Feature image Calling all moms! Beware of the seven non-food items that pregnant women and kids should avoid

Calling all moms! Beware of the seven non-food items that pregnant women and kids should avoid

Artificial Food Coloring 

Artificial colors, derived from a by-product of petroleum, are utilized to enhance the visual appeal of food by altering its color. The American Academy of Pediatrics has officially linked the consumption of food dyes to specific behavioral issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Hyperactivity (ADHD). In response to concerns, the European Union implemented a law mandating warning labels on food items containing 1 to 6 artificial food dyes, cautioning that they "may have an adverse effect on the activity and attention of children."

Potential Health Effects include cancer, ADD, ADHD, hyperactivity, rashes, asthma, and tumors. These artificial colors are found in a myriad of food products, spanning from candies and sodas to breakfast cereals and sausages.

Fake Fat

Hydrogenated Oil (Trans Fat)

Hydrogenated oil, also known as trans fat, is an artificially created fat. Initially, vegetable oil is in liquid form at room temperature. However, the addition of high-pressure hydrogen transforms it into a solid state, enabling the oil to have an extended shelf life without becoming rancid. 

Unfortunately, this transformation comes with health risks, as hydrogenated oil has been linked to artery blockages, increased cholesterol levels (specifically LDL), and potential interference with the body's ability to metabolize essential healthy fats. Such interference may lead to damage to cell membranes in critical structures like the brain and nerve cells, marking hydrogenated fat or trans fat as undesirable.

Identifying hydrogenated oil or trans-fat on labels can be tricky, as it may be listed as shortening, partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated, mono and diglycerides, or DATEM. Consumers should be cautious even when labels claim "No Trans Fat," as a thorough examination of the ingredients label, often in fine print, may reveal its presence.

Potential Health Effects associated with hydrogenated oil include cancer, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, diverticulitis, and other degenerative conditions. These harmful fats are commonly found in a wide range of boxed and processed foods.

Flavor Enhancers 

Flavor Enhancers

MSG (monosodium glutamate)

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and the author of "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills," elucidates that MSG (monosodium glutamate) operates as an excitotoxin. This means it stimulates cells to an excessive extent, potentially causing damage or death, leading to varying degrees of brain damage. Moreover, MSG has been implicated in the potential triggering or exacerbation of conditions such as learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Possible health effects associated with MSG consumption include obesity, eye damage, headaches, fatigue and disorientation, depression, rapid heartbeat, tingling, and numbness. Foods containing MSG are diverse and can be found in soups, certain crackers, Asian cuisine, bread, canned tuna fish, salad dressings, processed meats, ice cream, frozen yogurt, broths, stocks, and the majority of frozen entrees. Consumers need to be vigilant and check ingredient lists for the presence of MSG, which might not always be explicitly labeled.

Ingredients that contain MSG:

  1. Autolyzed Yeast
  2. Calcium Caseinate
  3. Gelatin
  4. Glutamate
  5. Monopotassium Glutamate
  6. Textured Protein
  7. Yeast Nutrient
  8. Glutamic Acid
  9. Monosodium Glutamate
  10. Yeast Extract
  11. Carrageenan
  12. Hydrolyzed Protein
  13. Sodium Caseinate
  14. Yeast Food

HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein)

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) is produced through the processing of plants such as corn, soy, and wheat, breaking down their proteins into fundamental components known as amino acids. Notably, one of these amino acids is glutamic acid. Under specific conditions, when exposed to sodium, glutamic acid has the potential to transform into monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Possible health effects associated with HVP consumption mirror those linked to MSG. These effects include concerns such as obesity, eye damage, headaches, fatigue and disorientation, depression, rapid heartbeat, tingling, and numbness.

Foods containing HVP are prevalent in various processed items, including poultry, pork, prepared vegetable products, sauces, gravies, stews, processed meats, and hot dogs. For individuals aiming to manage their intake of MSG, it is essential to be vigilant when examining ingredient lists for the presence of Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein.



BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) & BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) serve as preservatives in food, preventing the oils within from undergoing rancidity or oxidation. Additionally, they safeguard the food's odor, color, and flavor.

