Our modern diet contains more than just a wide variety of nutrients—there is also a broad range of chemicals, preservatives, flavorings, and sweeteners included in the food we eat. While many of the food additives are helpful (preventing spoiling, improving longevity, enhancing texture, etc.), there are some chemical ingredients you’d be better off avoiding. Here is a list of some of the most common food additives you should stay away from:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS is a sweetener derived from corn, and it’s loaded with fructose, a simple sugar that can cause health problems (including diabetes and obesity) if consumed in excess. HFCS can also trigger inflammation the cells of your body, leading to a higher risk of chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Also known as MSG, this is a chemical used to enhance the flavor of the food we eat. MSG won’t have negative effects on brain health, but it can increase the chances of overeating. It may be linked to higher obesity rates, higher risk of metabolic syndrome, and chronic overconsumption of food.
Sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin are three of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners, but there are many more. All of the artificial sweeteners have been linked to health problems, including low-grade inflammation, higher acidity in the body, and even cancer, in some cases. While the sweeteners are intended to be used to manage glucose levels and prevent overconsumption of simple sugar calories, they can still raise your blood sugar levels dangerously after eating.
Artificial Food Colorings
While many food colorings are safe, there are some that have been directly linked to carcinogenic activity in the body. Children that are sensitive to food coloring have a higher risk of hyperactivity, and some food colorings are known allergens that can cause negative reactions.
This chemical is a preservative added to soda, as well as acidic foods like condiments, fruit juices, pickles, and salad dressings. While it’s deemed “safe” by the FDA, some studies suggest that it can have negative side effects, including hyperactivity in younger children, ADHD in college students, and even a higher risk of cancer.
Most commonly found in sausages, ham, and other processed meats, sodium nitrite is a preservative that keeps meat pink and gives it a salty flavor. However, when exposed to high heat during cooking, the sodium nitrite and amino acids in processed meat can turn into nitrosamine, which is dangerous for your health. Nitrosamine has been linked to stomach cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Trans fats are unsaturated fats produced during the hydrogenation process that makes hydrogenated oils. It’s found in many deep-fried and high-fat processed foods, including chips, crackers, cookies, margarine, biscuits, microwave popcorn, and baked goods. It has been directly linked to heart disease, can raise inflammatory markers, and increase your chance of diabetes. Definitely one of the common food additives you’ll want to avoid!
Basically, this includes any flavoring that is used to make food artificially taste like a specific ingredient—think the orange flavoring in orange fruit drink, or the cherry flavoring used in cherry Kool-Aid. These synthetic flavors have been linked to a decrease in red blood cell production, as well as toxicity toward bone marrow cells. Certain synthetic flavors can inhibit cell division, which can be seriously problematic for your health. It’s best to avoid synthetic flavors as much as possible and stick to natural flavors. Better yet, just eat the food itself rather than processed foods that taste like it.