Clean Eating 101: Ingredients to Avoid

Clean Eating 101: Ingredients to Avoid

Convenience often lures us into opening a bag of chips as a snack or tossing a ready-to-eat meal in the microwave. Unfortunately, packaged foods have become a staple in many people’s daily lives, promising to save time and provide a quick fix for our cravings.

But here's the twist – those convenient choices often come with an unseen price tag. Not only are these types of foods often more expensive than whole foods or homemade options, but they often contain a hidden arsenal of dangerous additives that can take a toll on your health.

Detox Your Kitchen: List of Harmful Ingredients

If you go down grocery aisles, or even look on your own pantry shelves, you’ll be shocked to find how many processed foods contain ingredients that harm your health and immunity. These ingredients can contribute to a range of health issues, increase the risk of chronic diseases, and tend to lack in essential nutrients while being high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium.

Steer clear of labels that contain these additives:

  1. Artificial Sweeteners: Ingredients like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are commonly used to add sweetness without the calories. However, they have been linked to adverse health effects, including metabolic disruption, gut microbiome imbalance, and even an increased craving for sugary foods [1].
  2. Trans Fats: Often hidden under the term "partially hydrogenated oils," trans fats are known to increase the risk of heart disease by raising bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol levels (HDL) [2]. These fats are commonly found in processed snacks and baked goods.
  3. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): HFCS is a highly processed sweetener that's prevalent in many sugary beverages and packaged foods. It has been associated with obesity, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes [3].
  4. Artificial Colors and Flavors: Many packaged goods rely on artificial colors and flavors to enhance visual appeal and taste. These additives can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity in children, and have been linked to long-term health concerns [4].
  5. Sodium Nitrites/Nitrates: Often used to preserve the color and flavor of processed meats, sodium nitrites can react with stomach acids to form nitrosamines, which are potential carcinogens [5].

These are some foods that are usually good to avoid altogether:

  • Sugary snacks high in sugar and artificial flavors/colors
  • Sodas and sweetened beverages loaded with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners
  • Processed meats full of sodium nitrates and unhealthy fats
  • Packaged snacks like chips, crackers, and other salty snacks that often contain trans fats and excessive sodium
  • Instant meals that tend to be high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives.
🌿Pro Tip: The first few ingredients listed on a product indicates what was used most in manufacturing. If the first ingredients include any kind of sugar, trans fats, or other additives, it's probably best to steer clear. Instead, focus on products that have whole foods listed at the top of the ingredients!

Preservatives: Prolonging Shelf Life, Not Your Health

Preservatives are additives designed to prevent spoilage, inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, and molds, and maintain the freshness of packaged foods. They come in various forms, including chemical compounds, synthetic additives, and natural substances. While they do serve the practical purpose of prolonging the product's shelf life, they can have a heavy impact on your health.
Here are some known side effects of preservatives:
  • Many preservatives, especially artificial ones like sulfites and benzoates, have been linked to allergic reactions, including skin rashes, itching, and even respiratory issues in sensitive individuals [6].
  • Some preservatives, like sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, can trigger gastrointestinal disturbances such as upset stomach, nausea, and even exacerbate conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [7].
  • Certain preservatives, such as sodium nitrites/nitrates found in processed meats, can form nitrosamines when exposed to high temperatures. As discussed above, nitrosamines are potential carcinogens and have been associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.
  • Preservatives like emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners have been shown to disrupt gut microbiota, potentially leading to gut dysbiosis and associated health problems [8].
  • Some preservatives, including BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), have been linked to endocrine disruption, interfering with hormone regulation and potentially contributing to reproductive issues and developmental disorders [9].

Wondering how you can manage a healthy lifestyle with your busy life? Get some tips and tricks from our recent articles for how to manage your time and budget while providing healthy options that will leave you feeling nourished and rejuvenated!

Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget Crunch

Do I Have Time to Cook? Debunking 3 Myths


Being a savvy consumer involves more than just grabbing the most convenient items off the shelf. By educating ourselves about harmful additives, reading labels diligently, and choosing whole, nutrient-dense options, we can take charge of our diet and make choices that promote well-being. Remember, your health is worth the extra effort!

That’s why at Potion, we are striving to make a difference in every person’s life by delivering better health right to your doorstep. Taking care of yourself should be easy, fun, and delicious!