Are you carefully reading your food’s nutrition labels? Many foods, even the ones marketed as healthy food, contain ingredients you should be avoiding. Today we are covering the top 11 ingredients you should avoid on food nutrition labels. Here we go!
This additive is a stabilizing and emulsifying agent found in many food products. Carrageenan is extracted from seaweed and processed with alkaline substances. Unfortunately, carrageenan can cause digestive problems, such as bloating, irritable bowel disease (IBD), and inflammation. While FDA approved, there is much debate on if it’s truly safe to eat.
2. Artificial Colors
Included but not limited to flavorings on nutrition labels that say ”red 40, caramel color, yellow 6”. As you can guess from the name, they are artificially made and come with various side effects. Some dietitians suggest they can cause serious side effects like cancer, allergies, and even hyperactivity. At Real Food Bar, we’re all about natural ingredients and believe these are probably a sign the product is highly processed and not good for you.
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup is cheaper and sweeter than sugar, making it a popular ingredient. However, it’s an ingredient you should avoid. Only your liver can process high fructose syrups, which overloads the liver. The overload is very damaging and can lead to liver disease. Consuming too much of this sweet additive can also lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
4. Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMOs)
IMOs are a mixture of short-chain carbohydrates often called high maltose. Your body can’t fully break them down in the digestion process. Because of this, it commonly causes digestive issues and can also spike your blood sugar.
5. Sugar Alcohols
It is a prevalent ingredient commonly used to help reduce sugar in foods while still providing a sweet taste. However, our bodies can’t fully digest them because they are artificial. Digesting sugar alcohols commonly leads to painful gas, bloating, stomach pain, and even high blood sugar. So if you’re going to have sugar keep it real, eat it in moderation, and keep it under 25 grams a day!
Common Sugar alcohols:
- Erythritol - Manufactured since 1990, Erythritol has only 6% of sugars calories but a similar sweetness. Erythritol side effects typically include digestive problems and diarrhea. It may also cause bloating, cramps, and gas.
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) - A mixture of polyhydric alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol. It’s an artificial product and doesn’t occur naturally in fruit or vegetables. HSH is known to have a laxative effect.
- Isomalt - An odorless white crystalline that tastes like sugar but a little bit less sweet. It may prove upsetting to the intestinal tract because it is incompletely absorbed in the small intestine, and when it passes into the large intestine, HSH can cause many gut problems.
- Lactitol - This sugar alcohol is a replacement bulk sweetener for low-calorie foods with 30–40% of the sweetness of sucrose. It is also used medically as a laxative.
- Maltitol - Maltitol mimics the sweetness of sugar well, with fewer calories. Maltitol is often in gum, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Because it is a carbohydrate, it’s on the glycemic index, affecting blood glucose, and can even cause weight gain. Like many sugar alcohols, it isn’t wholly digestible and can cause stomach pain, gas, and a laxative in some people.
- Mannitol - This sugar alcohol is found naturally in fresh mushrooms, tree bark, and most fruits and vegetables. It’s also manufactured commercially and in many confections and chewing gum. It has a unique cooling taste and texture. However, when you overeat Mannitol, it can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort. Therefore, products with this food nutrition label ingredient often come with a warning label about potential laxative effects.
- Sorbitol - Sorbitol is naturally occurring in apples, dates, berries, and other fruits manufactured from corn syrup. The corn syrup variety is used in package foods to help provide sweetness. It is often in sugar-free foods marketed to people with diabetes. However, it commonly causes diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea because your body can’t fully digest it.
6. Whey Protein
Whey protein is heavily processed and often has unsafe toxins in it. In addition, Protein powders aren’t regulated by the FDA. So if you aren’t entirely sure how the protein is created or what it contains, it’s best to avoid it!
On top of unsafe toxins, avoid this common food nutrition label ingredient if you have any dairy allergies or sensitivities. Whey is derived from dairy and has lactose. Diary will lead to uncomfortable digestive issues for anyone with sensitivities.
7. Oils to Avoid On Food Nutrition Labels
Oils are a common nutrition label ingredient. Some include trans fat, hydrogenated oils, and too many saturated fats. So when you are reading your nutrition labels, look for high-quality oils made from healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and avoid the oils below.
Canola Oil - This oil is sourced from GMO crops. Canola Oil also known as rapeseed oil. It’s heavily processed and has no nutritional value.
Corn Oil - This highly refined popular oil can damage your liver and is high in omega 6. It is also known as maize oil and is created from GMO crops.
Soybean Oil - According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soybean Oil is the most widely produced and consumed vegetable oil in the United States. This is not good! UC Riverside found that soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes but it could also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression.
Vegetable Oil - Vegetable oil is a mix of oils. Linoleic acid is the primary fatty acid found in vegetable oil, an omega-6 fat. The mixture of oils and high volume of omega-6 is what makes vegetable oil a nutritional label ingredient to avoid.
Palm Oil - This oil is very high in saturated fat, which can cause heart problems. Palm oil is also a significant driver of deforestation and farming. It is awful for the environment. The BBC reported Palm oil production is responsible for about 8% of the world's deforestation between 1990 and 2008.
8. Natural Flavors
Many packaged goods, including bars, sauces, and drinks, contain natural flavors to enhance flavors and improve food taste. These flavors can even be addicting. So why are they called natural? They are derived from a natural source (a plant or animal) and then mixed with different ingredients, including chemicals and solvents.
Brands aren’t required to put what’s in the natural flavor on their nutrition labels, so they are best to avoid.
Inulin is a type of prebiotic extracted from a chicory root to help boost the fiber count in products. If you consume too much Inulin, it can do the reverse of promoting healthy digestion, creating discomfort and gas. Some people seem to be more sensitive to inulin than other types of fiber.
Fiber is essential so instead of inulin, look for foods that contain easily digestible fibers made from whole foods instead!
10. Guar Gum
Guar gum is a long-chain carbohydrate commonly found in ice cream, sauces, and soups. Guar gum binds or thickens foods. Some studies have shown guar gum can help you feel full and eat less. But some studies show guar gum to have adverse effects on your body. Too much can swell up and block your esophagus. Scary! To prevent this, the FDA placed strict guidelines on how much of this ingredient can be added to foods to reduce the risk of harmful side effects.
11. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is a popular additive that acts as a stabilizer or thickener. It’s not only found in food. You can also find this ingredient in insecticides, toilet bowl cleaners, and adhesives in wallpaper! It’s made from fermented sugar that creates a glue-like substance that is dried and turned into powder. It’s lab-made, and your body can’t break it down. It can cause digestive issues and alter your gut bacteria.
Key Takeaways: What to Avoid on Nutrition Labels
- Not all nutrition label ingredients are created equally. Avoid manufactured ingredients and additives when possible.
- Look for food nutrition labels with good for you ingredients that are easy to understand
- Ingredients made from natural foods are better for you and easier to digest!
Are you looking for a better snack with a nutrition label that checks all these boxes? Then check out our Real Food Bar plant based protein bars! Our bars contain only real ingredients, and we are proud to carry certifications such as Non-GMO project verified and USDA Smart Snacks Compliant!