05/30/2013 05:36 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Five Most Unhealthy Ingredients Found in Packaged Foods

potato chips
potato chips

Over the years I have turned to 'clean' eating. That means the fresher and the more close to the source the food you eat is, the healthier it is.

I try to minimize my intake of packaged, processed or any instant foods. The rate of diseases amongst the older and younger population today is astounding. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart and stroke disease, autoimmune diseases and various cancers are all on the rise.

I personally believe we are what we eat and we're not eating very well today. The occasional indulgence is fine but a continuous diet of chemicals and additives to your food supply can remain in your body for years -- - According to Melanie Warner, author of Pandora's Lunchbox, about 70 per cent of the food we consume is processed.

These additives enhance the appearance of the food and prolong shelf life. But are they safe?

Here are some of the ingredients often found in pre-packaged foods that you should stay clear of:

1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Even though it may say "0 g trans fat", beware. Packaged food allows products to claim they have zero grams of trans fats as long as they have less than 0.5 gm per serving. This small amount can add up, since 2 gm is your daily allowance. Avoid anything that says "partially hydrogenated oil." You'll find this in fried foods, chips and crackers, fast foods and margarine. They increase the bad cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease diabetes type 2 and other health problems while decreasing the good cholesterol.

2. BHA and BHT

Both are used to prevent foods that contain certain oils from spoiling, changing colour or flavor. It has been shown to cause cancer in rodents and is considered a carcinogen. You'll find it in cereals, gum, chips, jello and vegetable oils.

3. Sodium nitrite

Both nitrites and nitrates that are used in deli meats such as hot dogs, salami and bacon to prevent botulism-causing bacteria, thereby maintaining the 'pink' color of these meats and increasing flavour. There have been different studies that have associated with consumption of cured meat and nitrates to a variety of cancers.

4. High fructose corn syrup

Also known as HFCS, this is a highly refined artificial sweetener which is being labelled as the number one cause of obesity today and can lead to type 2 diabetes. It also causes an increase in the bad cholesterol (LDL). It's found in processed foods such as salad dressings, sweetened yogourts, cereals, candy and most packaged foods.

5. Food dyes

Most flavored candies, sugary colorful cereals, juices, baked goods and jellos don't contain any fruit despite their bright colors. They rely on artificial food colors that have been linked to worsening hyperactivity in children, as well as linked to cancers and tumours.

My best advice for you is to try cooking from natural ingredients as often as possible and keep anything packaged, processed, canned and instant foods for an emergency.

It may seem tough to do with our daily demands, but it's well worth the health of ourselves and family.

LOOK: 10 of the unhealthiest ingredients found in common (tasty) foods:

Photo gallery10 Unhealthy Ingredients See Gallery