Contributed by Brandi Koskie, the Senior Editor for DietsInReview.com, which provides the tools and information needed to shape a healthier you.
At times it seems that you need an advanced degree to understand what's listed on food labels. Most of us just bypass reading the label altogether.
But, you should know that buried in those multi-syllabic words are chemical additives that may have an adverse effect on your health and how your body absorbs nutrients.
These chemical ingredients are used because they increase a food's shelf life, enhance their flavor and color, and make them more appealing to consumers.
Use this list as a guide of the eight chemical additives you should always avoid.
This additive garnered a lot of attention when Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels noted that, if it was up to her, she'd completely remove trans fat from grocery store shelves.
Noted on food ingredient labels as "Partially Hydrogenated Oil or Vegetable Oil," consuming it can be detrimental to your health by promoting poor cardiovascular health and premature heart attacks. Carefully read your labels - a food containing <.5g of trans fat per serving is permitted to list zero grams on its label (like Special K Bars).
Culprits: Fried Food, Restaurant Food, Microwave Popcorn, Margarine, Crackers, Chips, Packaged Cookies and Cakes
Salt may be one of the most dangerous additives in our food supply. Everyone -- from food manufacturers, restaurant chefs and our beloved mothers -- use it in nearly everything we eat and drink.
Whether used as a preservative or as a flavor enhancer, foods high in salt/sodium pose a serious risk to our cardiovascular health. The recommended daily allowance for sodium is 2,400 mg, or 1 teaspoon of table salt, per day. Fast food meals like McDonald's Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT combo (1,785 mg sodium), can contain close to, if not more, than an entire day's worth of sodium.
Culprits: Fast Food, Deli Meats, Canned Goods, Crackers, Chips, Processed/Packaged Foods
Artificial coloring is usually found in foods that don't provide substantial nutrition. It's best to avoid anything with artificial colors when you can.
The dyes contain no vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. Be sure to read food labels carefully, and be especially cautious of those listing Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 6, all of which have been linked with various tumors and cancers.
Culprits: Soda, Candy, Juice, Packaged Baked Goods, Frosting, Gelatin, Fruit Cocktail, Sausage
Sweeter than sugar, this artificial sweetener has made it possible for people to enjoy the foods they love, even while dieting.
In recent years, aspartame has taken the spotlight, and hasn't been looked at as negatively.
The FDA has considered banning saccharin, and is linked to multiple types of cancers in many studies. It's a man-made chemical with nothing nutritious to speak of. It should be avoided whenever possible.
Culprits: Diet Soda, Sweetener Packets, Sugar-Free Food Products
That buttery flavor you love can often be attibuted to the chemical ingredient diacetyl.
In 2007 it got a lot of publicity for being the responsible party behind "popcorn lung," causing lung disease in the workers at microwave popcorn factories. That publicity fortunately caused it to be removed from most foods, but it is still worth examining your food labels to see if its in a food you are considering.
Culprits: Microwave Popcorn, Butter-Flavored Anything
Proctor & Gamble went created its own fat that goes by the brand name Olean.
When first created, Olean was promoted as not only being a fat you could eat, but one that would help you lose weight. It is often added to foods that are normally greasy junk food snacks.
It didn't take long to find out that Olestra caused severe gastrointestinal and digestive issues because it is indigestible. It also inhibits the body's ability to absorb nutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene found in fruits and vegetables.
Culprits: Pringles Light, Lay's Light
Nitrates are additives to "cured meats," which give them that salty flavor, and maintains their reddish tint.
As an example, your hot dogs and bacon would be a grey color without it.
Manufacturers say its use is important to prevent bacteria growth, but critics say modern refrigeration does the same thing. This additive has been linked with cancers in children and adults.
Culprits: Ham, Hotdogs, Bacon, Canned Meats/Fish, Corned Beef
The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that have not banned the use of potassium bromate (Japan being the other). Bromate can be used to give bread more volume and a better structure. It has been linked to cancer in animal studies.
Culprits: White Flour Bread/Grain Products
As the Chef Rocco from Biggest Loser advises, shop the perimeter of your grocery store. That's where you will find the unprocessed foods.
Eat a diet rich in fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins and fish and low-fat dairy and your body will thank you.