Harmful Food Ingredients to Avoid at all Costs

By Michael A. Smith, MD

In this economy, it’s even harder to eat healthy. Food prices are going up and our dollars are being stretched to their maximum. For many of us, organic, fresh foods don’t always fit in our budgets and pre-packaged foods are simply more affordable.

But before you purchase anything pre-packaged, please do this: Look at your food labels. If you identify any of the ingredients listed in this post, find something else to eat. It may mean spending more time at your local grocery store, but in the long run your body will thank you.

Where to Look on Nutrition Labels

First, you need to know where to look on the label for these harmful artificial chemicals and fake fats. Below is an example of a food label. In most cases, the top part of the label contains the general nutritional information. Start here so you know the basic breakdown of the food you’re about to purchase and ultimately eat.

The five areas to look for are serving size; calories from fat; macronutrient information (fat, protein and carbohydrates); micronutrient information (vitamins and minerals); and then the daily total calories you should eat from fat, protein and carbohydrates. Notice that in addition to all of the calorie information, you also need to look at the laundry list of ingredients that follows it.

Next, following the general nutritional information, are the ingredients. This is what you need to look at before you buy anything you plan on eating. This is where harmful ingredients can be identified.

Harmful Food Ingredients to Avoid

Now let’s get down to business. Avoid the following harmful ingredients as much as possible. It’s not easy, but fortunately more and more companies are manufacturing processed and pre-packaged foods without them.

Please note that this list is NOT exhaustive. These are just the ingredients that we know for sure are harmful to your health. For a more complete listing of harmful ingredients, you can visit the Whole Foods market website.

  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin
  • Acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium)
  • Ammonium chloride
  • Azodicarbonamide
  • Benzoates
  • BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Brominated vegetable oil
  • Calcium saccharin
  • Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
  • Cyclamates
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Ethoxyquin
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Hydrogenated fats
  • Methyl silicon
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Nitrates/nitrites
  • Partially hydrogenated oil
  • Polydextrose
  • Potassium benzoate
  • Propylparaben
  • Sodium sulfite
  • Sulfites (sulfur dioxide)
  • TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA
The best thing to do is write out this list or print out the post and carry it with you when shopping. Does this sound like too much work? It may be, but it’s probably worth it.

Below is a list of companies that generally offer healthy pre-packaged foods. However, don’t buy their products blindly. We still suggest checking their labels for harmful ingredients. You just never know.

Healthy Pre-Packaged Foods

Support these labels. They’re producing healthier food choices for you and your family. Yes, the cost maybe a little higher, but your health is worth it, isn’t it?

  • Annie's
  • Amy’s
  • Fantastic Foods
  • Hain-Celestial Group
  • Kallari
  • Morningstar Farms
  • Simply Fit
  • Whole Foods Market Brand
Do you know of any healthy brands that didn’t make our list? Share them with us in the comments below.


Caroline Andrews said...

Trader Joe's products also tend to be good. They don't carry products with HFCS. I checked a box of Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers, and none of the above ingredients are on the label.

Anonymous said...

Morning star has all kinds of harmful ingredients including a list of many forms of processed soy products that can damage our health.

Nutrition, Medicine, and Disease said...

We should avoid BPA too, used in cans.

Anonymous said...

Cascadian Farms is another trustworthy brand when it comes to cereals and snacks.

Anonymous said...

What about Kashi?

Life Extension said...

The list is not exhaustive. So let's mentally add Kashi. :)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

To Anonymous that would love to know,

Think of it this way, If you owned and/or had investments in Oil companies (The source of all these petroleum-based chemicals), Chemical Companies (Making the pesticides for growing the food in volume from the petrol-chemicals), Agra-business (making the money growing the food using these poisons), and subsequently, Pharmaceutical Companies (So called "Inventing" petro-chemical cures and beam rays for the ailments being caused upstream), would you not continue this practice? Surely you would when you noodle the trillions of dollars these industries represent, none of which are mission-critical to the existence of humans on earth.

It's a good thing going..

Anonymous said...

This list has foods that contain known GMO FOODS! tisk tisk! NOT healthy!

Anonymous said...

I love Kashii but choose not to eat it, they do not list if theie food contains GMO. I want to add Wolfgang Puck to the list, all organic and shows on 'NON GMO'

Anonymous said...

avoid canola oil @ all costs! made from gmo rapeseed oil. it cuts down on cellular tmp by plasticising the cell membrane.

Christine Eubanks said...

I think most GMO products contains these list of ingredients, so unhealthy!

Anonymous said...

Morning Star Farms should not be listed as healthy. check the ingredients!

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous- Thanks for your feedback. Any particular ingredient you're concerned about in MorningStar Farms?

Anonymous said...

Why recommend Hain-Celestial Group when they are in bed with Monsanto, which is probably the worlds most corrupt and destructive group of people, besides our government, big oil (or all all "power companies" for that matter), and the pharmaceutical industry. Hain-Celestial Group also places carrageenan in their soy milk, which is not healthy, and soy, period, has recently been known to be extremely bad for young men.

All of these brands may provide some healthier alternative, BUT BUT BUT, like nearly any company they only care about their bottom dollar. You really can't trust anyone but yourself, your gut, and what you learn.

