Barbecue season is prime time for indulging in ice cream, chips, and burgers smothered in ketchup, but experts warn that the additives these foods contain are a danger to our health. “The U.S. government largely allows companies to decide which additives are ‘safe’”, says “Food Babe” Vani Hari, a food activist and author of Feeding You Lies ($12.77, Amazon). “But across the pond, consumers enjoy many of the same products with totally different ingredients.”
Indeed, many countries have stronger regulations that keep additives out of stores while “American” versions of these foods make us sick and tired. “Diseases that plague Americans, like dementia and heart disease, are not predominantly caused by aging”, asserts Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Fast Food Genocide ($8.98, Amazon). “It’s the additives in the American diet that are destroying our health.”
Fortunately, companies are now offering products that are free of additives, and it’s never been easier to make your own at home. Here, we list three common health sappers to avoid, plus swaps that provide all the flavor — without the risk.
Love potato chips? Opt for these.
There’s nothing like munching on satisfyingly salty potato chips at a pool party. Unfortunately, the crunchers we love often contain synthetic food dyes. “Artificial coloring agents lead to autoimmune disease, premature aging, and obesity,” says Dr. Fuhrman.
In fact, their impact is so serious that products with food dyes are sold with a warning label in Europe. But you can still have your crunch! Check the ingredients list and avoid any chips that say “artificial color” or that list a specific color followed by a number (such as Red 40 or Yellow 5). Or select a brand that keeps artificial colors out of all of its products, like Terra.
Love ketchup? Make your own.
A main ingredient in most American ketchup brands is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). “The explosion in the occurrence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the past 50 years was caused by exposure to HFCS”, asserts Dr. Fuhrman.
That’s why the European Union has banned the sweetener — and why Hari swears by her homemade ketchup. To make: Mix a 5 1⁄2-oz. can of tomato paste, 1⁄4 cup of diced yellow onions, 2 1⁄2 Tbs. of apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbs. of honey, 1⁄4 tsp. of allspice, and 1⁄4 tsp. of sea salt in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil; simmer for 10 minutes. Blend until smooth; store in the fridge for up to a week.
Prefer store-bought? Look for products like Primal Kitchen or Annie’s, both made with cane sugar instead of HFCS.
Love frozen treats? Try ‘nice cream.’
Who doesn’t crave a scoop on a hot summer day? But most ice cream contains a minefield of additives, says Hari. It’s not just the synthetic growth hormones in most American dairy (which are banned in the European Union and Canada); many brands are also loaded with gut-harming emulsifiers (like carrageenan) as well as artificial colors.
To sidestep these, Hari recommends buying brands that are flavored with whole-food ingredients, like strawberries, instead of “natural flavors.” Two brands she likes: Three Twins and Julie’s Organic.
Or, try Dr. Fuhrman’s banana-based “nice cream” recipe: In a blender, combine 2 frozen bananas, 1⁄3 cup of almond milk, 4 pitted dates, 2 Tbs. of cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. Serve immediately or freeze 30 minutes for firmer ice cream.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.