Nutrition is key in all health conditions and it is essential to know which foods to avoid. We need to be fully aware of what not to ingest. Avoiding food additives is vital. The sheer amount of toxins, chemicals and e-numbers in our food at this moment in time bewilders me.

Parents and caregivers: why should you know which foods to avoid?  

foods to avoid

I do not mean to get parents alarmed by the information I am sharing on which foods to avoid. I am simply presenting what the companies that provide products already know. The chemical soup that our children are ingesting needs another look, because the sheer amount of toxins we now have to deal with is at a record high. There are alternatives to every single chemical-laden product. When it comes to food, that is where you need to constantly read the labels and know which foods to avoid. I am always scanning the ingredients list of foods aimed at children in supermarkets and even health food shops and I am increasingly alarmed at what I am seeing. Scanning the food list is not enough, there are even many dangers in baby care products.

There are over 540 permitted chemical additives in food. We know little about the cocktail effect of these dangerous pesticides, artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives. Avoiding these ingredients in the food we eat is essential to maintaining the health of our families and children.

Research is currently underway regarding this and we now have up to date information at our fingertips on which foods to avoid to enable the first line of defence to be in place. The Guardian newspaper produced a three-part expose of the toxic overload we have to deal with called Chemical World.

It is well known that children’s behaviour is directly affected by artificial colourings, sweeteners and flavourings. Fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps are the main culprits and are part of the list of foods to avoid. There are now organic and chemical free alternatives in supermarkets and health food shops.

Main food additives to avoid

Here is the complete list of which food additives to avoid.

Flavour Enhancers

Monosodium glutomate (E621); disodium 5-ribonucleotide (E635)

Artificial Sweetners

Sodium benzoate (E211); Sulphur dioxide (E220); aspartame; acesulfame K.

Colourings

Yellow (E104), Brilliant blue (E113), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124), allura red AC (E129) and indigo carmine (E132).

Both sodium benzoate (E211) and carmoisine (E122) are directly linked to hyperactivity and can lead to eczema, asthma, urticaria (skin rash) or rhinitis. Many of these additives have been banned in the US, Denmark and Sweden, but have been passed as safe in the UK. 

Also note that terms such as ‘flavourings’ or ‘colourings’ are usually chemical compounds that are best avoided. If it says ‘cheese flavoured’, it means it has cheese in it. If it says ‘cheese flavour’ it does not. Look at food labels and learn the chemical names. Knowledge is vital to create good health and in knowing which foods to avoid. 

Should you avoid foods with high levels of fat? 

Fat used to be a bad word in nutrition. Years ago, your doctor might have recommended that you limit or avoid fat in your diet to prevent weight gain and health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Now, doctors know that all fats aren’t bad. Some fats lower your cholesterol level and help keep you healthy. You need some fat in your diet.

However, there are some fats that you must absolutely avoid for the sake of your health.

Hydrogenated Fats and Trans Fats

Hydrogenated fats and Trans fats are in processed foods such as crisps, cakes, biscuits, ready-meals, pies, pasties, chips, batter, sausages, vegetarian sausages and cheap margarine. These are vegetable oils that are ‘hardened’ by a process of pumping hydrogen into the oil, which creates saturated and the more dangerous trans fats.

Trans fats have got scientists concerned, who believe that these are more damaging than saturated fats. This type of fat is not recognized by the body and is linked to high cholesterol and heart disease. It also stops the essential fats (Omega 3 and 6) getting properly absorbed by the body. On labels look out for “Hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fat/oils. A small reduction of their intake will help, because this type of fat is widespread in basic food products. One of the main foods to avoid in this case is margarine, one of the main culprits, so go for the healthy options from whole food stores. 

Hydrogenated Fats and Trans Fats are usually found as well in fast food and processed food like french fries, cakes, pies, biscuits, frozen pizza and doughnuts. 

The case of flavoured crips: an absolute food to avoid if you care about your health

Flavoured crisps are a chemical cocktail. Each pack has roughly one gram of salt. Half the recommended daily dose for a six-year-old. One third of a pack is pure fat. Researchers in Sweden discovered acrylamide in cooked fatty products including crisps. It is known to cause cancer in animals and could possibly do the same for humans. Crisps might also contain Monosodium glutamate which is linked to serious health disorders and is an addictive food stimulant. Disodium 5’-ribonucleotide, another flavour enhancers that is linked to skin rashes and has been banned in Australia. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener is also surprisingly in many brands of crisps. This has also been linked to many serious health disorders and we detail its dangers in the article Dangers of Sugar and Sugar Substitutes. 

Nick Giovannelli, of the Hyperactive Children’s support Group, believes that about 5% of children are ‘extra-sensitive’ to additives. He explains that additives clog up neurotransmitters that can lead to difficult and bizarre behavior in children. He also noted how additives prevent the absorption of the mineral zinc, which a deficiency of has been related to hyperactivity. Zinc is believed to regulate the supply of the brain chemical dopamine, which improves concentration and lessens impulsiveness. More on supplementation later.

Foods to Avoid: Preliminary results on diet change

An experiment was shown on ITV’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald on 28th April 2003 summed up what nutritionists have known for years. A pair of twin boys were put on different diets for two weeks. While Christopher continued feasting on chocolate, crisps and and fizzy drinks full of E numbers, Michael knew which foods to avoid and was eating fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals. Before the experiment, they had IQ tests and the results were identical. Two weeks later and Michael was beating his brother in IQ and concentration tests by 15%. Michael’s behavior changed radically. He became calmer, more talkative, developed a sense of humour and ‘did as he was told’ more frequently. When the E number ban was introduced to the twins’ class at Dingle School in Crewe, 60% of parents reported improvement in their children’s behaviour, sleep patterns and ability to co-operate. This only based on diet changes, especially knowing which foods to eat and which foods to avoid. 

A similar experiment took place at Ysgol Deganwy Primary School in Conwy, Wales that showed similar results. This sort of scheme is vital to bring awareness of the dangers of ‘junk food’ and E numbers. Please talk to your school about setting up similar schemes. Every single school that has performed these experiments has shown a dramatic decrease in bad behavior and an increase in concentration. The Soil Association (soilassociation.org) is working with Food for Life (foodforlife.org) to get organic local food into schools. School cook, Jeanette Orrey pioneered getting mostly fresh organic meals at St.Peter’s Primary School in East Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. Many schools now know which foods to avoid and decided to ban sweets and crisps and run a Healthy Snack Policy.