They lie in wait, more than happy to do a number on your insides when you least expect. Let’s push aside the artificial sweeteners, food colorings and even the bisphenol A for now and focus on six quietly confident yet diabolical dietary villains that far too often manage to get away with murder.
What’s this seriously hard core schizophrenia and depression drug – notable for its unappealing ability to ramp up cholesterol levels while triggering erectile dysfunction -- doing in pork chops and steaks? The factory farming industry uses it as an injectable ‘chill pill’ for animals on their way to the slaughterhouse, which means that whether you like it or not, your upcoming blood test and significant other’s schwing-ability may be in question.
From the foil that we wrap around baking dishes to the cookware and beverage cans that we regularly use, this naturally occurring metallic element has been an integral part of our food supply for decades (think pickles, canned vegetables, cheese, juice, baked goods, gum, etc.). Unfortunately, there appears to be a link between regular aluminum exposure and the development of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the potential for developing neuromuscular and skeletal issues, so using aluminum-free leavening agents and opting for fresh rather than processed foods might help you to be safe(r) rather than sorry.
Take a look at the ingredient list of your favorite foods and you’ll likely see one of the following: potassium bisulfate, sodium bisulfite, sulfur dioxide, potassium metabisulfite or some variation therein. All of these inorganic salts prevent discoloration while preserving the freshness of edibles such as shrimp, dried fruit, dried potatoes and wine (although fermented grapes do contain naturally occurring levels of sulfites). Seems harmless enough… except that there are quite a few people out there who can (and have) experienced fatal allergic reactions. Heck, if you can hunt down sulfite-free versions of your favorite munchies and libations, why not go the extra mile for peace of mind?
This natural, vegan-friendly, gel-like substance, derived from red Chondrus crispus seaweed, thickens a large variety of foods (soy milk, beer, processed meats, cottage cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc.) and personal care products (intimate lubricants, cosmetic creams, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.). When exposed to acidic conditions and high temperatures however, a degraded form of this seaweed gelatin – called poligeenan -- is produced. This is where things get a little iffy. In addition to causing ulcers and gastro intestinal cancer in laboratory animals, carrageenan is also believed to trigger bowel disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in humans (the latter two of which aren’t exactly fatal, but you wouldn’t exactly want to wish them on your worst enemy, either).
Also known as Guanosine monophosphate, this marine-derived, salt-based flavor enhancer commonly obtained either from seaweed or dried sardines is actually found in all living animal and plant cells (including whole grains!). Added to processed meats, soups, tomatoes and cheeses, it’s converted by the body into high levels of uric acid which can lead to crystallization build-up in the kidneys, tendon sheaths and joints. In other words, gout… the arthritic condition sometimes referred to as the rich man’s disease. Are you going to die from it? Typical attacks clear up in a week, but gout is a recurring ailment often accompanied by metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart and kidney disease, all of which are inarguably uber-sucky.
As the key ingredient in toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, gunpowder, fireworks, agricultural fertilizers, cheese and cured meats such as pepperoni, salami and corned beef, this preservation wiz (also known as sodium nitrate or salt peter) literally does a bang-up-job on the body when heat is present. Morphing into chemical compounds called nitrosamines that most definitely cause toxic effects in multiple animal species, these nasty little buggers are associated with the development of diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer of the stomach in humans. A word of advice to crisp bacon aficionados – your vice is swarming with nitrosamines, so either eat it soggy or resist the urge to oink out!