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Food Additives You Should Avoid

Most people know the importance of calories or fat when shopping for food, and they are important.  But equally important are those little ingredients that are hard to pronounce; the lab-generated food additives that can add flavor, but at a big cost to your health.  Here’s a rundown of the food additives you should be on the lookout for and avoid.

Partially Hydrogenated Oil

This is bad for your heart health.  Really, really bad for your heart health.  This ingredient is a big source of trans fat, and is used because it increases shelf life, and stabilizes the flavor of foods.  Trans fats are more difficult for your body to dissolve than saturated fats and they can boost the bad cholesterol in your system.  They help to steer you down the road of heart disease, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies and cellular deterioration.  Even if something is labeled at “trans fat free” doesn’t mean it is, either, so buyer beware!  The biggest perpetrators of this ingredient are margarine, vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, baked goods, salad dressings, bread and chips.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

This is very similar to table sugar but is different in a very important way, which is that it’s had the heck processed out of it to make it into fructose.  There’s no conclusive evidence that high fructose corn syrup will cause tissue damage or inhibit your leptin function, but it is known that a lot of sugar in your diet is bad for you.  So don’t be fooled by the name, this is sugar and too much of it can put you at risk for diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.


Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (whew!) are proof positive that not all antioxidants are good for you.  These are antioxidant preservatives that keep products from going rancid.  They are known carcinogens and can have a negative impact on sleep and appetite.  They’ve also been associated with liver and kidney damage, hair loss, behavioral problems, cancers, fetal abnormalities and growth retardation.  You should steer clear of the cereals, potato chips and chewing gum that they are often found in.

Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite

They dynamic duo of meat additives, they are used as colorants and to preserve shelf life in meats like hot dogs, bacon and sausage.  By themselves they aren’t terrible, but once they mix with your stomach acid they form nitrosamines and those cells can lead to cancer of the stomach, brain, esophagus and bladder.  Some people have automatic reactions to them including dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting.  The good news is you can find additive-free meats pretty easily.

Propyl Gallate

This is another antioxidant preservative.  It is used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling.  There’s no conclusive evidence, but some suggest it may cause cancer.  It is contained in vegetable oil, potato sticks, chicken soup base, meat products, chewing gum and even cosmetics.

Food Colorings

You do not want to taste the rainbow when it comes to food colorings. Some food colorings are natural, but a lot are not.  A positive note is that about 2/3 of synthetic dyes have been banned in the U.S., but there are still a few that remain.  Red #3, for example, can cause chromosomal damage and thyroid tumors.  Red #40 has caused lymph tumors in labs.  Yellow #5 and #6 may cause thyroid and kidney tumors.  So, check to see what colorings are in your food and avoid the unnatural ones if you can!

Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Shaun Fisher

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