These days, concerns over genetically modified foods, chemicals and toxins are popping up everywhere in the news—and for good reason. Demands for more transparency about what is being put in the products and foods we use has proven that many companies do not have our best health in mind. It is more important than ever to be an active participant in the land of consumerism. A great rule of thumb when it comes to eating is to limit your consumption of foods that come in boxes and to eat as many living foods, such as fresh vegetables, as possible. Study the ingredients lists on your favorite food label or beauty product. Recognize any of the ingredients? If not, they are probably foreign to your body and may be harmful.

Here are five common ingredients found in products that we all should be aware of and avoid.

1. Parabens (Methyl, Butlyl, Ethyl, Propyl) are synthetic preservatives used in deodorants and other skincare products. They allow beauty products to have a long shelf life, but also enter your body via the skin and may disrupt hormonal balance, leading to estrogen overproduction. Studies have shown that parabens are linked to breast cancer.

ALTERNATIVE: There are many paraben and aluminum free deodorants available online and in heath stores. You can also make your own deodorant by mixing coconut oil, arrowroot baking soda, and an essential oil like tea tree.

2. rBGH or Recombinant bovine growth hormone (Posilac), is the largest synthetic dairy hormone grown in this country. The hormone is given to cows to increase milk production. The problem with rBGH that many studies report is that  not only does the rBGH makes cows sick, but also that excess levels of a hormone called IGF-1 found in rBGH can increase risks of prostate, colon and breast cancer. In fact, the dangers of rBGH are so conclusive, that it has been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the European Union.

ALTERNATIVE: While it may be hard to avoid rBGH all together, look for organic milk products from cows that are not fed the dangerous hormone. 

3. Fluoride is found in most mouthwashes and toothpastes. It is also present in most water, baby formulas and processed foods in this country. Exposure to fluoride over a long period of time can result in dental fluorosis, which causes tooth enamel to decay. this process is especially dangerous for children. 11 countries have banned fluoridated water because of its effects.

ALTERNATIVE: Make your own toothpaste by using a 50/50 ratio of coconut oil and baking soda. You can also add a few drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil for flavor.

4. Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates are additives added to plastic in order to harden it. It can be found in everything from water bottles to canned food. When heated, BPA can leak into food. In 2010, the FDA released a study that expressed concern over what affects BPA may have on the brain, fetuses, prostate glands and young children.

ALTERNATIVES: Do not microwave food in plastic containers because they can release BPA and other harmful additives into food. Avoid buying canned food or food storage containers unless they are marked "BPA-free."

5. Traces of arsenic have recently been found in chicken and rice. Arsenic is a poisonous chemical often found in pesticides. Though only small traces were found in food, the impact of ingesting arsenic over a lifetime is cause to take a closer look at the brands you are buying.

ALTERNATIVES: Rely less on rice, and invest in whole grains like millet, quinoa and barley. Buy organic chicken. Arsenic is used in chicken to promote growth and prevent disease in chickens living in close quarters. The use of arsenic is prevented in organic chicken farming.