Anonymous said...

the very people who own everything want a smaller population to manage...thats why they are systematically poisoning our food and water and giving us "flu" shots and want to disarm the people. Remember information is the most powerful weapon..and politicains prefer unarmed peasants...so you wonder why there is a 'dumbing down' of Americans, GMO's in our foods, a move against the 2nd ammendmaent, a lack of ......look up the Georgia Guidestones....Youtube Money Masters...these are not conspiracy theories....just do the math...sad to be a messenger...

Sidhe said...

Morningstar is owned by Kellogg and has 2 different versions of their product. One you find in health food stores most likely is healthy, but check the ingredients. The other version is sold in most grocery store chains and can contain Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Artifical Flavors

Modified Corn Starch


Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Disodium Guanylate and Inosinate

Modified Food Starch

Calcium Propionate


Always check the ingredients, even in trusted sources. Big companies buy out little ones all the time and you may not hear about it right away. Also Kashi was a big supporter of not labelling products that are GMO'd in California. Their food contains a lot of processed soy... sounds kind of murky since Monsanto is the leader in GMO'd soy.

LifeExtension said...

Unknown- Thanks for your feedback! It's definitely important to always check the label.

Anonymous said...

I buy NOTHING that is pre-packaged. I buy organic fruits and vegetables and for cooking, I use a Fagor ptessure cooker and cook beans, rice or pearl barley.

Anonymous said...

MorningStar foods are highly processed and should be eaten only in moderation.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - You can't go wrong with avoiding pre-packaged foods! Thanks for reading. :)

Unknown said...

Shocking that food is no longer just food, but one big chemical compound!!

Kimberly said...

Just when I think I might purchase a packaged baked good at the grocery store, I read the mile long ingredients, mostly names I never heard of and it frighten's me that I can not identify all of them. So, I end up putting it back thinking I better make something at home and I do... It never used to be this bad and it is wrong that our food has become something we can not identify!

Unknown said...

At B'more Organic make products with no preservatives or added sugar. Our only ingredients are organic skim milk, organic fruit puree, organic flavor extract and organic stevia. For more information visit: www.BmoreOrganic.com

LifeExtension said...

Kimberly - If you can't identify the names, it's probably a good idea to skip the food item! We're glad you're using a common sense approach to nutrition. :)

Anonymous said...

Not to mention fast food joints that are poisoning our kids, HFCS, parabens in health care products, and can someone tell me why canned goods need a shelf life of 3-5 years, please, I started a healthy eating lifestyle 15 months ago and lost 56 lbs. eat mostly a plant based diet organic fruits and veggies, but not vegetarian, and cut way down on meats, eat some fish, some chicken. I make my own kim chee, and grew my first organic veggie garden last summer, which I sprouted all my plants from organic seeds, grow sprouts and have added hemp, chia and flax seeds to my diet, there is alot of good info out there, its a big committment but I want a fighting chance at living a long life without being a burden to my kids, family. plus I am 53 and ride my bicycle on a regular basis and always have, healthy eating, exercise and good night sleep are the foundation to a long life, Ciao..

Anonymous said...

Just saying... :)

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Thanks for sharing your personal experience. Plant based diets are definitely the way to go. Keep up the good work!

botox said...

It's really appreciating article.I used to search for these sort of article always.Thanks for sharing your creative writing abilities.

LifeExtension said...

botox - Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

My first day to research about unhealthy chemicals in food after a neighbor warned me of processed foods. Thank you everyone for your posts as I read each one I learned more. I don't know how to change meals in my families menu quite yet, but I will definitely be paying closer attention to what I buy.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - When in doubt keep your meals plant-based and avoid processed foods. That will help a lot!

Anonymous said...

Bragg's ....... They're really good even though their product line is not extensive.

Anonymous said...

I love Fig Food Company - but Whole Foods recently discontinued it.


Sharon Boyer said...

I have found Boulder Natural Food Company, from Boulder, Colorado products that are organic, nonGMO and very tasty. They also give part of their profits to help keep America's Rivers Clean. Of all places, I found them at Garden Ridge. I've asked my local Whole Foods if they can get them and intend on asking my grocery store to stock them, too.

LifeExtension said...

Sharon Boyer - Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

You listed Morningstar Farms as one of the safer companies. Morningstar uses TBHQ in their veggie bacon.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned Morningstar Farms as one of the safer companies. But once the cousin of my dog's previous trainer's ex-employer's friend's newspaper delivery boy's teacher's friend's friend's friend tried one of their products at a church gathering and then several weeks later reported having slept a little less well than usual the previous night. I'm concerned that this may be glaring proof that the owners of this company may in fact be Pure Distilled Evil.

vlc said...

Something I'm really puzzled about. Beetroot juice and vegetable juice in general is prized in part for their high levels of dietary nitrate. Improves blood flow, etc. etc.
But we avoid foods like delicious duck pate, chorizo and salami because the Contain nitrates.
Can someone please explain this contradiction?

Life Extension said...

vlc- Good question. Both processed meats and veggies contain nitrates. What makes deli meat dangerous is their content of nitrosamine (cancer-causing). This is a compound that forms when amino acids and nitrates chemically react in high heat. This process happens in deli meats because of the way they are processed and rarely happens in vegetables because they rarely get exposed to high heat. In addition vegetables contain compounds like vitamin C that inhibit nitrosamine formation.

Anne Hunter said...

I regularly buy products by Enjoy Life. Their line includes snack foods free of harmful additives and preservatives.

Gatorgrad2001 said...

I would add carrageenan to the list.

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