The “Nutrition Facts” label is useful, but can be incredibly deceiving. For people who care about their health, looking a few inches below at the ingredients list is much more useful at determining the quality of the food.
There are a few ingredients that healthy people need to avoid – if it’s in the ingredients list, consider the food poisonous to your well-being.
For example, absolutely avoid trans fats. Keep in mind that companies can be sneaky – if the amount of trans fat is below 0.5g per serving, they don’t have to include it on the nutrition label. However, you can see it on the ingredients list – it usually comes up as “partially hydrogenated” oil, most commonly soybean.
Checking the ingredients list is infinitely more telling than the “Nutrition Facts” – this goes for checking for many other ingredients that you may be consuming unknowingly. Also, keep in mind that even if the ingredient is listed closer to the end (the label reads from the ingredient that was added in the highest mass to the lowest mass), it still counts as a hazard.
For a little reality check – if you think small amounts “don’t count”, consider if you saw “dog poop” listed last at the end of an ingredients list. Would you eat it?
As a general rule, the less ingredients, the better. There are exceptions to this rule, of course – for instance, salsa has a bunch of different kinds of veggies in it. You just have to be aware of what’s safe and what’s not – and it mostly is common sense.
Here’s a list of some of the things that I completely avoid.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Trans fats (Partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated oils)
Soy, Palm, and cottonseed oil
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Any artificial sweetener (Sucralose, aspartame, Splenda, etc.)
Anything with a number after it (e.g. polysorbate 20)
Anything that I’d never heard of before or can’t pronounce
(Personally, I also avoid sugar (dextrose, sucrose, granulated sugar, HFCS) but this is not so important when it is in smaller amounts, and when it is from a natural source (honey, turbinado, natural cane sugar, brown rice syrup, etc.))
Image credit: http://holistichealthcounselingandeducation.weebly.com/2/post/2013/12/the-fda-bans-trans-fats.html