Know What’s in Your Food: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Reading Food Labels (Part 2)

A few weeks ago I gave you the first 5 things to look out for in foods. Today we finish off that list.


Artificial Flavours

Artificial Flavours, not really a word you want to see listed on the ingredients list. Natural flavours are made from “food” sources and then processed into oblivion. But artificial flavours are made from non food sources, like petroleum…Yum.

The worst artificial flavours are acesulfame potassium and sodium benzoate.

Artificial flavours have been known to cause brain tumours, cancer, seizures, depression, anxiety attacks, high blood pressure and kidney problems.

Artificial flavours are found in everything including cosmetics. So be careful.


Artificial Colours

Artificial Colours are one of the most dangerous additives found in our food and every day products. It seems impossible that something that adds beauty to a product, like colour does, could be so toxic to us.

Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40 are the most commonly used and are known to cause hypersensitivity (allergic like) reactions and trigger hyperactivity in children as well.

Just like artificial flavours, artificial colours are found in a variety of processed foods as well as cosmetics.



Preservatives are considered “slow poisons” increasing the risk of disease and premature death.

Natural ways of preserving food can be done by boiling, freezing, pasteurizing, dehydrating, smoking, or pickling.

Artificial ways of preserving food can be done by nuclear radiation and synthetic chemicals.

If a food has a long shelf life it’s packed full of preservatives.


Sulfates, Nitrates and Nitrites

These are technically preservatives but they deserve their own category because of how common they are in foods and the effects they have on your body.

Sulfates have become more well known because they are found in wine and dried fruit. They have been shown to cause headaches, heart palpitations, allergies and even cancer.

Nitrates are used to cure meats, like bacon, lunch meat and sausages, and are actually naturally occurring. The problem is that your body can convert the nitrates into nitrites. It is this conversation and the reactions it has in the body that create cancer causing chemicals. These chemicals are believed to cause colon and stomach cancer.


White – Flour, Rice, Pasta, Bread

When a whole grain is refined, most of its nutrients are sucked out in an effort to extend its shelf life. The reason whole grains are better for you is because they contain the bran and the germ. When the grain is refined these are removed and therefore so is all the fibre, vitamins and minerals. Ever wonder why breads have to tell you they are fortified with riboflavin and other vitamins and minerals? It’s because they’ve been added back in after processing.

Without the fibre and other nutrients, these grains are very easily digestible, which may seem like a good thing, but when carbohydrates are digested too quickly they send your blood sugar and insulin through the roof, which can lead to all sorts of problems, the most known being Type 2 diabetes.


When it comes to these foods, always make sure to read the label. Even things that appear to be “brown” can still be made from refined grains.


So where do you go from here? It probably seems like you can’t eat anything. If that’s how you’re feeling, don’t dismay. There is still a whole section of the grocery store you can shop in, the outer edges. Of course, just like in life, we can’t live on the edge forever. We all need to venture into the aisles.


So after all this what’s my advice? Read the label and if you don’t know what a word is, it probably isn’t a whole food. Better yet, google it yourself and read up about it.


As I always say, knowledge is power.



Crystal believes that proper nutrition is an important factor in overall health. She uses a holistic approach to promote a balanced lifestyle based on the individual. Holistic health encompasses not only the body’s physical needs but also mental, emotional and spiritual needs as well.  Crystal loves to travel and spends her spare time working on her art health blog, Artfully Healthy!

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