Ingredients: Why They Matter

The Importance of Ingredients

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to lose weight and there’s nothing wrong with that. The fight against obesity is a challenging one and the more we all work together the better!

For me personally, this journey is all about getting HEALTHY—and losing weight went hand in hand with that. Yes, of course I wanted to feel confident in how I look and what I wear, but more than anything it was time to stop putting JUNK in my body. Junk that was zapping my energy away, making me feel sick and tired all the time, and lending itself to more and more weight gain, which in turn caused body pain all over, kept me from being able to play with my kids, and put me at risk of dangerous health issues.

Part of this lifestyle change was learning more about what I should be putting in my body—and what I shouldn’t be.

There are a lot of different ingredients out there—little-known, hard-to-pronounce, flavor-enhancing, and usually lab-generated chemicals that are put into our food, both to cut costs AND to keep us addicted.

These ingredients may or may not be lending themselves to weight gain; they may also be lending themselves to all kinds of other physical issues. It’s possible to be slim and still feel like crap—and that’s why it’s so important to me that we pay attention to the ingredients we’re putting in our bodies.

If you’re familiar with my meal plan, the 21 Day Meal Plan™, then you know I’m a big fan of WHOLE foods. But it can be really hard to find food products that are solely comprised of real, natural, whole foods. There are plenty of items out there that market themselves as being “healthy” and “all-natural” while still being loaded with chemically processed ingredients.

So, just to pass along a little of the data I’ve found to help you make more informed decisions when grocery shopping, let’s take a look at some common ingredients you might want to watch out for:

  1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Manufacturers use it because it reduces costs, stabilizes flavor, and prolongs shelf life, but…as a primary source of trans fats, it can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cellular deterioration, and nutritional deficiencies. And apparently, as long as a product contains less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, it can have a “trans-fat free” label—even though it still contains trans fats and/or partially hydrogenated oils!

  1. MSG

It seems that this additive can go by many names…and as something that might contribute to obesity, type II diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, it’s something you might want to stay away from.

Other reactions reported from consuming MSG include headaches, sweating, flushing, pressure or tightness in the face, chest pain, nausea, weakness, heart palpitations, and more.

The various names MSG can go by and to look out for include: monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, sodium caseinate, autolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, and apparently even citric acid!

  1. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

As antioxidant preservatives used to keep food from going rancid, BHA and BHT are not the good types of antioxidants we hear about all the time. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services has apparently named them known carcinogens, and yet the FDA still allows them… They can also negatively impact sleep and appetite, and they’ve been connected with hair loss, behavioral problems, liver and kidney damage, and cancer. Yuck!

  1. Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite

So, these are used to color and preserve the shelf life of meats, like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies nitrates and nitrites as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” because apparently when they’re eaten and mix with your stomach acid, they become cancer-causing cells associated with stomach, esophageal, bladder, oral, and even brain cancer. Side effects from these additives include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. UM, no thank you—I think I’ll stick with the deli meats made without nitrates/nitrites, please!

  1. Food Colorings

While some foods can be colored naturally, many food dyes are petroleum-derived. So…does that mean we’re literally eating petroleum? Yuck! Here are some common food dyes you might see on ingredient lists: Red #3 has demonstrated thyroid tumors and chromosomal damage.  Red #40 has induced lymph tumors in lab testing. And, apparently, Yellow #5 and #6 may cause chromosomal damage, thyroid and kidney tumors, and lymphocytic lymphomas. I guess natural dyes, like beta-carotene or annatto, food-based dyes, or dye-free seems like the way to go!


Other additives to watch out for include potassium bromate, which has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals; propyl gallate, another preservative which might cause cancer; and sodium benzoate and benzoic acid, which when used in a product that also contains ascorbic acid (also known as vitamin c) can form a chemical that causes leukemia and other cancers.


The moral of the story—ingredients matter! Especially when so many corporations seem to be more interested in sales and cutting costs than our health. I recommend forming the habit of checking your ingredients; it doesn’t take long to quickly look over the ingredients of a product you’re thinking of buying. If you find one of the above ingredients or just anything really that you’re unsure about, hit pause. Maybe do a quick google search if needed. Not everything labeled fat-free, sugar-free, “all-natural,” etc., is actually good for you. I decided to start taking more responsibility for what I choose to put into my body and I feel so much better for it. Consider giving it a try—you might end up feeling the same way! 😊

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