CLEAN SWAP: Food Ingredients

Welcome to my weekly featured CLEAN SWAP! This week we are talking about Food Ingredients!

I’m always fielding questions from clients and friends about how they can swap out some of their favorite products for safer, toxin-free options without a loss in quality, taste, or performance (depending on the product). Every week, I cover food, cosmetics, personal care, cleaning and laundry products, and even behavior, so if you enjoy these Clean Swaps, please follow me on Instagram and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (⬅️by clicking on this link to the left) so that you never miss a new one.


Do you read ingredient labels?

If not, you are jeopardizing your health. Your body is the most complex and miraculous machine ever created (and the only one you’ll ever get!) and knowing exactly what you’re putting IN it (and ON it - read Most Toxic 20 Ingredients in Your Personal Care & Beauty Products) is a must to making sure that it functions properly for as long as possible and preventing breakdown (i.e., disease).


You should be eating real foods that ARE ingredients rather than those WITH ingredients, because foods with ingredients are generally processed and contain many ingredients that are terrible for your body and may lead to serious health problems down the road. Below are my top 11 worst food additives to look out for when you are reading labels… and reading ingredient labels you MUST DO without exception!

🚫 1. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is the salt of the amino acid glutamic acid and is used as a preservative and to enhance the savory taste of processed foods. It can be found in Chinese food and many different processed foods like soups, TV dinners, potato chips, condiments, and fast food. MSG suppresses leptin, the hormone that signals to the brain that the stomach is full. This blocks your body’s ability to tell that it is no longer hungry and spirals your appetite out of control, causing you to eat more and get hungrier sooner. It can cause bloating and water retention, which is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease and other serious conditions. Furthermore, animal studies have shown that MSG injected into mice causes brain-cell damage, but the FDA, which receives countless complaints about MSG reactions (e.g., nausea, headaches, chest pains, and weakness) insists that these results are not typical for humans. Worst of all, MSG is disguised by many other names which makes it very difficult to spot on ingredient labels (this goes back to my recommendation to minimize your consumption of processed foods to the greatest extent possible). Just a few of these other names include glutamic acid, hydrolyzed yeast, soy extract, yeast extract, caseinate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and many more. It also lurks in foods that contain Natural Flavors.

🚫 2. ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, like Aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet or Equal), Saccharin, and Sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) contain zero nutrition and are far sweeter than table sugar and even high-fructose corn syrup. Frequent use of these sweeteners overstimulate the sugar receptors and significantly change the way that food tastes, making anything that is less than intensely sweet almost unpalatable. This leads to cravings of sweets over nutritious food and thus, obesity. In addition to being linked to cancer, artificial sweeteners may also lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Worst of all, these sweeteners are addictive. In a study where rats were given a choice of intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin.

🚫 3. SUGAR either displaces more nutritious foods in your diet or adds calories to your diet. Foods that contain sugar in its natural form, such as fruit, tend to be highly nutritious, not because of the sugar, but because they are generally high in fiber, nutrient-dense, and low in glycemic load. Sugar is addictive and it weakens the immune system, contributes to premature aging, and feeds cancer cells. It also rapidly raises blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, thereby increasing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.

🚫 4. CORN SYRUP or HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP is a cheap liquid sweetener made from GMO corn. It is in just about every processed food on the shelf. It contains no nutritional value but contributes unwanted calories and has been linked to heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and more.

🚫 5. PARTIALLY or FULLY HYDROGENATED OILS are cheap, shelf-stable manufactured fats created by forcing hydrogen gas into vegetable fats under extremely high pressure. This process unintentionally but inevitably creates trans fatty acids. These oils found in pastries and many baked goods, peanut butter, margarine, fast foods, soups, and non-dairy creamers. They clog arteries and reduce blood flow, which can impact everything from heart health to brain and sexual function. Worst yet, a loophole in the FDA’s labeling requirements allows food processors to add as much as half a gram per serving, yet still claim zero in their nutrition facts.

🚫 6. CANOLA OIL is cheap & used in just about EVERYTHING, which makes it very difficult to avoid. Even the finest restaurants use it for cooking and marinating, & it's the primary oil used in salad dressings, spreads, breads, soups, & just about every processed food. Worst part is that canola oil is marketed as a "heart healthy" oil to unsuspecting consumers, but that’s far from the truth. It is derived from the GMO rapeseed plant, a toxic weed historically used for industrial purposes and was originally used as an industrial oil and lubricant that was never meant for human consumption.😱☠️. Canola oil is highly processed with harmful chemicals, extracted using high heat, and becomes oxidized by light and air, which turns the it rancid before you even open the bottle. It is also very high in Omega-6, the inflammatory fatty acids, and increases the risk of chronic inflammation, cancer, and cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Read More about canola oil and how to make a Clean Swap.

🚫 7. SODIUM NITRITE & SODIUM NITRATE are preservatives used to prevent bacterial growth and maintain the pinkish color of meats and fish. Found in processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon, they can react with amino acids to form carcinogenic chemicals, called nitrosamines.

🚫 8. FLAVORS, both artificial and natural flavors, are “catch-all” terms for hundreds of undisclosed chemicals that are concocted in a lab. These ingredients are considered proprietary (just like those in fragrance or parfum) and not disclosed either on the label or to a customer who inquires – so we have no clue what is in them. The only difference between natural and artificial flavors, is that natural flavors are derived from things found in nature, which isn’t necessarily a good thing (psst: lead and arsenic are also natural).

🚫 9. FOOD DYES are synthetic colorings that are used in many foods marketed to children, such as candy, cereal, jello and pudding, cakes and frosting, and many condiments. Studies have linked these to learning and concentration disorders in children (e.g., ADHD). They have been banned in Norway and Sweden, and EU requires a warning label that says, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” on any product that contains them. Food dyes may cause allergic reactions and animal studies have linked them to kidney and intestinal tumors.

🚫 10. BHA & BHT(Butylated Hydroxytoluene & Butylated Hydroxyanisole) are petroleum-derived antioxidants used to preserve fats and oils. They can be found in any foods with added fats, as well as cereals, crackers and even beer! BHA has been shown to cause cancer in the forestomachs of rats, mice, and hamsters and is classified as a “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the Department of Health and Human Services. BHT is not a listed carcinogen, but some data have shown that it does cause cancer in animals. The consumer group the Center for Science in the Public Interest thus cites BHA as an additive to “avoid” and puts BHT in its “caution” column.

🚫 11. BROMINATED VEGETABLE OIL (BVO) is a flame retardant used in rocket fuel (yep, you read that right🚀) used as an emulsifier in sports drinks and sodas to prevent flavoring from separating from the other ingredients and floating to the top. BVO contributes to chronic inflammation, obesity, and infertility, and it can negatively affect thyroid hormones. It can also cause headaches, fatigue, and a loss of memory and muscle coordination.


This one’s short and sweet and doesn’t require you to buy anything:


And if you’re going to buy processed food, even occasionally, carefully read the ingredient labels and avoid those listed here! 🙅‍♀️

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Victoria Malin Gregory, Integrative Nutritionist and founder of NEWTRITION NEW YOU

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Gregory is an Integrative Nutritionist and founder of NEWTRITION NEWYOU. Her focus—whether with private clients, readers of her blog, or her followers on social media— is whole body wellness, incorporating whole-food nutrition, supplementation, exercise, toxin-free living, and mindset coaching. Victoria’s personal mission is to help make the world a healthier place, one person at a time, and she has helped thousands of people find joy and self-love through better eating habits and mindfulness. Learn more about Victoria.

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