Why Artificial Ingredients Have No Place in the Human Diet
Much of the focus that people place on their nutrition comes in the form of counting calories and being aware of how many grams of fat and carbohydrates one is consuming. While it is important to take notice of these factors, what is even more important is that you are eating the right kinds of calories, as well as looking at the ingredient list. Some foods that look incredibly healthy on the FDA label (based on values in calories, fat, carbohydrates and sodium columns) are actually quite destructive.
In fact, claims like "low fat", "fat free", or "low carb" are usually indicators that something is extremely unhealthy. This is because to cover the lost taste from a lack of these macronutrients, food manufacturers put in artificial sweeteners and flavors to compensate. This is worse than if they had just left the fat in, as these chemicals disrupt metabolism and inhibit the uptake of nutrients, which makes people gain weight moreso than losing it. No wonder people who follow such diets find it so frustrating, as they are replacing nutrients they need with chemicals they don't.
The best diets are high in all macro and micronutrient categories, which are fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (including antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, and others). Any diet plan that advocates reducing any of these categories is flat out wrong. It may work in the short term, but you will not feel good and it will lead to problems in the future. Diets rich in monounsaturated fat, Omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, complex carbohydrates, and plant-based proteins is the best for you. It is quite remarkable how doctors who have formulated modern weight loss plans can actually advocate diet plans that remove a vital living category. Atkins, the infamous creator of the low-carb diet, even advocated limiting vegetable consumption because of the carbohydrates in that. What kind of person tells people to limit one of their best sources of phytonutrients?!
You can avoid artificial ingredients by looking out for the above mentioned misleading health claims, but you can also simply look at the ingredients list on a package. One helpful cheat is that anything with the USDA Organic Seal will have absolutely no artificial ingredients, so that helps. It's important to be careful of products that say "No Artificial Flavors!" but then may have artificial colors. Also, any kind of [Color] [Number] product, such as Red 40, is artificial (believe it or not, Yellow 5 doesn't grow from the ground). Partially hydrogenated oils also are artificially created and are one of the worst things you can put in your body, and these oils are also listed in ingredients.
As long as you shop for foods devoid of artificial ingredients, you will be fine in the long-term. Of course, life is made for exceptions, and it is healthy to indulge once in awhile. After all, you only live once, and you are not meant to die with your body perfectly intact. The purpose of avoiding artificial ingredients for the most part is to ensure you have optimal energy to enjoy life and don't contract a disease that will kill you early.