Steer clear of these five foods at your local supermarket that put the gross in groceries.By: David Zinczenko and Leah Zerbe
There are two types of reality food shows on TV. The first features mouthwatering meals we wish we could eat right off our flat-screens. The second subjects us to gag-inducing footage of people wolfing down bull testicles, duck embryos, and puréed insects.
Is your kitchen more a) MasterChef or b) Fear Factor?
I'm sorry to say, the correct answer is probably B. Thanks to modern food processing techniques, manufacturers are allowing toxic and disease-promoting ingredients to find their way into our food, and in many cases, they've invented clever ways to keep them off the ingredient statement.
So with help from Rodale.com writer Leah Zerbe, I've narrowed down the most sordid supermarket selections for you. Read on for a countdown of the five grossest foods your grocer has to offer.
MORE: Learn great shopping habits and find delicious recipes with the Men's Health Big Book of Nutrition. Plus, watch this video and find out how to set your table for good health.
Why it's gross: Many packaged breads and baked goods contain L-cysteine-a non-essential amino acid made from dissolved human hair (often from China) or duck feathers (mmmm). Food manufacturers use the ingredient as a commercial dough conditioner, meant to improve the texture of breads and baked goods.
Why it's bad: Eating something derived from the human body violates the religious and ethical beliefs of Muslims and vegans. Plus, eew! If you want to avoid ingesting hair and feathers-and really, who doesn't?-try eating unprocessed whole grains like oats and brown rice, and make your own baked goods whenever possible. (Search: Which whole grains are the healthiest?)
EXTRA: Tricks That Fight Flab. When it comes to weight loss, how you eat is every bit as important as what you eat. Check out The 20 Habits That Make You Fat and watch your belly disappear.
Why it's gross: Depending on where your shrimp comes from, it could be tainted with chemicals used to clean filthy shrimp-farm pens. Just as disgusting, farmed shrimp from overseas is often full of antibiotics, mouse and rat hair, and pieces of insects (yummy!).
Why it's bad: Only about 2 percent of all imported seafood is inspected, meaning this nasty stuff is making its way onto your plate. Contaminated shrimp tends to come from critters imported from overseas shrimp farms, so if you're looking for safer-and more appetizing-options, choose domestic shrimp. (Search: Make sure you're eating the healthiest seafood in the sea).
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GROCERY GUIDE: Place anything from our newly updated list of the 125 Best Supermarket Foods in your shopping cart-and watch the pounds melt away!
Why it's gross: Big food corporations often add the chemical titanium dioxide-commonly found in paints and sunscreens-to processed foods like salad dressing, coffee creamers, and canned icing to make them appear whiter.
Why it's bad: Titanium dioxide is a component of the metallic element titanium, a mined substance that's sometimes contaminated with toxic lead. Plus, most white dressings (like cream-based ranch) aren't great for you anyway. Both your health and your waistline will fare better if you go with an olive oil- or vinegar-based salad topper instead. Or, better yet, make your dressing at home.
DISHONEST DISHES: From fruit-free fruit juices to diet foods doused with salt, we've uncovered the truth behind the 7 Biggest Food Label Lies.
Why it's gross: Many artificial food dyes-found in hundreds of everyday foods-are made from petroleum-derived materials. Food producers use these chemical dyes in cereals and candy to make them more "fun" for kids, in pickles to make them appear fresher, and in place of real ingredients in a variety of other packaged foods. Betty Crocker Carrot Cake Mix, for example, is actually a carrot-free product, with "carrot flavored pieces" cooked up from corn syrup and artificial colors Yellow 6 and Red 40.
Why it's bad: Orange and purple food dyes have been shown to impair brain function, and other dyes have been linked to ADHD and behavioral problems in kids, as well as brain-cell toxicity. And not only are these additives potentially hazardous, but they're also a rip-off! It's cheaper for food companies to use fake dyes in place of real ingredients, so you end up with food frauds like Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast, a "juice" product without a trace of cherry or berry juice (check out our full list of the 20 Worst Drinks in America). Get your brightly colored foods from the produce aisle only!
VIDEO: Find out how to make fresh, healthy meals right at home.
Why it's gross: The FDA legally allows 19 maggots—tiny, rice-shaped fly larvae that feast on rotting foods—and 74 mites in every 3.5-ounce can of mushrooms. Bon appetit!
Why it's bad: While maggots do have their place in the medical world—they can help heal ulcers and other wounds—most of us would agree that they don't have a place in our mouths. Opt for fresh mushrooms instead, and if you need another reason to ditch canned goods, consider this: Most are lined with bisphenol A (or BPA), a plastic chemical that causes unnatural hormonal changes linked to heart attacks, obesity, and certain cancers.
Do you want to eat all the right foods and lose weight even if you don't exercise regularly? Try the Eat This, Not That! No Diet Diet. Plus, don't be fooled by these flat-out lies about eating.
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