5 controversial ingredients nutritionists won’t touch

5 controversial ingredients nutritionists won’t touch

Which is healthier: a plate of broccoli or a donut? While the healthy choice may often be obvious at times, roaming through the grocery aisles, it can be difficult to differentiate between the healthy, not so bad and just plain awful.

Some may consult a dietitian or nutritionist to determine what should be on their grocery list and from what to steer clear. So what are nutritionists and dietitians eating, and what are they avoiding at all costs?

Rosemary Mueller, a registered dietitian at Advocate Medical Group’s Weight Management Program in Park Ridge, Ill. says she avoids these five controversial ingredients:

  • BHA. Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, is an additive which prevents fats from spoiling. Although it’s on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list by the FDA, there is some animal research that connects the additive to cancer growth. “Minimize oil-containing processed food you eat to avoid this additive,” says Mueller. “Even better: minimize processed foods all together.”
  • Fractionated palm kernel oil. Fractionated oil helps prevent the chocolate coating on protein and candy bars from melting. But be advised that palm kernel oil is 80 percent saturated fat. That means it can lead to increased levels of LDL, the less desirable form of cholesterol, in the blood. “Think twice before gobbling down ‘healthy’ protein bars and check the label to make sure this ingredient is not present before consuming,” says Mueller.
  • Sodium nitrate and nitrite. Nitrites are added to “cured” meats like hot dogs, bacon and deli meats as a preservative. However, these can form nitrosamines in the body, which may promote cancer growth. Mueller recommends avoiding cured meats or at least limiting them to no more than three servings a week.
  • MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer often added to Chinese foods and products as well as some canned vegetables, soups and some meats. Although it is generally recognized as safe, a percentage of people who consume it may develop migraine headaches or have a more immediate adverse reaction, otherwise known as Chinese restaurant syndrome, explains Mueller. “Enhance flavors in cooking by using fresh herbs and spices instead, and when in a restaurant, request that your food be prepared without MSG,” she advises.
  • Potassium benzoate. Added to some diet soft drinks and fruit drinks, there is a possibility that a toxin, benzene, can form in low levels when this ingredient is present. Although the FDA regulates levels of benzene fairly closely, no one needs to drink diet soda, and it provides no nutritional value, says Mueller. “Regular soda is no better with its sugar content, so if you are looking for a beverage to quench your thirst, you should focus on water instead,” Mueller recommends.

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  1. Is Palm Oil basically the same as Palm Kernel Oil?

  2. Jackie Hughes

    Hi Kathy,
    I spoke with Rosemary Mueller and this was her response. “Both palm kernel and palm oil (or palm fruit oil) come from palm trees, but there the similarity ends. Palm oil comes from the fleshy, orange part of the palm fruit, which is rich in monounsaturates, or “good” fat, while palm kernel oil is extracted from the innermost kernel or nut-like core of the plant, the palm seed, which is highly saturated fat. And while over 80 percent of the fat in palm kernel oil is saturated, only about 49% of palm oil is, making it slightly easier on arteries.”

    • margaret schwarz March 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm · Reply

      Thank you for this information. I tend to buy Costco coconut oil and use it for everything including make-up removal and cooking. It has the coconut fragrance when you open it.

  3. Given that MSG is naturally occurring in many foods including tomatoes, cheeses, yeast and soy extracts, should these not also be highlighted for those with a suspected MSG sensitivity?

  4. ZKO Skincare Review July 20, 2017 at 7:37 am · Reply

    Your way of explaining everything in this post is genuinely nice, every one be capable of simply understand it, Thanks a lot.

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About the Author

Jackie Hughes
Jackie Hughes

Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.