Not every nutrition label you’ll encounter has been written with the candor of a biotech conglomerate, or the sincerity of its legal department.
Dave Zinczenko, co-author of Eat This, Not That!, shows that red flags are often right there on the label, for all to see. Avoid these ingredients like your life depended on it, he advises (because it very well may):
BHA: “This preservative is used to prevent rancidity in foods that contain oils. Unfortunately, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) has been shown to cause cancer in rats, mice, and hamsters. The reason the FDA hasn’t banned it is largely technical — the cancers all occurred in the rodents’ forestomachs, an organ that humans don’t have. Nevertheless, the study, published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, concluded that BHA was ‘reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen,’ and as far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to eliminate it from your diet. You’ll find it in: Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles.”
Parabens: “These synthetic preservatives are used to inhibit mold and yeast in food. The problem is parabens may also disrupt your body’s hormonal balance. A study in Food Chemical Toxicology found that daily ingestion decreased sperm and testosterone production in rats, and parabens have been found present in breast cancer tissues. You’ll find it in: Baskin-Robbins sundaes.”
Partially Hydrogenated Oil: “I’ve harped on this before, but it bears repeating: Don’t confuse ‘0 g trans fat’ with being trans fat-free. The FDA allows products to claim zero grams of trans fat as long as they have less than half a gram per serving. That means they can have 0.49 grams per serving and still be labeled a no-trans-fat food. Considering that two grams is the absolute most you ought to consume in a day, those fractions can quickly add up. The telltale sign that your snack is soiled with the stuff? Look for partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient statement. If it’s anywhere on there, then you’re ingesting artery-clogging trans fat. You’ll find it in: Long John Silver’s Popcorn Shrimp, Celeste frozen pizzas.”
Sodium Nitrite: “Nitrites and nitrates are used to inhibit botulism-causing bacteria and to maintain processed meats’ pink hues, which is why the FDA allows their use. Unfortunately, once ingested, nitrite can fuse with amino acids (of which meat is a prime source) to form nitrosamines, powerful carcinogenic compounds. Ascorbic and erythorbic acids — essentially vitamin C — have been shown to decrease the risk, and most manufacturers now add one or both to their products, which has helped. Still, the best way to reduce risk is to limit your intake. You’ll find it in: Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Hormel bacon.”
More in our next post.