However, the consumption of these preservatives has been associated with potential health risks:

  1. Increased risk of cancer
  2. Accumulation in the body's tissues
  3. Induction of liver enlargement
  4. Hindrance of the rate of DNA synthesis and cell development

Foods containing BHA and BHT are diverse and can be found in items such as butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes, and beer. 

Sodium Nitrate/Nitrate

Sodium nitrate, also known as nitrate, functions as a color-preserving agent, particularly stabilizing the red hue in cured meats like hot dogs and bacon, thereby preventing them from appearing gray. Additionally, sodium nitrate imparts a distinct flavor and is believed to inhibit the growth of botulism.

However, the consumption of sodium nitrate has been associated with potential health risks, including an increased risk of cancers affecting the colon, breast, prostate, and pancreas.

Foods containing sodium nitrate are commonly found in processed meats such as salami, hot dogs, pepperoni, bologna, ham, bacon, and SPAM. 


TBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone) is a preservative utilized to prevent foods from becoming rancid. It is sometimes employed in conjunction with similar preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and propyl gallate, producing a synergistic effect. TBHQ is a derivative of petroleum (butane) and is employed as a stabilizer in various applications, including oil fields. According to the FDA, TBHQ must not exceed 0.02 percent of the oil and fat content in food.

However, the consumption of TBHQ has been associated with potential health risks, including:

  1. Increased tumors in rats
  2. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  3. Nausea and vomiting

Foods containing TBHQ are diverse and can be found in packaged foods, certain chicken nuggets from fast food restaurants, margarines, oils, dog food, baby products, crackers, chips, and soy milk. 

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate serves as a preservative, employed to prevent food spoilage, color alteration, and nutrient loss.

However, the consumption of sodium benzoate has been associated with potential health effects, including:

  1. DNA damage: Sodium benzoate has been linked to damaging genetic material.
  2. Carcinogenic properties: It is considered a known carcinogen.
  3. Association with various diseases: Its DNA-damaging capabilities may play a role in various diseases.

Foods containing sodium benzoate are diverse and can be found in preserves like jam (citric acid) or jelly, salad dressings (vinegar), carbonated drinks (carbonic acid), pickles (vinegar), Chinese food sauces (soy, mustard, and duck), and alcohol-based mouthwashes. Additionally, sodium benzoate is naturally found in cranberries, prunes, greengage plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and apples. It's worth noting that while sodium benzoate is naturally present in certain foods like apples, plums, cranberries, etc., these foods are generally considered healthy when consumed in their natural state.

Polysorbates (60, 65, And 80)

Polysorbate is employed in foods for its emulsifying, thickening, and stabilizing properties, and it is often used as a de-foaming agent.

However, the consumption of polysorbate has been associated with potential health effects, including:

  1. Infertility: Polysorbate has been linked to potential impacts on fertility.
  2. Immunosuppressant: It may have immunosuppressant effects.
  3. Anaphylaxis: In some cases, it has been associated with severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis.

Food Additives

Food Additives

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved over 2000 different food additives. On average, it is estimated that the typical American consumes approximately 10–12 pounds of these chemical additives annually. While not all food additives are inherently harmful, some are synthetic compounds known to be associated with health-related issues, including cancer. This underscores the importance of informed consumer choices and careful consideration of the ingredients in processed foods to minimize potential health risks associated with certain additives.

Propyl Gallate

Propyl gallate is utilized in foods to prevent the oils from becoming rancid, oxidizing, or changing color, thickness, or texture. Additionally, it plays a role in ensuring that the active ingredients in the food do not break down.

However, the consumption of propyl gallate has been associated with potential health risks, including:

  1. Stomach irritant: It may irritate the stomach.
  2. Skin irritation: Direct contact with propyl gallate can lead to skin irritation.
  3. Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions, including breathing constriction.
  4. Increased skin sensitivity: Propyl gallate can cause the skin to become extra sensitive.

Potassium Bromate

Potassium bromate is used in food processing to enhance the texture of products like white bread, bread, and rolls, making them fluffier.

