Normal Foods You Never Realized Are Actually Pretty Gross

If you’re eating one of the most dangerous foods in the world, you’re probably bracing yourself for something gross. But did you know that you don’t have to be a daredevil or even an adventurous eater to consume some pretty gross foods? In fact, some foods that most of us would consider perfectly normal are actually pretty disgusting when you stop to think about it.

Below, check out some of the most common foods that, in reality, have some very gross ingredients.

1. Hot dogs

hot dogs

Hot dogs on grill grates | iStock.com/Liveslow

Hot dogs are a staple both at picnic tables and at the kids’ table at any family event. So it may surprise you to learn that this kid-friendly food contains a pretty gross mixture of ingredients. As The Huffington Post notes, traditional hot dogs contain a mix of beef, chicken, and pork. That mix gets pumped with water, laced with corn syrup, and then piped into casings. They even get flavored with liquid smoke. 

2. Chicken nuggets

Chicken nuggets

Chicken nuggets | iStock.com/OlgaMiltsova

Another kid-friendly food that you probably don’t want to think too hard about? Chicken nuggets. NPR reports that commercially produced chicken nuggets are comprised primarily of fat, blood vessels, nerve, connective tissue, and ground bone. They probably have a lot less meat (and protein) than you think. Instead of getting healthy, lean meat, you’re getting all kinds of other parts of the bird. 

3. Blue cheese

Close up of blue cheese

Blue cheese | iStock/GathealPhotography

Many of us love blue cheese, or at least blue cheese dressing, despite the fact that these cheeses are made with cultures of the mold Penicillium. (When you see those blue or grey spots, you’re actually looking at mold!) Bon Appétit reports that there are two different types of blue mold, and they yield several kinds of blue cheese. Blue cheese isn’t the only cheese made with mold, either. Other favorites like gorgonzola and stilton also introduce mold. 

4. Yogurt

Bowl of fresh mixed berries and yogurt with farm fresh strawberries

Yogurt with fresh berries | iStock.com/Ozgur Coskun

Another kind of food made with live cultures? Yogurt. As The Atlantic explains, the typical cup of yogurt contains strains of four species of live bacteria: bifidobacterium, streptococcus, lactococcus, and lactobacillus. The bacteria you consume in your favorite yogurt influences the makeup of your gut microbes. Plus, the bacteria can modify your brain chemistry. Of course, those changes are typically good — but it’s still a little unnerving to realize that your yogurt contains live bacteria. 

5. Jell-O

Green Gelatin with a yellow background

Green Jell-O in a bowl | iStock.com/DreamBigPhotos

Jell-O seems harmless enough. But this jiggly treat is actually very gross when you find out where it comes from. Gelatin is made from collagen, a protein that’s boiled down from animals’ connective tissue or skin. The gelatin in your Jell-O most likely comes from pig skin, according to Health. It’s probably not a big deal unless you’re a vegetarian (or vegan). But it’s still a little disconcerting to think about. 

6. Instant oatmeal

Blueberry Porridge

Bowl of oatmeal | iStock.com/Robynmac

Most people realize that those instant oatmeal packets, even though they make a fast and convenient breakfast, aren’t the healthiest option. They’re sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. And according to Rodale’s Organic Life, high-fructose corn syrup is often contaminated with mercury. Your best bet? Buy some instant oats in a carton instead, and add fresh fruit, maple syrup, or real sugar to flavor it. 

7. Sardines

Mediterranean fish on plate

Sardines | iStock.com/Mythja

These tiny fish are pretty smelly. Plus, it’s not common to find a fish that people eat whole. (And if you think about it, there aren’t many things you can buy at the grocery store that still have eyes.) It’s enough to make you think twice about snacking on those sardines you picked up at the grocery store. Fortunately, sardines contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, plus vitamin B12. So if you convince yourself that no, those tiny fish eyes aren’t actually watching you, they make a healthy addition to your diet. 

