For most people, reading the ingredient label on their foods is a lot like reading a foreign language. Sure some of those ingredients you can’t even begin to pronounce are harmless (like 3-Dehydroretinol or axerophtholum, both are just fancy ways of saying vitamin A), but some of those sketchy sounding ingredients have been linked to a multitude of health problems—including tumors, hormonal issues, and cardiovascular disease.

Here’s a short a list of some of these additives big food companies use as fillers to boost their bottom line:


Potassium Bromate: Found mainly in breads, this is a powerful oxidizing agent that chemically ages flour much faster than open air. Interestingly, potassium bromate is illegal in China, the European Union, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere because it has been shown to cause cancer in rats and mice. It is even listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California. However, the United States, or more specifically the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, still allows potassium bromate to be used in foods.


Your best bet for avoiding potassium bromate is opting for sprouted grain breads that are preservative free, such as Ezekiel bread or sour dough.


Propylparaben: Found in many bath and body products, as well as some foods. It has been shown that propylparaben has deleterious effects on the endocrine system, disrupting the body’s natural hormonal balance. One reason is that it acts as a weak, synthetic estrogen, which can cause a decreased sperm count in men. Another ill effect from endocrine disruptors is the onset of early puberty in both boys and girls. Over the past several decades, endocrinologists have noticed girls as young as eight years old begin to exhibit breast development and pubic hair growth, and young boys having breast development.


Look for paraben free foods and bath products, such as these.


Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): Found in… well, seemingly found in everything most health enthusiast work to avoid: potato chips, lard, butter, cereal, instant mashed potatoes, preserved meat, beer, baked goods, dry beverage and dessert mixes, chewing gum, and other foods. The list goes on but you get the point. What is it? Well, it’s a food preservative. It’s another one of those chemicals which California, and the National Institute of Health, has deemed carcinogenic for humans, mainly because it has been found to cause tumors. The European Union also classifies it as an endocrine disruptor. Interestingly, vitamin E can do all the preserving of BHA (minus the cancer), but is not as stable as BHA under high temperatures. That is not to say it cannot be done, it would just be a bit more difficult and costly.


Stick to all-natural snacks like ones you can find at Naturebox.


Diacetyl: A chemical used for butter flavoring, like in that of popcorn, and also found in yogurt, cheese, and maple flavoring. The negative effects of this chemical are pretty significant, including the association with bronchiolitis obliterans (a lung disease causing shortness of breath and a dry cough), which is typically an irreversible respiratory illness.


Like the other chemicals listed above, opt for a natural, organic, or raw version of whatever it is your eating that contains diacetyl.


Some other chemicals to avoid:

  •             Aluminum
  •             Nitrates/nitrites*
  •             Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  •             Propyl Gallate
  •             Phosphate Food Additives

*New research is finding certain levels of nitrates/nitrites may actually be beneficial for some people due to their blood thinning effects.