Here’s something you may or may not know: the use of the word “natural” in the food industry has absolutely no credentials whatsoever. It can be used to virtually describe anything that can be found on grocery store shelves.
It is extremely misleading, however, as when you hear the word, you want to believe that these products are unaltered by humans, and are as close to nature and as healthy as possible. Of course, marketing experts are aware of this and unfortunately use your good intentions to their selling advantage.
Products that are described as natural often contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), toxic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, processed sugars, concentrated sweeteners, and the list goes on. Do any of those ingredients sound natural to you? Below are the top nine disgusting chemicals that are in your food that’s commonly labeled as natural.
1. Coal Tar
Processed foods often contain many different types of dye to change the colours to something that is more appealing to the eye. You may have seen the ingredient called tatrazine on ingredient labels; this is a dye that is derived from coal tar. This is an industrial waste derived food colouring and is also often known as yellow #5. Interestingly, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, mixtures that contain more than 5% of this natural ingredient, crude coal, are considered group 1 carcinogens.
Carrageenan is a very commonly used ingredient, often found in dairy products, but also in milk alternatives. It is used most in products that are considered natural to hold the ingredients together, or thicken them. Carrageenan is derived from seaweeds, which doesn’t sound so bad, but the side effects from consuming too much of this ingredient can lead to inflammation, arteriosclerosis, and potentially inflammatory bowel disease. Be sure to read the ingredient label carefully as even many organic products contain carrageenan.
3. Beaver Anal Glands
Yes. You read that right. The “natural flavouring” that is often found in strawberry, raspberry, or vanilla flavored treats actually comes from the anal glands of the beaver. This additive is FDA approved and is labeled as “natural flavour” on ingredient lists. The actual name for this ingredient is Castoreum, which originates from female and male castor sacs. Who would have thought the anal glands of a beaver could taste so sweet?
4. Boiled Beetles
Again, yes. I know, its disgusting but beetles are actually a very common ingredient in many processed foods. They are either crushed, dried, or boiled eggs or wings of beetles that are then used to produce food colouring, again to make the product look more appetizing to the consumer. Funny, because if the consumer knew, I think the consensus would be to leave this product out altogether and sacrifice what is typically considered aesthetically pleasing. This beetle juice is referred to on ingredient labels as carmine. Purple, pink, orange, and red food colouring can all be made from the remnants of the beetle.
5. All-Natural Fruit Juices
Unfortunately, virtually all fruit juices that come from a conventional grocery store are just as bad as soda, if not worse. I’m not even talking about the concentrated variety or the kind that are more like a fruit punch. This applies to even the “100% Fruit Juice” that you often see. Fruit does contain a lot of sugar and although the fruit is natural, without the fiber our bodies cannot properly utilize the sugar being ingested and in turn, excessive amounts turn into fat. These juices are also almost always pasteurized, which means they have been heated up to high temperatures so any enzymes from these fruits are now dead, making the proper digestion of these sugars even more difficult. Also, many of these juices are labeled natural despite having ingredients that are genetically modified.
6. Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
Soybean oil is in so many processed and natural foods. About half of the soybean oil that is being used is hydrogenated, as soybean oil is too unstable otherwise to be used in food manufacturing. One of the main reasons for hydrogenating oils in the first place is that it greatly extends its shelf life. When oils are hydrogenated, trans fats are a result from the hydrogenation process; trans fats are not healthy for us to consume. Also, the majority of the soybean crops in the United States are genetically modified, which means these oils are going to be laced with chemical pesticides such as round up.
7. Wheat bread
While whole wheat flour may be a little bit better than straight up white flour, manufacturers can literally add any form of wheat to flour and label it as whole wheat. Essentially this variety is stripped of the majority of nutrients.
8. Agave Syrup
Agave syrup, which was once touted to be a health food, is actually sweeter than sugar and it contains more calories. The syrup is processed in such a way that virtually strips the naturally occurring agave juice of its nutritional value and what you are left with is basically just liquid sugar. The end product of agave production contains more fructose than high fructose corn syrup and is certainly not a health food and should definitely not be consumed.
9. Dried Fruit
Unfortunately, most dried fruit that is sold on the market today and is often an ingredient in many natural foods is loaded with sulphites. Particularly, sulphur dioxide, and often has added sugars as well; these are added on top of the sugar that is already in the dried fruit. In some cases, like in blueberry muffins or blueberry oatmeal, what is masquerading as dried fruit really isn’t even fruit at all! So watch out for that too!
The best way to avoid these ingredients is to thoroughly read ingredient labels and try to stick to whole foods as much as possible. Whole foods do not have ingredient labels, real food is ingredients, it doesn’t have ingredients.
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