Despite the potential backlash from the Latino community, there are tons of products that we know and love that are not the best for us. We all know that Latinos are fiercely loyal to brands and lots of these products have been in our families for generations as a result. They have become part of our culture in some ways. But it’s our responsibility to share important information with our people and the facts are that some of these products contain toxic ingredients and aren’t as safe to use as we once thought. Just putting this information out there — 15 of the products you grew up seeing your abuelitas and mamis swear by aren’t actually that good for you. I’d definitely suggest switching to natural alternatives but before you do that, you might want to check out this list!
I know, I know. Fabuloso is a big part of our experience growing up Latinx. That purple liquid meant the house was going to be spotless, and everything was going to smell clean and fresh. But have you ever stopped to think about what makes it that royal shade of purple? Or what makes it clean so well and smell like lavender (other than actual lavender)? Usually, it means that there are several unnatural chemicals involved, most of which aren’t healthy. Fabuloso has several harmful ingredients, including sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate, and sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients are known to cause health issues.
Vick’s Vapor Rub
Keeping it real about this Latino cult favorite definitely makes me fear any public backlash. We all grew up with the menthol-y smell of Vick’s Vapor Rub (or vipvaporu). It was the remedy of all remedies when one came down with a cold, had a stuffy nose, or just didn’t feel well. We have dedicated pins, memes, and all kind of things to it. It reminds so many of us of home, family, and feeling loved and taken care of. Unfortunately, Vick’s Vapor Rub is not meant to be put in the nostrils so definitely stop that! If this topical camphor is absorbed into the mucous membranes, it can be toxic. It’s also not safe to use on children under the age of 2.
“Con Mazola, no esta sola!” That’s the product jingle I still remember from Mazola corn oil. That’s the thing. We see these everyday items in commercials, on TV (remember the singing ads in the middle of Sabado Gigante?), and advertised in magazines, and think that means they’re good to buy. I only fairly recently learned that if it has a commercial, you probably shouldn’t buy the product. Mazola has GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in it, is heavily processed (as are corn oils in general), and has polyunsaturated fats, which become unhealthy when cooked at high temperatures (i.e. frying). Like they say, “mejor sola que mal acompañada,” no?
Flaming Hot Cheetos
I’m a Cheetos Puffs girl and I know it’s a bad thing. Companies add things to foods that are meant to make them taste delicious and more addicting than natural, healthy foods. That’s why it’s so hard to say no to them. Flaming Hot Cheetos is a favorite snack in the Latinx community. The bright orangey-red snacks have been sending people to the hospital with stomach issues. They also contain red and yellow food coloring, linked to cancer, hyperactivity in children, and allergies. Another tip that I’ve heard more and more over the years is that we should only eat things that our ancestors would recognize as real foods. Our ancestors were definitely not snacking on Cheetos.
It’s sad to find out the things we grew up eating and drinking are actually not good for you. Tasty, absolutely, but not very healthy at all. Take, Nestle Quik/Nesquik, for example. When I was a young girl, it was Nestle Quik. I loved to dig huge scoops with my spoon and mix it into my milk or squeeze the syrup version into my glass. The more strawberry or chocolate powder or syrup you used, the darker and more flavorful your milk became. Sadly, we should’ve known that anything that sugary powdered or syrupy probably isn’t the healthiest bet.
Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening
Can someone tell me why fried food tastes better?! Why manteca leads to yummy food?! For ages, moms and abuelitas have been cooking using lard, which is pork fat. The “healthier” alternative has always been Crisco, which is a vegetable shortening. But it is far from healthy. First off, it’s 100% fat, which is dangerous for your arteries and your general health. Secondly, it’s not natural — Crisco actually stands for crystallized cottonseed oil. Just look at some of the ingredients it contains, such as soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, palm oil, mono and diglycerides, and TBHQ. Another good rule of thumb is if you don’t know, or can’t pronounce, the ingredients in a product, they probably aren’t good for you.
Vaseline has been regarded by for years by many as a lifesaver product that serves a thousand purposes. It was in everyone’s closet and part of everyone’s beauty routine. We know it so well, we don’t even call it by its name, petroleum jelly, instead referring to its brand name, Vaseline. While it is great at moisturizing, is not the healthiest option out there. In fact, petroleum jelly sits on your skin, keeping it from releasing toxins or receiving moisture, and trapping in bacteria. One of its components, hydrocarbon, is toxic, and due to the makeup of Vaseline, sits on the skin, until it is absorbed into the skin’s fat layer.
