By buying food without labels, you can successfully avoid the worst of the chemicals in processed food. But you can’t use that as your only guiding principle (after all, baby carrots technically have a label!). So if you do have to buy food with a label, here’s what you’ll want to watch for:
Trans fat. On the label: partially hydrogenated oil (of any kind), shortening. There’s just nothing good at all about this nasty fat — it’s totally processed and only does bad things to your body (for one, it can lower good cholesterol and raise the bad).
Sweetener. On the label: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, aspartame, sucralose, sorbitol, saccharin, and others. Artificial sweeteners (the last four names on the list) can negatively impact metabolism and have been linked to headaches and other symptoms. Of course, unless you cut out sweet stuff completely, you’re going to want to eat some form of sugar at SOME point. Plain ol’ sugar, honey, or evaporated cane juice are slightly less processed options.
MSG. On the label: monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, glutamic acid, vegetable protein extract, maltodextrin, carrageenan, and others (see this for a full list). MSG can cause headaches, nausea, edema, and burning sensations. Fun times!
Benzoate preservatives. On the label: BHT, BHA, TBHQ. This chemical compound can actually affect estrogen balance and levels (a big no-no for women!).