The Top Toxic Foods & Food Ingredients to Avoid 


#1 Food Additives: There are countless food additives that find their way into the foods we eat, and while the FDA claims many of these additives are “safe” consuming them in excess can certainly lead to health issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly seen food additives you will want to keep your eyes out for. 

  • Sulfites: These are commonly used to keep foods fresh but have been linked to breathing issues. 

  • Sodium nitrate: You will commonly find this additive in processed meats (like bacon) which is added to help prevent bacterial growth. Unfortunately, it has been linked to cancer.

  • Azodicarbonamide: Known to cause asthma is some people, this food additive is commonly used in carb-heavy foods like bagels. 

  • Potassium bromate: Here’s a big health hazard that’s added to bread and has been deemed carcinogenic. 

  • BHA/BHT: This is a preservative that is used to keep foods fresh for longer periods of time, but it has also been linked to cancer. 

  • Propyl gallate: Another carcinogenic food additive that is commonly found in fatty food products.

  • Propylene glycol: Aka antifreeze, this food additive is added to thicken up things like salad dressing as well as dairy products, and as scary as it is, the FDA views this additive as being “safe.” 

  • Butane: A known carcinogen, commonly found in foods like chicken nuggets to help keep them fresh. 

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG): This flavor enhancer is commonly found in chinese foods and certain sauces to improve flavor. It has been linked to headaches, nerve damage, and even seizures. 

  • Disodium inosinate & Disodium guanylate: Both of these food additives are commonly found in snack foods and contain MSG. 

  • Enriched flour: If you see a product that says “enriched flour” in the ingredient list, skip it. This additive is highly refined and is commonly made from toxic ingredients. 

  • Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): This is a growth hormone that is genetically-engineered and found in cows milk. It is used to boost milk production, but the IGF-1 content is linked to cancer.

  • Aluminum: Here’s another preservative added to certain packaged foods that can be dangerous to overall health and may also be linked to cancer. 

  • Refined vegetable oil: As a general rule of thumb, you will want to avoid ALL oils, but especially anything that’s refined, including refined vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. These are highly inflammatory and contain large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. The inflammatory properties have been linked to heart disease as well as cancer. 

  • Brominated vegetable oil: This type of vegetable oil is very dangerous and has been linked to organ damage as well as birth defects. The scary thing is that it is not required to be listed on food labels.

  • Sodium benzoate: Here’s another known carcinogen that may also lead to DNA damage and is most commonly found in salad dressing as well as carbonated drinks. 

  • Propyl gallate: This additive is commonly found in meat, popcorn, frozen dinners, and soup mixes. It is so harmful it is even banned it certain countries, but is still found in the US. 

  • Olestra: A fatty-like substance that is used in certain snack foods that can cause major digestive distress. 

  • Carrageenan: This is a thickening agent that is used in many foods but has been linked to gastrointestinal distress like stomach ulcers. 

  • Polysorbate 60: This is another thickener commonly used in baked goods, and animal studies have found it to be linked to cancer. 

  • Camauba wax: You will find this additive in chewing gum and even various glazes. It may be linked to cancer as well. 

  • Magnesium sulphate: Animal studies have found this additive to cause cancer, and is commonly found in tofu. 

  • Chlorine dioxide: This additive is found in bleached white flour and may be linked to behavioral issues in children such as hyperactivity and even tumors. 

  • Paraben: Parabens can cause hormonal imbalance and has even been linked to breast cancer.

  • Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose: With large exposure, this additive is linked to cancer and is commonly found in salad dressings

  • Arsenic: Found in bottled water, alcohol, protein powders,and rice. Causes damage to the body's organs and can cause skin lesions and cancer


*list sourced from Advocates for Public Health Education. Check out there website for some additional helpful information on the topic of food additives and health


Healthier Alternatives: To avoid exposure to food additives, it’s essential to read the back of each food label and look for these terms. Keep in mind that some of these additives don’t even have to be listed on a label, so it’s best to stick to eating as many whole foods as possible that don’t come with a food label like fruits, veggies, and legumes. 