This is another entry that hurts to write. Sazon Goya is such a big part of Latinx culture and used in many Latino dishes. Every time my mom buys Sazon Goya, I start singing the chorus to Celia Cruz’s “Sazon.” The seasoning makes food taste better and more like home. Goya is one of those brands we know, trust, and consistently buy, generation after generation. However, Sazon Goya isn’t as good for you as it is good in taste. It contains MSG, as well as two different food colorings, yellow 5 and red 40. Luckily, there are healthier versions of Sazon that you can make at home. Try to make as much as you can at home; that way, you’ll know what you’re putting into the recipe, and can choose all-natural options.
Coca-Cola is another product that isn’t too good for you but unfortunately tastes so good. But, it’s bad. The introduction of Coke into Mexican towns has the beverage giant taking the blame for Mexico’s obesity and diabetes crisis. Mexico is now the second most obese nation in the world, behind the United States). Coke is loaded with sugar (high-fructose corn syrup in the U.S.). In fact, it contains so much sugar that phosphoric acid is added to the beverage, to stop you from doing what your body would naturally in this situation — vomit. It tastes great and has been part of our lives forever, but if we want to live long healthy lives it’s probably best to reduce or eliminate it from our diets.
El Yucateco Red Hot Sauce
We don’t mess around when it comes to our hot sauce. It goes on everything. There are people who are fiercely loyal to one specific brand, while others have an arsenal of several tried-and-true favorites. Flavor is paramount, but often, we don’t think about what goes into our favorite selections. Is it natural or laden with chemicals? We often don’t know. El Yucateco is a hot sauce that you might love and throw on all your comida, but, you should know that it contains a not-so-healthy ingredient. The red sauce contains the unhealthy red food coloring, red 40.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
It’s disturbing that products geared towards infants could contain harmful chemicals. One such product is Johnson & Johnson baby powder. The seemingly harmless product was at the center of a class action lawsuit, to blame for causing 22 women to develop ovarian cancer — that’s a lot! Over 1,000 women are said to have sued the company for this reason. One known carcinogen present in this powder is asbestos. What?! Why would you want to put this on you or your child?! Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7 billion dollars to these 22 women. I can’t help but wonder how many more women and children have been harmed by this product.
Fruit juices are tricky little things. They seem wholesome, healthy, and natural, After all, they come from fruits, which are natural, right? Yes and no. Juices are derived from fruits but they’re often loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Jumex is the most popular juice and nectar producer in Mexico, and you an find it in most Latino groceries and bodegas. Thousands of people drink them, perhaps without thinking twice about what they contain. In addition to real fruit, Jumex mango nectar, for instance (which is said to be 100% nectar), contains mango puree from concentrate, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup.
It’s a tasty beverage for washing down a burrito, quenching thirst, and satisfying your sweet tooth, but Jarritos soda is not good for your health. I mean, would you expect candy-colored, deliciously sweet sodas to be? Jarritos is one of those products we indulge in, knowing that it isn’t a healthy choice. First of all, it has a ton of sugar (22 to 27 grams in the flavors we looked at). Second, those candy colors are done with the addition of harmful food coloring. It also has sodium benzoate. When a product also has Vitamin C on top of sodium benzoate, the combination of the two causes a chemical reaction, which produces the carcinogen benzene that can be very harmful to your health.
It’s an especially scary thing to find out some of the toothpaste you’ve been using your entire life is not healthy. Families usually get into the groove of buying one kind for the whole family for years. I’ve seen their catchy commercials, featuring Latinx celebrities, on television countless times. Famous so-and-so said this toothpaste changed her life, so I totally need to buy it. Remember my tip on not buying products pushed in commercials? Same goes for beauty and household products (there are exceptions, however). Colgate Total was found to contain triclosan, a harmful hormone disruptor. Colgate has since taken the chemical out, launching a new version of the toothpaste in January of this year.
Clorox bleach cleans so well. It leaves your clothes, and everything else, squeaky clean, disinfected, and gleamingly bright. You’ll find it in many Latinx households because it’s trusted for its efficacy. But bleach is also very harmful, especially so if you accidentally mix it with vinegar or ammonia (that will cause it to turn into toxic, deadly chlorine gas). Exposure to the chemicals contained within bleach can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose, and lungs, cause asthma, and trigger asthma attacks. When bleach interacts with certain surfaces, carcinogens have been known to be released. They may not be strong enough to burn holes into your clothing, but natural cleaners can safely keep your clothes and household clean.