Dr Osman El-Labban, Family medicine consultant and Head of the Family Medicine Department and Wellness Centre at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, lists five ingredients to steer clear of when buying packaged or fast foods
1. Partially hydrogenated oil
Oil that is fractionated or simply hydrogenated — is another way of referring to trans fats. Trans fat and saturated fat are the two most harmful fats for the body. Trans fats are the worst kind of fat for your waistline and your heart. These fats boost your levels of LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol and decrease your HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol. Foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils include baked goods such as cookies, cakes and doughnuts as well as crisps and many fast foods.
2. Sodium nitrite
This is a preservative salt that is added to commercially prepared meat and fish to prolong its shelf life through dehydration, and ensure it remains free of bacterial contamination. It is believed to damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes. Sodium nitrate is often found in processed meats such as deli meats, including beef and turkey ham and bacon and hot dogs and sausages.
One of the most common artificial sweeteners, aspartame is made up of three chemicals: Aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Together, they make up an additive that’s about ten times sweeter than natural sugar — but has no calories. As a result, many soft drinks, iced teas and other things diet are made with aspartame. The compound has been shown to cause many adverse health symptoms such as headaches, nausea, muscle spasms, depression and irritability. Although people use it as a diet supplement because it contains zero calories, it may induce weight gain later down the road.
4. Xanthan Gum
This sugar-like compound, made with fermented sugars and bacteria, is found in many packaged foods because it helps thicken them. Often used as a substitute for gluten in gluten-free foods, it’s also used in salad dressings and sauces. However, it can cause side effects such as flatulence and bloating. Before picking up some ice cream, check the ingredients list and see if it contains this thickening agent.
5. Phosphoric Acid
What is the secret ingredient that makes soda so bubbly? Dark-coloured sodas in particular tend to have more phosphoric acid. This acid can cause many side effects such as gastrointestinal distress, difficulty breathing and dermatitis. It can also have a negative effect on your bones and teeth because of the acidity.