food ingredients to avoid food tray
Food ingredients to avoid, such as natural flavors, hide in many restaurant foods.

With so many weight loss tricks and gimmicks out there, it’s hard to know what to eat and which food ingredients to avoid.

So, this post is here to simplify all of that for you!

I’m giving you the scoop on the 7 food ingredients to avoid, and the best alternative for them.

Rather than deprive yourself, these tips will help you find better alternatives so that you can shed the weight, without unnecessary struggle.

Let’s get into it!


1. Natural Flavors

Do you tend to buy items labeled “natural” because you think they are…natural?

If so, then I hate to break it to you but “natural” is not a term that is regulated by the FDA, USDA or any other official entity.

“Natural” is simply a marketing term that companies use to make their products seem healthy.

One particular ingredient to avoid in this category is “natural flavor.”

Most of the time natural flavors are made from artificial compounds, many of which disrupt our hormones.

Since hormone disruption is one of the surefire routes to weight gain, it’s a good idea to watch out for foods that contain “natural flavors.”

Healthy alternative:

  • Reduce your consumption of packaged and processed foods, since they tend to use a lot of natural flavors.
  • Look for foods that are flavored with plant essential oils.
food ingredients to avoid tomatoes oil
The chemicals in fresh food create hormonal imbalances that speed up weight gain.

2. Growth Hormones

Many farms that raise animals for commercial purposes look for ways to get more “yield” from their animals.

And one of the most popular strategies that farmers rely on is the use of growth hormones.

You see, growth hormones are exceptional at doing one thing and one thing only: they make things grow quite big.

The problem is, when we eat the meat, milk or cheese from those animals, the growth hormones make our waistlines grow too.

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH), is a commonly used growth hormone and it is an ingredient to avoid when you’re trying to lose weight.

Healthy alternative:

  • Buy organic meats and animal products that are labeled as being “free of hormones.”
  • If you can’t afford organic, then consider cutting back on your consumption of regular meats and animal products.
  • Experiment with plant-based cheeses and milks. There are tasty cheeses made from cashews, as well as milk made from coconuts, almond and other nuts!

3. Canola Oil

Along with coconut oil and olive oil, canola oil is another oil that is everywhere these days!

And a lot of foods labeled as “low-fat,” “lite,” or “healthy” have this oil in it.

But the truth is canola oil is anything but healthy or wholesome.

In fact, canola isn’t even a real plant! Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant.

Canola oil is rapeseed oil that has been processed and it is a trans (i.e. hydrogenated) fat that has always been linked to weight gain,  obesity and other chronic health issues.

As this expert puts it:

“Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight even when the total dietary calories are controlled,”

– Lawrence L. Rudel, Ph.D

Research continues to show that canola oil is a pro-inflammatory oil and therefore, it is an ingredient to avoid as much as possible when trying to lose weight.

Healthy alternative:

  • Stick to wholesome oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or hemp oil for your cooking.
  • Read food labels and minimize your consumption of canola oil as much as possible.

4. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Much like canola oil, high fructose corn syrup causes inflammation and weight gain.

One of the most concerning things about high fructose corn syrup is that it creates massive spikes in insulin levels.

And the more spikes in insulin that the body experiences, the more fat the body stores.

In addition, research done with rats shows that weight gain increases significantly when high fructose corn syrup gain is consumed, compared to when regular table sugar is consumed – even when the calories consumed are the same!

Healthy alternative:

  • Use sweeteners like raw honey and raw maple syrup which are whole, and unprocessed.
  • Whenever you are faced with choosing between high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar, go with cane sugar.

5. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

This popular food additive is used by the food industry because it has a high “craveability factor”.

This basically means that MSG makes you crave food.

So why is MSG so good at increasing cravings?

Well, it’s because MSG acts on your brain and gut hormones!

Specifically, MSG raises dopamine (the pleasure/reward hormone) which makes you lust after food.

And as dopamine increases, your body is no longer able to respond to leptin, which is the hormone that controls when you stop eating.

So basically, you get into a vicious cycle where you keep eating, even when you are physically full!

For more info on MSG you can check out this post.

In the meantime, just know that MSG increases your cravings and it is one of the ingredients to avoid in order to lose weight successfully.

Healthy alternative:

  • Unfortunately, identifying MSG can be hard since it hides behind many names. However, here are some common ingredients that usually indicate the presence of MSG: citric acid, natural flavors, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed yeast extract, plant protein extract, yeast extract, textured whey protein, textured soy protein.
  • More and more restaurants are cutting out MSG, so when you are eating out, be sure to favor those restaurants.

6. Antibiotics

Commercially raised animals are usually given antibiotics as a way of preventing disease.

Unfortunately, these antibiotics travel through the the animal’s bloodstream, and ends up in the food products that come from that animal.

So, whether we’re talking chickens or cows, any foods that these animals produce have antibiotics in them.

Now this is bad news for our weight since antibiotics can cause leaky gut.

And leaky gut is an inflammatory condition that facilitates weight gain and makes weight loss more difficult.

Healthy alternative:

  • Get organic, antibiotic-free animal products whenever possible.
  • Substitute some animal products, like milk and cheese, with plant-based equivalents.
  • Go to a local farmer’s market and find farmers who don’t use antibiotics.

7. Pesticides and Herbicides

Have you been eating your fruits and veggies but you’re still struggling to lose weight?

Well, it could be because of the pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on produce.

You see, pesticides and herbicides are estrogen-based.

This means that they are hormone disruptors that can put you in a state of estrogen dominance.

As I discuss here, one of the side effects of estrogen dominance is weight gain.

In addition, because pesticides and herbicides are toxic to the body, they cause stress and raise cortisol (which is also linked to weight problems).

Healthy alternative

  • Get food from local farmer’s markets since small farmers tend to use less toxic chemicals.
  • At grocery stores, get produce that is certified organic.

As you can see the food ingredients to avoid are commonly used in restaurants and in packaged food.

And at this point, it may seem like avoiding these ingredients would be a daunting and overwhelming task!

But keep in mind that you don’t have to avoid everything 100% of the time.

Making small changes will result in a tremendous improvements in your health.

So let’s say, you’re eating all 7 of these at the moment. In this case, you can start by setting a goal to reduce or eliminate one of these ingredients from your lifestyle.

Just by reducing your consumption of 1 or 2 of these ingredients, you make it easier for your body to find its natural balance.

Now I’d love to hear from you…which of these ingredients will you focus on reducing in your meals? Leave a comment below 🙂

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