When you walk into the traditional grocery store of today, almost any product that you pick up has a long list of ingredients, many of which the majority of us can't pronounce! There is more put into our food today than ever before. The problem is that none of these extra ingredients are good for us; they are preservatives, colorings, flavorings, emulsifiers, and so on. These substances are termed 'food additives.'
Anything added to food is called, unsurprisingly, a food additive and there are currently more than 3,000 additives in our food! The problem with these food additives is they are very detrimental to health. Studies have linked food additives to cancer, hormone disruption, behavior problems, and a lower IQ.
The difficulty in our modern day is avoiding these additives; many Americans consume a highly-processed food diet, and processed foods depend on additives. When a food is processed, nutrients are lost and fibers are removed—thus changing the texture and flavor of the food. So, in order to make the food more appealing and to keep it from spoiling on the shelves, food manufacturers add food additives to the food. The additives slow spoilage, prevent oils from going rancid, prevent fruits from turning brown, improve the taste and/or texture, and fortify the food with synthetic vitamins and minerals that were lost during processing. The best way to avoid these harmful food additives is to eliminate processed foods and replace them with fresh, whole foods.
Some of the most common food additives to be on the lookout for are:
- Preservatives (sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate, BHA, BHT, etc)—These are typically found in foods such as fruit sauces and jellies, drinks, baked goods, processed meats, cereals, oils, dressings, and snack foods.
- Sweeteners and artificial sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, etc)—These are typically found in foods such as drinks, baked goods, table-top sugars, and gum.
- Artificial colorings (FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Nos. 3 and 40, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, Orange B, etc)—These are typically found in foods such as candies, snack foods, margarine, cheese, soft drinks, jams and jellies, gelatins, pudding, and pie fillings.
- Artificial flavorings—Typically found in foods such as pudding and pie fillings, gelatin desserts, cake mixes, salad dressings, candies, drinks, ice cream, and BBQ sauces.
- Flavor enhancers (MSG, hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract, etc)—Typically found in many processed foods.
Artificial Sweeteners (such as aspartame, aka Nutrasweet or Equal)
- Studies have linked these sweeteners to cancer, headaches, seizures, and other neurological problems.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
- This processed sweetener increases LDL ("bad") cholesterol and contributes to the development of diabetes.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- MSG is used as a flavor enhancer, but it's an excitotoxin, which means that it over-excites brain cells to the point of damage or death.
Trans Fat (aka hydrogenated oil)
- Several studies have linked trans fat and high LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, thus increasing the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.
Common Food Dyes
- Food dyes have been linked to behavior issues, reductions in IQ, headaches, and ADD.
- This chemical is a preservative used in processed foods; consumption has been linked to headaches, breathing problems, and rashes.
- This chemical is a preservative commonly used in meats and has been highly linked with many types of cancer.
BHA and BHT
- These chemicals are preservatives that affect the neurological system of the brain and have the potential to cause cancer.
- Consumption of this preservative has been so strongly linked to bronchial problems, low blood pressure, and anaphylactic shock that in the U.S. its use has been prohibited in raw fruits and vegetables.
- This chemical is used to increase the volume of some breads and has been linked to cancer.