5 Food Ingredients You Need To AVOID For Better Health



By Janet Early

Reading the labels on the food you buy can be like trying to decipher a chemistry textbook.

What the heck is dextran or ethyl maltol? Are either of those okay for me to eat?

Oftentimes, food manufacturers code their ingredients in ways that are hard for you to understand. One theory is that, if you can’t understand it, you can’t know it’s bad for you. But luckily, many of these confusing names break down to pretty simple explanations.

Here are 5 common ingredients you should know how to spot:

#1. Ingredients That End In “-OSE”

Examples: Fructose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, glucose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup.

Translation: Hidden sugars.


  • Add calories, but no nutritional value.
  • Disrupt blood sugar levels, causing future energy crashes.
  • Replace higher-quality nutrients such as essential fibers, vitamins and minerals.

Look instead for: Stevia, monk fruit extract, or natural fruit juice sweeteners.

#2. Corn Derivatives

Nicknames: Corn flour, corn meal, corn gluten, corn flakes, cornstarch, starch, vegetable starch, corn oil, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrins, maltodextrins, dextrose, fructose, crystalline fructose, hydrol, treacle, ethanol, free fatty acids, maize, zein.

Translation: “Fillers” used in food production due to corn’s low cost and plentiful resources.


  • Highly genetically modified, which can inundate the body with harmful toxins.
  • Triggers digestive problems for those with sensitive systems.
  • Linked to weight gain, especially when in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
  • Provides calories, but very minimal nutritional value.

Corn is extremely prevalent in the Standard American Diet. Approximately 80% of foods you will find at your local grocer contain at least one type of GMO corn-derived ingredient.

In the U.S., corn is the number one crop grown and is the second most genetically modified ingredient in the world (the first most genetically modified is our #5 ingredient below!). The average American eats 98 lbs of corn each year!

Non-GMO corn on the other hand, actually has health benefits worth noting, such as high amounts of antioxidants and fiber, as well as a gluten-free status. However, since 4 out of 5 products with corn-derived ingredients do contain GMOs, you must be vigilant to look for GMO-free labeled foods. Note that organic foods, by law, cannot contain more than 5% of GMO-derived ingredients, making them a safer choice.

Look instead for: Brown rice or sprouted grains.

#3. Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Found in: Margarine, baked goods, salad dressings, chips, breads, crackers, cookies, vegetable shortening.

Translation: A cheap type of trans fat that increases shelf life and maintains flavor


  • Contributes to the development of heart disease.
  • Source of LDL (bad) cholesterol and diminishes HDL (good) cholesterol in the body.
  • Connected to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies and cell deterioration.

Look instead for: Foods containing Fully Hydrogenated Oils (which do NOT contain trans fats) or foods cooked with nutrient-dense oils such as coconut or olive oil

#4. Artificial Sweeteners

Nicknames: Sucralose, Aspartame, Saccharin, Acesulfame.

Translation: Manufactured low or calorie-free sugar replacements.


  • Lead to weight gain.
  • Put you at greater risk for high blood pressure and irregular cholesterol levels.
  • Raise your chances of stroke, heart disease and other diseases.
  • Are strongly connected to Type II diabetes (even though they’re sugar-free).
  • Can impair memory performance and cause oxidative stress in the brain.
  • Have been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Look instead for: Stevia, monk fruit extract, or natural fruit juice sweeteners.

#5. Soy

Nicknames: Soybeans, soy lecithin, soy, soybean flour, soya, soybean paste, soy fiber.

Translation: A type of protein derived from soybeans that is often used as an alternative source of protein to animal protein.


  • The most genetically-modified ingredient in the world.
  • Contains phytoestrogens, which raise risk for cancers and infertility.
  • Contains a high quantity of phytic acid, which blocks mineral absorption.
  • The protease inhibitors in soy impair protein digestion.
  • Contains a type of protein called lectins, which can trigger symptoms for those with food sensitivities or autoimmune disorders.
  • Its level of goitrogens can impede endocrine and thyroid operations, increasing your risk for thyroid disease.

Look instead for: Animal-derived protein, pea protein, coconut oil, coconut flour.

Ingredients listed on food labels can be tricky and often misleading. Make sure you know exactly what you are putting into your body and don’t let the food industries get the best of you!

What are your methods of successfully shopping and finding the healthiest options out there? Please share with us in the comments below!


Janet Early

Janet Early

Janet Early is a health enthusiast living in Los Angeles and working as a researcher for a major television company. An aspiring writer, Janet discovered her passion for wholesome nutrition and natural healing while navigating the struggles of balancing food sensitivities in a modern world. In addition to nutrition, she enjoys traveling, storytelling and embarking on daily adventures.
Janet Early


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