What's Really in Fast Food? Four Ingredients You Need to Be Aware Of

Fast food meals are known to be loaded with empty calories, high-glycemic carbohydrates, sugar, and bad fats, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you order the typical burger, fries, and a soft drink at a fast food establishment, you are likely to consume a combination of butylated hydroxyanisole, trans-fatty acids, dimethylpolysiloxane, and azodicarbonamide. If you have never heard of some of these ingredients and are unaware of their implications, you are not alone. These items are lurking in the majority of all fast food items and have serious consequences for our health. Of course, I will admit that fast food can taste delicious and it’s so convenient, but let’s take an in-depth look at four common ingredients found in most fast food establishments that you need to avoid.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a chemical food additive put in oils so the oils can be used multiple times without going rancid. BHA is a known carcinogen and several studies have shown links between the chemical and cancerous tumors in animals, as well as stomach cancer in humans. Many fast food baked goods, fried foods, dehydrated potatoes, and meat products contain butylated hydroxyanisole.

Trans-Fatty Acids

Trans-fatty acids (or trans fats) are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil and many fast food establishments use this type of fat because it is cheap and has a longer shelf life compared to other fats. When using this type of oil in deep fryers, it doesn’t have to be changed as often since it takes longer to spoil. Trans fats are known for raising your LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol but there are also other detrimental effects from trans fats. Animal studies have shown that regular consumption of trans-fatty acids has led to memory difficulties, amplified emotional reactions, and oxidative injury in the brain cells of humans.

Dimethylpolysiloxane

Dimethylpolysiloxane is derived from silicon and is found in hair and skin conditioners, cosmetics, and silly putty. It is used in cooking oils as an anti-foaming agent to prevent spattering oil, and is found in items like chicken nuggets, French fries, and fried sandwiches. In addition, it even lurks in fountain drinks as to limit excess foam you typically get with canned and bottled sodas. Dimethylpolysiloxane is used a wide variety of fast food establishments including ones that claim to use higher quality, healthier, and even organic ingredients.

Azodicarbonamide

One of the more recently controversial food additives as it is used in yoga mats, azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a flour bleaching agent and dough conditioner that is banned most of Europe, as well as Australia and Singapore. Considered to be a carcinogen, ADA is linked to cancer, neurological disorders, cell mutations, and disrupted hormone functions in animals. Many fast food and commercial food manufacturers have eliminated this ingredient from their products however, it still remains a variety of processed foods.

Making the best food choices for yourself and your family can be difficult to navigate—especially when there are so many hidden ingredients in our food supply! I will admit that I, too, occasionally crave a fast food burger, fries, and soda but I just tried to remind myself of everything I will end up putting in my body. No one is perfect so if you slip up here and there, don’t be hard on yourself but if possible, please avoid regular consumption of these danger foods. If you’re a busy person with a hectic schedule and are missing the convenience of fast food, check out our simple and delicious meals that can be taken on the go here! 

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