7 Gross Ingredients You Have Probably Eaten



Forget the fact that processed foods are laden with too much salt, sugar and fat.  Something worse is happening.  More and more additives are showing up in processed foods these days.  Some of them go under hard to pronounce names.  I am here to point out some of the most disgusting.

Castoreum – This has got to be the nastiest additive on the the market.  Food scientists are using the castor anal sacs of female beavers to flavor your food.  Castoreum usually adds a raspberry or vanilla flavor.  You will never see it in the ingredient list.  It usually falls under “natural flavors” or “natural vanilla flavor.”

Cochineal Extract –  Another gross additive comes from the shells of female cochineal insects.  They eat red cactus berries and it concentrates the color on their bodies.  The bugs are trapped and shaken until they are killed.  This retains the color of their bodies.  Then they shells are dried in the sun.  Once you mix the dried shells with water, you can make a red dye.  You will see this ingredient on food labels as the one in my Dole Fruit Cups Exposed.

TBHQ –  This is an additive used to retain freshness, and extend the shelf life of processed foods like crackers, chips and even cooking spray, like in my PAM Exposed post.  It is also a chemical found in butane!  TBHQ has been known to cause nausea and vomiting.  Long term uses of TBHQ have been shown to cause cancerous tumors in laboratory animals.

Propylene Glycol –  This is used as a preservative.  It is especially used in ice cream to keep it from getting freezer burned.  It is also very common in boxed cake mixes.  What you should know is that propylene glycol is also found in anti-freeze.  Propylene glycol may not be as toxic as ethylene glycol (also found in anti-freeze), but I still would not suggest eating it.

Cellulose –  Cellulose is basically “wood pulp.”  It can come from many plants, but the most popular form used by the food industry, comes from wood pulp.  Food scientists use this as a calorie reducer.  Humans cannot digest it, so it contains no caloric value.  It also acts as a cheap filler, adding bulk to processed foods.

Shellac –  This additive is how conventional apples and tomatoes get that unnatural shine.  Personally, I think they look freakish and always go for the ugly organic apples.  Shellac comes from the kerria lacca insect.  This insect has a sticky excretion that it uses to stick to the trees it lives on in Thailand.  Food makers use this to provide shine to all kinds of foods like apples, tomatoes and jellybeans.

L-cysteine –  This one made me choke on my breakfast.  I had no idea.  Evidently, food scientists are using duck feathers to soften dough that is used in processed foods. It is most commonly seen in commercial breads, cookies and bagels.  This could be a real problem for vegans who are unaware. 

If this isn’t a reason to limit processed foods, I don’t know what is.  Seems like most processed foods these days are more like science experiments.  My rule on ingredients is this:  If you can’t use it in your own kitchen, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.




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59 thoughts to “7 Gross Ingredients You Have Probably Eaten”

