Unfortunately in today's day and age there are more chemical additives to avoid than ever before. There’s no question that illness and disease are becoming more and more widespread across the population…and younger and younger people are being affected. Although obesity is largely to blame, it’s not only the overweight who are affected. In addition, many people believe that food additives can make it harder to lose and maintain weight.
At the very least, you won’t look and perform your best and be your healthiest if you regularly put chemicals into your body that your body is just not designed to take in. Your body can process through these chemicals to a point, but if you overload your liver without putting in enough good things, it will eventually catch up to you. The foods that you consume most frequently are the first place to look, because anything you do habitually will affect you that much more. Here are some food additives to watch out for when you read the labels of your favorite foods.
1. Sodium Nitrate (also called Sodium Nitrite)1
This is a preservative, coloring, and flavoring that is usually added to processed meats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, deli meats, smoked fish, and corned beef. Studies have linked eating it to various types of cancer. It has also been known to increase water retention and bloating. There are some companies that produce products in this class without added nitrates, but you need to read labels.
2. BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydrozyttoluene are used to preserve many common household "pantry" type foods. They are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. They are oxidants, which form potentially cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body (anti-oxidants, found in fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, help counteract the effects of oxidants. However, your body generates oxidants just as a consequence of daily living, so you can’t rely on antioxidants to help you cope with ingesting lots of oxidants).
3. Propyl Gallate
This is another preservative, often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. It is sometimes found in meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum. Animal studies have suggested that it could be linked to cancer. This is high on the list of chemical additives to avoid as much as possible.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. Although amino acids aren’t harmful when they are part of a protein found in nature, MSG contains an isolated amino acid that causes reactions in the body when it is consumed without the others that usually accompany it. MSG can cause headaches and nausea, and animal studies link it to damaged nerve cells in the brains of infant mice. This is one of the top chemical additives to avoid.
5. Trans Fats2
Trans fats are cause heart disease and increase bodyfat storage. Restaurant foods and packaged snack foods are the biggest culprits.
Aspartame, sold as "Nutrasweet" and "Equal," is a sweetener found in so-called diet foods such as low-calorie desserts, gelatins, drink mixes, and soda. It may cause cancer, headaches, and other neurological problems. Some people notice increased food cravings when ingesting any of the artificial sweeteners.
This is a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts. This product has not been adequately studied, and some studies show the additive may cause cancer in rats. Its safety for human consumption remains uncertain.
8. Food Colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6
Five food colorings still on the market are linked with cancer in animal testing. Blue 1 and 2 are found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, and have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, typically used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to many types of candy and beverages, has been linked to bladder cancer. The widely used yellow 6, added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy, has been linked to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidneys. Please keep these colors high on the list of chemical additives to avoid, especially in children.
Olestra is a synthetic fat found in some potato chip brands. The substance is not absorbed by the body, which means it has no calories but can cause severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and excess gas. Olestra also inhibits healthy vitamin absorption from fat-soluble carotenoids that are found in fruits and vegetables. Products that use Olestra usually have these vitamins added in to try to make up for this, but that may not make up for the fact that Olestra can cause these vitamin losses from your food.
10. Potassium Bromate 3
Potassium bromate is used as an additive to increase volume in some white flour, breads, and rolls. It is known to cause cancer in animals, and even small amounts in bread can create a risk for humans. Even though we generally think of potassium as healthy, this is one of the chemical additives to avoid.
11. White Sugar
Watch out for foods with added sugars, such as baked goods, cereals, crackers, sauces and many other processed foods. Sugar causes blood sugar problems and increases abdominal fat. It also robs your body of important vitamins and minerals.
12. Sodium Chloride
A sprinkle of sodium chloride, more commonly known as table salt, can add flavor to your meal. But too much salt can be dangerous for your health, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. Too much salt will also increase your water requirement, and if you don’t drink enough your body will not be able to process out the toxins you take in.
1 2019 Nov 5. doi: 10.3390/nu11112673 A Review of the In Vivo Evidence Investigating the Role of Nitrite Exposure from Processed Meat Consumption in the Development of Colorectal Cancer. William Crowe, Christopher T. Elliott, and Brian D. Green
2 Pak J Med Sci. 2014 Jan-Feb; 30(1): 194–197. doi: 10.12669/pjms.301.4525. Trans fatty acids – A risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Mohammad Perwaiz Iqbal
3 Environ Health Perspect. 1990 Jul; 87: 309–335. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9087309. Toxicity and carcinogenicity of potassium bromate--a new renal carcinogen. Y Kurokawa, A Maekawa, M Takahashi, and Y HayashiClick here to learn about additional chemical additives to avoid.