Kelly LeVeque is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to wellness and internal health, and given her extensive background, this comes as no surprise. A certified holistic nutritionist, wellness expert, and health coach based in Los Angeles, LeVeque runs a popular website, Be Well by Kelly, where she shares her expertise and helps guide others to live life as healthfully as possible. She is constantly researching the latest breakthroughs in nutritional studies and evaluating theories to find the best recipes and habits. Her passion for wellness is evident in her informed recommendations and fascinating findings, which is why we're so excited to have her as a Byrdie contributor. Here, LeVeque explains how to optimize your shopping trip by sharing which ingredients should never be found on your grocery list.
Parabens became a four-letter word some time ago, and the beauty product list of no-no ingredients has been growing ever since. Food labels, on the other hand, remain somewhat of an uncharted territory. Sure, if you’re a clean-eating, whole food–devoted health nut, food labels don’t even concern you. But for the other 99.99% of the population, we encounter unknown ingredients on a regular basis. So continue to eat clean as much as you can, stock up on healthy essentials like Organic Virgin Coconut Oil ($12) and Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar ($6), and avoid these preservatives when grocery shopping. Scroll through for all the details and a printable preservatives watch list.
Isoflavones are estrogen-like compounds found in soy foods that can cause reproductive problems, weight gain, and fatigue. Research has shown that isoflavones can prevent ovulation and stimulate cancerous cell growth. Not only is soy harmful to your reproductive system, but it’s also bad for your skin. It’s full of phytoestrogens that can cause breakouts—these hormonal blemishes occur around the mouth and jawline.
Carrageenan is found in both almond and coconut milk and used as a food thickener or stabilizer. Studies suggest that an increase in exposure to carrageenans can cause intestinal inflammation and lead to digestive problems. While the harmful evidence is not overwhelming (yet), it’s best to avoid carrageenans and double-check the label when buying non-dairy milk.
Avoid it! This additive ingredient in processed and fast foods is meant to add flavor but masks the true taste of the food. MSG is part contaminants and manufactured chemicals and part glutamate (a form of the amino acid glutamic acid). Glutamate is essential for cognitive function; it acts as a stimulant and signals the messengers in our brain cells to communicate. However, free-bound glutamate ingested in abundance, such as in foods with MSG, can overexcite the nervous system and cause headaches, migraines, and inflammation. The best way to avoid MSG is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid any prepackaged, extra-salty snacks.
A by-product of the guar bean, guar gum has raised concern due to its prevalence in canned coconut milk. Studies report that consuming guar gum may result in gastrointestinal side effects such as increased gas and abdominal discomfort. If you have digestive issues, removing guar gum from your diet may improve these symptoms.
Found hiding in bisphenol A–free plastics—yes, BPA-free plastic—these chemicals bind to estrogen that is naturally occurring in the body and, in effect, increase the amount of estrogen in the blood stream. Medical research suggests that an increase in estrogen can interfere with your libido and reproductive organs and even result in weight gain. Plastic water bottles exposed to heat and sunlight are prime sources of EA chemicals, so think twice before leaving a water bottle to bake in your car. Or, better yet, opt for reusable glass bottles to avoid these harmful effects.
And there you have it. Print this list, and take it with you on your next grocery store run.
What other preservatives and food ingredients do you have questions about? Ask away in the comments below!
This story was originally published on April 8, 2016.