It’s no secret that processed foods aren’t the healthiest options available. Unfortunately, busy lifestyles and limited access to fresh, whole foods lead many consumers to rely heavily on processed foods. Before you reach for a processed item on your grocery store’s shelf, though, consider the ingredients that appear in these foods. The strange, unnerving ingredients in these 15 processed foods will make you think twice about eating them:
What could be more wholesome than a tall, cold glass of orange juice? It’s not as natural as you might think. Not only is bottled orange juice heavily processed; its flavor comes from “flavor packs” derived from the same chemicals and essences used in perfumes. Both “natural” and concentrate versions contain these synthetic chemicals.
Most people know that ice cream is loaded with sugar and fat. What they don’t know, though, is that packaged ice cream contains an additive called “cellulose.” Cellulose is a form of wood pulp – although it is considered safe to consume, it serves as a filler to increase bulk.
Many cereals found on grocery store shelves are loaded with sugar and artificial flavors. There’s one additive, though, that you might never have thought of. Fortified cereals commonly contain added vitamin A. The added vitamin content seems like a good thing unless you know vitamin A, when not found naturally, is typically derived from the same acetone used in nail polish.
The “natural” vanilla used to add flavor to cookies, cheesecake and other sweets might seem like a simple ingredient. It might surprise you to learn, though, that it contains castorum – a yellowish secretion of the castor sacs of the common beaver. Although castorum is safe, the thought of it is cringe-inducing.
The process used to pasteurize milk destroys many of its nutrients, at least according to raw milk enthusiasts. After pasteurization, vitamins are added. One such additive, vitamin D, is derived from an unlikely source: Lanolin extracted from sheep’s wool. Lanolin is one ingredient you probably didn’t contemplate putting in your morning smoothie.
If you read the labels of most commercially available salad dressings, you’ll find xanthan gum, which is a substance used as a thickening agent. Like many ingredients, xanthan gum’s origins are unknown to most consumers. Xanthan gum is a substance secreted by the Xanthamonas campestris bacteria – the secretion is fermented and mixed with corn syrup.
If you’re running late or have a busy morning scheduled, you might grab a blueberry muffin instead of opting for a more traditional breakfast. The word “blueberry,” though, is a bit misleading. The berries contained in most blueberry muffins contain about 6% blueberry solids. The rest is made up of starch, sugar and artificial flavorings.
Greek yogurt has become something of a fad item among health-conscious consumers in recent years. To hear advertisers tell it, Greek yogurt is more wholesome and nutritious than other types of yogurt. Still, its creamy texture comes from modified starches and powdered milk proteins instead of from natural ingredients.
The ground beef you see in the supermarket might not seem like processed food; however, it contains a variety of additives that might surprise and disgust you. Have you ever wondered what helps ground beef keep its mouth-watering red color? The ingredient is ammonia – the same chemical found in dozens of household cleaners.
How many children don’t go crazy over a kid’s meal with chicken nuggets from the local fast food franchise? Unfortunately, chicken nuggets bear little resemblance to chicken at all. The pink slime they are made from is “mechanically separated chicken,” which is created by treating leftover chicken parts with chemicals to remove the meat and fat.
If you need your caffeine fix but dislike the taste of black coffee, you might be tempted to reach for the coffee creamer in the refrigerator. This processed item commonly contains titanium dioxide, which is used as a whitener. Titanium dioxide is the same substance used as a UV absorber in your favorite sunscreen.
Few people will argue that white bread is the healthiest grain option available. Bleaching removes much of the fiber and many of the nutrient that normally make bread a healthy food. It also contains a conditioner called L-cysteine, which gives white bread a longer shelf life. L-cysteine is a chemical derived from duck feathers.
These colorful candies are favorite gift basket stuffers during the holidays. Most people know that jelly beans are made up of pure sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients. The shiny shell of jelly beans, though, has more disturbing origins. “Confectioner’s glaze,” also commonly called shellac, comes from insect secretions.
Like many people, you might have grown up on a steady diet of peanut butter and jam. Today’s jams, though, aren’t as wholesome as you might think. Processed strawberry jam is typically made up of rotting strawberries, which require less processing than fresh berries. Jam also commonly contains flavorings derived from coal.
Whether it is sliced, shredded or suspended in a perpetual sauce-like state, cheese is a staple of many Americans’ diets. Most processed cheese in the United States contains rennet, a substance that speeds up the processing by separating the curds from the whey. Rennet is a secretion of a calf’s fourth stomach.
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