How To Spot The Bad Guys Hiding In Your Food

By: Daniel Villarreal
10.4.2012

So you can scope out the calories, carbs and fat on a nutritional label, but even conscientious eaters can overlook sugars, oils and sweeteners when they go by other names.

But worry not! With a little help we've decoded the aliases of some of the least healthy ingredients hiding in your favorite foods.

And we've also provided awesome alternatives, so eating well won't feel like doing hard time.

 

THE SUSPECT: Fats

WHEREABOUTS: Inside butters, fast foods, power bars, pastries, chips... basically all the things that taste awesome.

ALIASES: Saturated fats and trans-fat like to sneak around in scientific-sounding  hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ingredients.

CRIME: Fats make you fat (duh). Saturated and trans-fats also increase your "bad" LDL cholesterol, clog arteries and have been associated to various cancers.

ALTERNATIVES: Avoid junk food and opt for foods with unsaturated fats (which increase your "good" HDL cholestrol, but should still be eaten sparingly). Also, try using olive oil, avocado and applesauce as replacements for butter—you can even use them in baking, though it'll change the cooking time and food texture.

 

THE SUSPECT: Sugars 

WHEREABOUTS: In frakkin' everything!

ALIASES: Corn sweetener, corn syrup and corn sugar are all sugars. In fact, any ingredient with the words sugar, syrup or “-ose” at the end (like dextrose, sucrose, lactose, etc.) are sugars in disguise.

CRIME: Sugar isn't completely evil. Your brain and body use it for energy. But Americans tend to overeat sugar, which can suppress the immune system, promote aging and eventually cause diabetes.

ALTERNATIVES: Vanilla powder makes a surprinsingly sweet substitute despite its dark appearance. You can also add some sweetness to dishes using onion, roast veggies or crushed store-bought fruits; just make sure the fruits have no sugar added.

 

THE SUSPECT: Oils

WHEREABOUTS: You can detect oil's slick taste in salad dressings, fried foods and processed meats of all sorts.

ALIASES: Oils aren't so clever at hiding, as their name sticks out in ingredients like coconut oil, corn oil, and vegetable oil.

CRIME: Oils can dramatically increase a food's calories and negatively increase your bad cholesterol levels, making mealtime a real drag.

ALTERNATIVES: From the most healthy to the least, avocado, olive, sesame and canola oil are the healthiest of the oils. But avoid coconut, palm and vegetable oil, all of which contain saturated fats. Also try grilling instead of frying and lemon or vinegar as tasty substitutes to oily, sodium-rich dressings.

 

THE SUSPECT: Artificial sweeteners

ALIASES: These coffee-break helpers go by the names sucralose, aspartame and saccharin.

CRIME: There's conflicting evidence of how artificial sweeteners affect the human body, but we do know that they're not actual food—they're chemical and don't release energy when digested. Plus, studie suggest that they could actually contribute to weight gain.

ALTERNATIVES: Stevia has become a recent darling of the artificial sweetener world because it comes from plants and contains no sugar. But if you don't mind a little sugar, agave nectar and honey also add lots of sweetness in small amounts.

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