your bread because it has been declared a carcinogen. Toxic to kidneys and shown to cause DNA damage, small but still detectable amounts have been found in finished bread products. Both the United Kingdom and Canada ban the use of potassium bromate in food.
3. Propyl Paraben
Used as a preservative in things like tortillas, muffins, and food dyes, this ingredient is a hormone-disrupting chemical. It’s a testosterone killer and has been shown to decrease sperm counts in animal studies. A 2001 study also found that propyl paraben accelerates the growth of breast cancer. More recently, a 2013 study found it damages female fertility.
4. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Hiding out in all sorts of foods, including chips and preserved meats, the National Toxicology Program classifies BHA as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
5. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
EWG says rats fed BHT has developed lung and liver tumors. BHT has also been shown to cause developmental effects and thyroid changes in animals, suggesting that it may be able to disrupt endocrine signaling.
6. Propyl Gallate
Another problematic preservative used in fats like sausage and lard, this ingredient is linked to rare brain tumors in rat studies. Some studies suggest it disrupts normal hormone functioning, too.
The creator of this ingredient, sometimes used in baked goods, used a government loophole to deem the new ingredient safe, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even know if the ingredient is truly safe.
8. Secret Flavor Ingredients
“The truth is that when you see the word ‘flavor’ on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term. Secret flavors can also contain solvents, preservatives, or other questionable ingredients. (Even “natural flavors” can contain synthetic chemicals, including solvents. Certified-organic “natural flavors” cannot, though.) To avoid these, choose fresh, organic whole foods as much as possible.
9. Artificial Colors
Completely unnecessary and used for cosmetic purposes only, artificial colors in food aren’t worth the risk. Some caramel colors are contaminated with cancer-causing 4-methylimidazole, while others are linked to hyperactivity in children.
which sometimes shows up as butter flavoring on microwave popcorn labels, is linked to a severe and irreversible occupational respiratory condition that can cause scarring in the lungs. In fact, former workers at microwave popcorn plants have such damaged lungs, they are on wait lists for lung transplants.
11. Phosphate-Based Food Additives
Often found in highly processed foods and baked goods, phosphates are among the most common food additives. That’s upsetting, given their ability to damage the kidneys and other organs, particularly the heart.
12. Aluminum-Based Additives
Aluminum builds up in the body, particularly your bones, and could trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
To help find healthier foods in the supermarket, use EWG’s newly released Food Scores database and mobile app. The database houses information on more than 80,000 foods and 5,000 ingredients from about 1,500 brands.
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