Top 15 Food Ingredients to Avoid – Part Two

It’s been really difficult to narrow the list of food ingredients to avoid down to just 15. That in itself is kind of scary. (I think I’ve found another bonus for you.) Since I switched to eating all organic foods at home and eating mostly fresh, homecooked foods (not a lot of processed food choices in our house), I guess I’ve taken the many food additives out there for granted. I don’t do much label reading anymore unless I’m eating somewhere besides home. I buy the same brands most of the time, so I don’t worry about what’s going into our bodies.
Two of the ingredients below, both preservatives used mostly in foods with lots of fat, I didn’t know much about until starting this research. It continually surprises me what the FDA rules as being safe for human consumption, for topical use on our skin and for medicines. I feel surprised, and then I feel angry. And then I feel so grateful that I know what I know, that I have the resources to keep learning, and that I’ve already made the decision that providing safe, clean food for my family is a top priority.
Now it’s my mission to teach others and hope that more and more people find out the truth about the food system in our country and start to make healthy changes for their families. I hope this series either confirms for you the choices you’ve already made in your life or inspires you in some way to start avoiding potentially harmful food ingredients now. One of my readers started checking her labels and found that one of her children’s favorite drinks contained aspartame. She’s putting an end to that and is finding alternatives. You can do it too! Start with the one ingredient that gets you fired up the most, and the snowball will start to roll!
Please remember to take a minute or two to write your comments below. I’d love to hear from you to know what you’re finding useful and what more you want to know.

Let’s dig into Part 2! The next three ingredients to avoid are:

BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole): This chemical is added to foods to help preserve fats and keep food from turning rancid.

BHA is shown to cause cancer in animals in high doses. There are enough animal studies to conclude that it is a carcinogen in humans. California’s Proposition 65 recognizes BHA as a carcinogen. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA may contribute to cancer and tumor growth.

BHA has mimicked the hormonal actions of estrogen. Some studies have found that BHA can produce allergic reactions and affect liver and kidney function. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances lists BHA as a suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, and respiratory toxicant. The Japanese National Institute of Health Sciences’ World Wildlife Fund lists BHA as a suspected endocrine toxicant. The Relational Database of Hazardous Chemicals and Occupational Diseases lists BHA as a suspected immunotoxicant and skin or sense organ toxicant.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): This chemical, like BHA, is used as a preservative in cereals and snack foods.
BHT is a known human immune system toxicant.

In the 1970s, Benjamin Feingold, a San Francisco MD who established the Feingold diet, claimed that BHT could produce hyperactivity in some children. The US has banned it from being used in baby food because of its potential association with hyperactivity in children. It’s also banned from food in Japan, Romania, Swede, and Australia.

Some food companies have voluntarily eliminated BHT from their products. Since the 1970s it has been steadily replaced with BHA (see above). Some foods labeled as “no preservatives” or “no preservatives added” actually contain BHT that was present in the ingredients used to make the product but which does not require disclosure on the label.

Like BHA, the same chemical properties which make it an excellent preservative may also cause cancer and tumors.
In addition, certain persons may have difficulty metabolizing both BHA and BHT, resulting in health and behavior changes.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): This highly processed liquid sweetener and preservative consists mainly of glucose and is a common ingredient in food and drinks.

It’s true that high-fructose corn syrup is not sweeter than table sugar and that they are equal in calories. Recently however, a Princeton University research team demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats consuming high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those consuming table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. As discussed in Part One, increased waist size is a risk factor for heart disease and type-2 diabetes. High levels of triglycerides are also linked to heart problems and obesity.

According to two recent U.S. studies, almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient. One study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy explained that a compound known as caustic soda, which is used to separate the corn starch from the kernel, can be tainted with mercury, and there’s no way for you to know whether the caustic soda used was contaminated.
So go ahead and add BHA, BHT and high-fructose corn syrup to your list of food ingredients to avoid (for when you’re ready to begin). I urge you to start now, three ingredients at a time. If that’s too much at once, begin with ONE. Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think and feel about all of this. Let’s get a conversation started!

7 Responses to “Top 15 Food Ingredients to Avoid – Part Two”

  • kathy beckes:

    Thank you for the info you’ve provided us. It is very helpful, and very encouraging! Any chance, you could list your healthy grocery list to save us all a ton of time.

  • hannahn:

    Thank you for bringing up the accumulation of poisons. It is possible to clean our bodies too. There are numerous easy detox diets that can help us remove many toxins from our bodies. Simply adding high quality milk thistle as a supplement in your daily life can help your liver a lot.
    Eating healthy is a balancing act for sure. One way to help ourselves is to be really good planners when it comes to meals. A good habit to get into when making meals from scratch is to make double what you’d normally eat. Then you can save it in the refrigerator to eat for another meal in a couple days or freeze it for a meal in the coming weeks. If you we can manage to do this a couple times a week, it’ll help us so much with our precious time.
    Thanks again, Joan!

  • Joan F:

    I would like to encourage switching to a healthy lifestyle sooner rather than later. I agree that we’re probably not dealing with an emergency here. But the “so far, so good” approach can be harmful when we’re dealing with poisons that accumulate. As a senior, I am challenged by cumulative harm from eating habits in my past. It’s such a balancing act, when you have to make it through the day (putting food on the table) while avoiding what our culture offers so abundantly, inexpensively, and with the misguided full approval of our government.

  • hannahn:

    Thanks, Alli! I’m so happy to hear that this blog has inspired you. It sounds like you’re already doing a lot to keep your family healthy! Good for you! I think there’s always something more we can do even when we’re doing a bunch already. I’d LOVE to have you come out to the farm!

  • Alli Mitchell:


    Really appreciate your blog. I work so hard to keep my family from eating nonfood items…but they are in everything. I always catch myself saying I can do a lot but I can’t do it all. Your blog has convinced me it is time to step it up…the cheat, easy on the run food is unnecessary…just need to plan ahead a little more. Would love to come out and see your farm when I am in VT this summer.


  • Anonymous:

    [...] fresh as much as possible. Check out her blog and their farm’s website for more great info.  Top 15 Ingredients to Avoid Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  • Anonymous:

    [...] This is a great post from my friend Hannah.   If you are wanting some more honest facts about the ingredients in our food then this is a great article for you.  Now, I would not panic, I am fairly certain my daughter eats food with many of the ingredients listed here.  Like in all things, moderation is the key and at the very least, we all of the right to make fully informed decisions about the food we eat!!  For me, it’s another reason to go local and fresh as much as possible. Check out her blog and their farm’s website for more great info.  Top 15 Ingredients to Avoid [...]

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