8. Shrimp

pasta with sautéed shrimp

Pasta with shrimp | Pixabay

Shrimp make a delicious meal. (At least if you can talk yourself into sticking out the gross chore of stripping off the shells and legs, and deveining these little sea creatures.) The problem is that when you buy shrimp, you’re not just getting tasty seafood. The popular shellfish is easily contaminated, and Organic Life notes that shrimp makes the “dirty dozen” list of the seafood that’s most likely to pick up toxins. The shrimp you buy at the grocery may contain antibiotics, cleaning chemicals, and even toxic pesticides.  

9. Cheese food

homemade grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast

Grilled cheese sandwich | iStock.com/OlgaMiltsova

When you don’t want to bother slicing your own cheese for sandwiches, it’s tempting to pick up a pack of Kraft Singles or a similar item. But those packs of “cheese” aren’t real cheese at all. As Fine Cooking explains, these processed products — whether you want to call them “cheese foods,” “imitation cheese,” or “almost cheeses” — are concocted not to have a great flavor, but to have specific textures and melting properties “that you don’t get out of a proper cheese.” These products “that aren’t legally allowed to call themselves cheese” might be easy to reach for at the grocery store. But they’re kind of gross when you stop to think about it.

10. Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise | iStock.com

Another staple you’ll find in most American kitchens, despite its gross ingredient list? Mayonnaise. This slimy condiment is made of oil, egg yolks, and either vinegar or lemon juice. Slate, offering a “brief history of mayonnaise and disgust,” concedes that “Mayonnaise contains an animal product, it is reminiscent of pus or semen, and it is remarkably slimy and jiggly.” If that doesn’t make you think twice about spreading the condiment on your sandwich, we don’t know what will. 

11. Canned mushrooms

baked casserole with potatoes, cheese, and mushrooms

Mushroom casserole | iStock.com

Buying fresh mushrooms gets expensive. So many people opt for canned mushrooms at the grocery store, instead. However, it’s not just mushrooms that you’re getting in that can. Rodale’s Organic Life reports that the FDA legally allows 19 maggots and 74 mites in a 3.5 ounce can of mushrooms. Most people would agree that it’s pretty gross to eat maggots and mites when all you wanted were some mushrooms to top your pizza or throw in your casserole.

12. Frozen berries

frozen mixed fruit - berries

Frozen berries | iStock.com/Baibaz

Buying frozen berries is a great way to save some money. But you may be getting a big dose of mold when you stock up at the grocery store. According to Organic Life, the FDA allows up to 60% of frozen or canned blackberries and raspberries to contain mold. Most people would throw away fresh berries that started growing mold. So why would you want to eat contaminated frozen berries? 

13. Ground beef

Raw Ground beef meat Burger steak cutlets on cutting board on dark wooden background

Ground beef | iStock.com/Lisovskaya

You might want to rethink your plan to make burgers. The problem is that you’re not just getting ground beef, despite the label on the package. You’re also getting fillers like pink slime, a finely ground mixture of waste meat and fat. Health reports that the mixture also contains ammonia, which processors use to kill bacteria. You may want to purchase organic ground beef, since it can’t legally contain pink slime. You’ll also want to watch out for other contaminants, like veterinary drugs and antibiotics.

14. Maraschino cherries

Sundae with a cherry on top | iStock.com

Most of us don’t think twice before putting a couple of maraschino cherries on top of our ice cream. But you may not reach for the jar again after you learn what gives the cherries their signature bright red hue: cochineal beetles. Health reports that the manufacturers boil the beetles to yield the dye. It’s probably not a problem for you unless you’re a vegan. (It certainly doesn’t change the taste of those delicious cherries.) But you probably won’t look at an ice cream sundae the same way.

15. Parmesan cheese

Grated parmesan cheese

Grated parmesan cheese | Sil63/Getty Images

Like sprinkling grated parmesan cheese on your pasta or pizza? Then you might want to start buying blocks of cheese and grating it yourself. That’s because the grated cheese you buy at the grocery store uses cellulose, also called wood pulp or sawdust, as a filler. The same ingredient keeps the shredded cheese you buy in the refrigerator case from clumping up, too.

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