Gloria P. Oberbeck, M.D. | Board Certified in Family Medicine | (303) 828-9200

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Processed Food Ingredients To Avoid

If you do have to resort to a processed food for a snack or dinner (anything canned, packaged, etc.), try to avoid those that contain the ingredients listed below.

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, these ingredients are some of the most highly processed and least healthy of all:

Artificial Colors

Why it is used: Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color.

Why it is bad: Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches.

Artificial Flavorings

Why it is used: Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors.

Why it is bad: Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma.  Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid.

Artificial Sweeteners (AcesulfameK, Aspartame, NutraSweet, Saccharin, Sucralose, Splenda and Sorbitol)

Why it is used: Highly-processed, chemically-derived, zero calorie sweeteners found in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving.

Why it is bad: Can negatively impact metabolism.  Some have been linked to cancer, dizziness, hallucinations and headaches.

Benzoate Preservatives (BHT, BHA, TBHQ)

Why it is used: Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid.

Why it is bad: May result in hyperactivity, angiodema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and urticaria.  Can affect estrogen balance and levels.

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

Why it is used: Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks.

Why it is bad: Increases triglycerides and cholesterol.  Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Why it is used: Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar.  Sustains freshness in baked goods.  Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness.

Why it is bad: May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat.  Increases risk for Type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.  Isn't easily metabolized by the liver.

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

Why it is used: Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and other foods.

Why it is bad: May stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing.


Why it is used: An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked.

Why it is bad: Inhibits absorption of some nutrients.  Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence.

Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Palm, Soybean and others)

Why it is used: Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S.  Cheaper than most other oils.

Why it is bad: Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to risk of heart disease.

Have you checked your ingredient lists recently? Do they contain any of the above? Have you tried cutting some of these ingredients out?