  1. I am so grateful I found your website. I was referred by a friend. I have know about the ingredients in food for some time and started reading labels several years ago. The info I have gained from your website and posts on FB have been eye opening, and is helping me make better choices. I also follow a pharmacist Suzy Cohen. You might take a look at her website Dear Pharmacist.com. She talks about the harmful effects of drugs and the damages they can do. She also gives natural alternatives for some of them. Thanks for all your hard work.
  2. This is exactly why I only want to serve my family real food. It's so much easier to buy foods without an ingredient list because they are natural and don't need one.
  3. I've been meaning to THANK YOU for your blog as a whole and the time you spend on it, such as the awesome recipes and especially the "foods exposed". Ive learned a lot in those! I'm huge on looking at the ingredients, but never took the time to do any of the research, so I do my best to stay away from long lists and things I have no idea what they mean. I try so hard to get my parents to live that way too, because they eat pretty much all of those foods, but they never listen. So I sent them a ton of emails linked to the ones they eat the most...we will see if they change at least some. Thanks again for your blog! Really glad I found it :)
    1. I am happy you found me too. :) Our family is the same way. My husband's parents have started to become more aware of what is in their food and they eat better now. My family is another story. They eat crap and call me picky because of my diet choices. I hope on day they will change.
      1. haha they call me picky too!! It upsets me because I am not! I respond back with, it's not picky, it's being selective ;)
  4. I hear ya on that...it's really challenging to feel so alone in the food/eating dept...having to make special dishes that you woud'nt otherwise, or explain EVERYTHING. Finally got to a great big "fuggedaboud it"...I don't even talk about it much to anyone. We all have to find our own way, in our own time eh? What you're doing though...is IMMEASUREABLE. Being HERE, giving so much of yourself, to the people who are so desperately seeking, sound, sane...SIMPLE ways to do this right. Bless you ~a thousand times and again!
    1. Thank you! I just hope that by writing posts like this, I can change the way that some folks look at their food supply. I have learned so much myself in the last year. I just want to share it all. :)
  5. I love your blog! So much helpful info! I started mine about 6 months ago and have been posting about all of the changes we have made. I am so glad to find like-minded people! You can check out my blog at www.ourholisticjourney.com Thanks and keep up the great work!! :)
    1. Jennifer, I just visited your site and will start following your blog. I love the look (and the content, too!)! I also just started a blog about switching to real food. http://realfoodrookie.com/ And Melissa, I love your site! I share a lot of your posts with my Real Food Rookies. Thank you!
  6. It's amazing what is considered "food" by big business food companies. Before our journey to real, traditional foods, I was blindly ate so many of these additives thinking they were ok. Great article. Thanks for sharing!
    1. Thank you and thanks for reading! It's scary to see what goes into processed foods once you start reading labels. It should not even be called food!
  7. Oh wow you never stop amazing me with your wealth of knowledge. Thank you for educating me since I'm on the dark road to clean eating. Its so foreign to me since I have lived my life on processed foods. You have shined a light ...
  8. The chemicals are definitely sufficient to give any thinking person pause. That said, people have been eating insects, weird animal parts and even wood for centuries. Talking about how "gross" it is is largely first world privilege.
  9. Thank you for this information, very useful. I am thankful we don't consume any processed foods, this list is astonishing. Thanks again for getting the word out there :)
  10. If you *really* want to lose your lunch, read this: http://www.naturalnews.com/032718_L-cysteine_commercial_bread.html L-cysteine also comes from HUMAN HAIR! O.o
  11. Propylene glycol is not the glycol in antifreeze that kills, that is ethelyne glycol. While still not a good idea to consume, if you wereeating ethelyne glycol you would be in the emergency room by now
  12. Interesting information. One thought I have is that if I am going to eat something with a red dye in it, I would far rather have it be cochineal than the artificial stuff. In some cultures, eating insects is normal. The Thai culture would be one of them. Personally, the idea of eating insects grosses me out, but at least they are natural and not manufactured chemicals. I appreciate this list and have concluded from reading it that I should stop using PAM, despite how useful it is.
  13. I started reading labels a few years ago when my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I have been amazed and grossed out over and over again at what I have found out. It is almost overwhelming. I only buy fresh or frozen veggies now and I am picky about the brands. Pict Sweet Natural has been my favorite though sometimes I buy the store brand depending in what it is. I have stuck to my principles and finally got my husband on board so he is not buying so much junk. when he went through cancer treatment they evaluated everything he put in his mouth and we had to make a lot of changes. the hardest thing has been finding shampoo, toothpaste, lotions, and bathe soap that doesn't have propylene glycol or sodium laurel sulfates. They told him not use anything with sulfates especially the laurel sulfates. after 6 years I have finally found an herbal shampoo I like but I am still working on the others. Thanks for your inspiration and boldness. If people don't like what you say they don't have to read your blog.
  14. Disgusting and very scary! Thanks so much for your website. I'm just beginning to learn about processed foods and living a whole food life. I'm a little overwhelmed.
    1. It can be very overwhelming. My best advice would be to start slow. We didn't change overnight. :) I am here if you need any advice.

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