#2 Artificial Sweeteners: In addition to food additives, there are also many artificial sweeteners we need to avoid as the body does not recognize them and they can wreak havoc on our overall health. These include things like saccharin, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, agave nectar, bleached starch, and tert butylhydroquinone. Many of these artificial sweeteners have been linked to asthma, skin issues, digestive distress, and even inflammation and insulin resistance. 


Artificial colors like Red #40 and Blue#1 should also be avoided as artificial colors have been linked to hyperactivity and even asthma in children. 

Healthier Alternatives: Instead of artificial sweeteners, try using natural sweeteners (in moderation) like raw honey, pure maple syrup, or fresh fruit. 


#3 Heavy Metals: Heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium can lead to long-term health reproductions when we are exposed to them on a regular basis. Unfortunately, they often wind up in both our water and food supply. Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include gastrointestinal distress, shortness of breath, tingling in your hands and feet, weakness, and chills. (1) There are also some specific symptoms for each heavy metal. For example, mercury toxicity often causes vision changes and difficulty walking. Unfortunately, there are many ways we can be exposed to heavy metals like through our working environments if we work around cadmium in the industrial field, or we are working in an area that contains lead paint. However, heavy metals are also found in certain foods like mercury in fish, and heavy metals found in soil or contaminated water. 

How to Reduce Exposure: To help reduce your exposure to heavy metals, steer clear of fish high in mercury by avoiding swordfish, shark, ahi tuna, and tilefish. You will also want to drink clean filtered water, avoiding pesticide exposure by choosing to consume organic whenever possible, and staying away from cigarette smoke and areas where lead paint was once used. 


There have also been studies looking at protein powder and heavy metal exposure, and one specific study found that more than half of the protein powders tested contained heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and also BPA. (2) Before you purchase a protein powder, check out the to find a healthier alternative. 


#4 BPA: BPA, one of the more well-known endocrine disruptors is found in plastic, and while many companies are now offering “BPA-free” products, this is now being replaced with BPS which is just as, if not more harmful. 


So, what is BPA? BPA stands for Bisphenol A and is an industrial chemical that is used to make plastics. It is commonly found in plastic food containers, and even in the lining of certain canned foods. When exposed to heat (like when you reheat your food in a plastic container,) the BPA can leach into your food and get into the body. The issue with this is that BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, has been linked to high blood pressure, birth defects, cancerous tumors, and even developmental disorders. (3,4


How to Reduce Exposure: So, instead of using plastic, strive to use as much glass and stainless steel as possible. This goes for the water bottles you drink your water from to the containers you store your food in. Try to stay away from plastic as best as you can, and if you have children, try to steer clear of as many plastic toys as possible as well as these are also a big source of BPA exposure. 


#5 Glyphosate: The most widely used pesticide, glyphosate is found in many popular cereals and oatmeal and is a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. 


Healthier Alternatives: Stay away from packaged foods like cereal and oatmeal, and choose organic whenever possible when it comes to your produce. 


The Bottom Line 

While it can be overwhelming to look at all of the toxins we are exposed to on a regular basis, it’s important to remember that we can only change so much. So, focus on reducing the exposure that you are in control of to then reduce some stress about some of the environmental exposures you can’t do very much about. 


Here are some action steps to help you reduce your exposure to many of these toxins. 


Actions Steps to Avoid Toxic Food Ingredients:

  • Replace oils, dairy, meat, fish, fast foods, canned (unless BPA free cans) foods. processed and sugar with vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, water. 

  • Use filtered water. Berkey water filters are great, or even a Aquagear filter is better than drinking tap water. 

  • Stick to a whole foods plant-based diet. Countless studies have found that plant-based eating can help improve overall health and even combat disease. Chris, author of Chris Beat Cancer battled and beat his own cancer through using nutrition and natural therapies as a way to heal himself! 

  • Eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption and replace with kombucha, DIY fruit infused water, green or herbal tea

  • Plan ahead and/or do food preps

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