Would you like to eat better and get rid of those harmful ingredients you know aren’t good for your health?  If you’re starting to read labels, this can be tough as they often contain hard-to-pronounce words that you’ve never heard of.  If you can’t recognize or pronounce an item on an ingredient list, that is usually a red flag that you shouldn’t be eating it.  Although there is a long list of ingredients you should avoid when trying to be healthy, we’ll get you started with 4 common ingredients that you don’t want to see on your nutrition label.

1. BHA 
This substance is used as a preservative to prevent rancidity in foods that contain oils.  Although it may be beneficial for the shelf-life of these items, it has been shown to cause cancer in small animals.  It has not been banned by the FDA yet because more research needs to be done.  But the fact that it is known to be a carcinogen is enough reason for it to be on the list of harmful ingredients.

2. Partially Hydrogenated Oil
When this is listed on the ingredient label, it means that there is trans fat in the food even if the nutrition facts indicate “0 g trans fat.”  The catch with this is that the FDA allows products to claim zero grams of trans fat as long as they have less than half a gram per serving.  If you eat several products during the day that have .5 grams of trans fat, you could end up eating well over the amount that you should be. 

3. Sodium Nitrite 
This is placed in food to inhibit bacteria and maintain the pink color in processed meats.  However, they can be unsafe for humans to ingest as they can become carcinogens when they react with other compounds in the body.  Certain nutrients can decrease the risk that this will happen, but it is still best to reduce your intake of this harmful ingredient.

4. Food Dye
Food dyes are added to several products, including fruit-flavored candies and sugary cereal.  They make the food more attractive to the eye so people are more likely to purchase them.  The reality is that certain color dyes have been linked to hyperactivity, cancer and tumors.  They are unnatural and should not be consumed by humans anyway, so avoid them as much as possible.

As you can see, most of these unhealthy ingredients are contained in processed foods.  If you maintain a diet with mostly plant foods and unprocessed meat and dairy products, you will probably be just fine.  Avoid or limit processed foods and make sure to always check the ingredients!