However, the consumption of potassium bromate has been associated with potential health risks, primarily:

  • Cancer: Potassium bromate has been classified as a potential carcinogen.

Foods containing potassium bromate are primarily found in breads, flour, and their by-products. Given the potential health risks, some countries have banned or restricted the use of potassium bromate in food production.

Artificial Sweeteners 


Aspartame is a zero-calorie sweetener commonly used as an artificial sweetener. It is important to note that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, are chemical compounds with zero nutritional value. Concerns have been raised about the safety of consuming these chemicals, particularly for certain populations.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon, suggests that aspartame acts as an excitotoxin to the brain, causing cells to become overly excited, fire rapidly, and die within an hour after exposure. This has raised concerns about potential links to various health issues, including learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and more. Studies have even suggested a potential connection between aspartame and brain tumors in lab animals.

Possible health effects associated with aspartame consumption include a range of symptoms such as headaches, migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.

Foods containing aspartame are diverse and can be found in carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, most foods labeled “light” or “sugar-free,” and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. 

It's worth noting that the FDA recognizes aspartame as "GRAS," generally recognized as safe, but this designation does not imply that it is 100% safe for all individuals, especially pregnant women and children. Individuals with concerns about the potential health effects of aspartame may choose to limit their intake and carefully read product labels.

Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame K)

Acesulfame Potassium is a zero-calorie sweetener often used as an artificial sweetener.

However, concerns have been raised about potential health risks associated with its consumption, including:

  1. Lung tumors
  2. Breast tumors
  3. Rare types of tumors in other organs (such as the thymus glands)
  4. Several forms of leukemia
  5. Chronic respiratory disease

Foods containing Acesulfame Potassium are varied and can be found in chewing gum, dry mixes for beverages, instant coffee and tea, gelatin desserts, candy, puddings, non-dairy creamers, and alcoholic beverages.


Possible Health Risks: Consumption may lead to a 50% reduction in beneficial bacteria in the intestines, elevated pH levels in the intestines, weight gain, potential interference with the absorption of prescription drugs, DNA damage, decreased red blood cell count, an increased risk of aborted pregnancy, reduced fetal and placental weight, and an association with migraines.

Foods That Contain It: Found in baked goods, ice cream, and soft drinks.


This recently introduced artificial sweetener, Neotame, is a chemical derivative of aspartame.

Possible Health Risks: Consumption of Neotame may pose potential risks such as the development of brain lesions and an increased risk of cancer.

Foods That Contain It: Neotame is found in a variety of products, including soft drinks, bars, powdered drink mixes, juices, chewing gum, bread, frozen desserts, baked goods, candies, table-top sweeteners, breakfast cereals, beverages, refrigerated and non-refrigerated ready-to-drink beverages, gelatins, puddings, jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, syrups, and fillings.

Artificial Flavors

Artificial Flavors

Frequently employed as a generic term encompassing over 100 potential chemical additives, artificial flavors refer to a category that includes more than 1,700 FDA-approved synthetic mixtures designed to mimic natural flavors not found in nature.

Possible Health Risks: The consumption of artificial flavors is associated with potential health risks, including allergic reactions and behavioral issues.

Foods That Contain It: Artificial flavors are commonly found in processed foods.

The challenge with both artificial and "natural" flavorings lies in the lack of comprehensive knowledge regarding the specific chemicals added and their quantities to achieve the desired flavor. Long-term health studies are lacking, and there is a dearth of research on how these additives may impact the development of a fetus or a developing baby.


In conclusion, the various food additives and artificial substances discussed pose potential health risks, ranging from carcinogenic concerns to adverse effects on neurological and reproductive health. It is crucial for individuals, especially pregnant women and children, to be vigilant about the additives present in their food and make informed choices.

Reading labels and understanding the potential health effects associated with ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and flavorings can contribute to better health outcomes. While regulatory agencies may deem certain additives as safe within specified limits, it is prudent to exercise caution and consider the cumulative effects of these substances, given the limited data on long-term health impacts. Ultimately, promoting awareness and making informed decisions about food choices can contribute to the overall well-being of individuals and their families.

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