Food additives are everywhere! Read the label on most packaged foods and drinks and you'll see a long list of them.
There are a number of reasons why manufacturers add food additives to the products they make. Here are a few:
We all have certain ideas about how our food should look.
You expect oranges to be orange.
Food companies know this. So when they pick oranges that are green and unripe, they simply add some dyes to make them look like what you want to look like.
That way you'll be more likely to buy them.
Of course what is "better" is really a matter of personal preference. Personally, I like the real thing as found in nature.
Artificial flavors exist for the sole purpose of adding something extra to the taste of food.
If you eat a lot of artificial flavors you can get used to them. You may even end up actually preferring them over natural flavors.
Thanks to chemicals, you can now make instant mashed potatoes that are even more light and fluffy than anything you could ever make at home.
This means that food can travel much longer and further than it ever has. It also means that foods can sit around for a very long time.
Have you ever wondered just how long that package of cookies sitting in your pantry has been around? It may be longer than you think. Not very appetizing, I know. I'm an unashamed advocate for homemade food. ;-)
Don't be misled by the word "improve." Most "enriched" foods have actually been stripped of their original nutrients.
The manufacturers then add a few synthetic vitamins and minerals to give it some nutritional value.
It's pretty common for the final product to have fewer nutrients than the starting product. That is hardly improving on nature.
It doesn't matter which way you look at it. Food additives do not make food better for you.
In fact, many doctors, health advocates and scientists are very concerned about the health and safety of these additives. Some of the commonly used additives come with some very serious side effects.
Here is a list of food additives and the side effects they can cause. Some of them are pretty scary. I will be adding more food additives to this list when I get a chance.
Feel free to print out this list of food additives so that you can have it handy when you go grocery shopping.
Acesulfame K is a relatively new calorie-free artificial sweetener. It is many times sweeter than table sugar but has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is marketed as DiabetiSweet and Sweet One.
Where you'll find it: chewing gum, baked goods, and gelatin desserts
Possible side effects: In some research studies, this sweetener caused lung, breast, and thymus gland tumors in rats. It also caused leukemia and chronic respiratory disease. In humans, acesulfame K can cause low blood sugar attacks (reactive hypoglycemia). Some researchers are concerned that not enough testing has been done on acesulfame K.
Alginic acid is used as gelling agent to thicken drinks and foods.
Where you'll find it: salad dressings, soups, jellies, cheese spreads and dips, ice cream and other frozen desserts
Possible side effects: birth defects, complications in pregnancy
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener. It is marketed under the brand names of NutraSweet and Equal. Many people with diabetes use this low calorie sweetener instead of table sugar.
Where you'll find it: sugar-free beverages, gum, candy, instant desserts, low-calorie desserts, gelatin, drink mixes, soft drinks, and some brands of chewable vitamin supplements.
Possible side effects: headaches, nausea, depression, rashes, seizures, dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia, ringing in the ears, and hallucinations. Some studies show that it may even cause cancer. Learn more about the side effects of aspartame here.
Benzoic acid is used as a food preservative. It prevents the growth of mold, yeast, and some bacteria.
Where you'll find it: jams, jelly, fruit juice, margarine, beer, pickled vegetables, soft drinks, mincemeat, and barbecue sauce
Possible side effects: asthma attacks, rashes, irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes, hyperactivity in children, neurological disorders
BHA and BHT are antioxidants that are used as preservatives for common household foods. They prevent foods from oxidizing and spoiling too quickly.
Where you'll find it: breakfast cereals, desserts, candy, chewing gum, potato chips, vegetable oils, shortening, and sausage
Possible side effects: BHA and BHT may be carcinogenic. Other side effects of these food additives include elevated cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, infertility, sterility, immune disorders, increased susceptibility to carcinogens, and behavioral problems
Brominated vegetable oil is used as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored soft drinks. It prevents the oil and other liquids from separating.
Where you'll find it: soft drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, Mountain Dew, Fanta, Fresca, and others
Possible side effects: memory loss, loss of muscle coordination, tremors, fatigue, headaches, drooping eyelids. Bromate, the main ingredient is BVO is a deadly poison, especially for children
High Fructose Corn Syrup is a liquid sweetener.
Where you'll find it: baked goods, breakfast cereals, cakes, candies, cookies, "fruit" drinks, ice cream, jam, salad dressings, soda pop, soups, and many other processed foods.
Possible side effects: elevated cholesterol, premature aging, obesity, insensitivity of insulin receptors to insulin
MSG is an amino acid. It is used enhance the flavor in a variety of foods.
Where you'll find it: soups, salt substitutes, seasonings, salad dressings, condiments, chips, frozen entrees, restaurant food, some Asian food, and flavored potato chips
Possible side effects: The results of animal studies link MSG to damaged nerve cells in the brains of infant mice. In humans, it can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, eye inflammation, central nervous and vascular system problems, and brain edema.
Olestra is a synthetic fat that prevents fat from being absorbed in your digestive system. It is marketed under the brand name Olean.
Where you'll find it: some brands of potato chips
Possible side effects: gas, abdominal cramps, severe diarrhea, and nutritional deficiencies. Olestra prevents you from absorbing fat-soluble nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Propyl gallate is a preservative that is used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. It is often used together with BHA and BHT.
Where you'll find it: breakfast cereals, vegetable oil and shortening, chicken soup base, meat products, candies, chewing gum, and frozen dairy products
Possible side effects: The results of animal studies show that propyl gallate may be linked to cancer. Possible reactions in humans include asthma attacks, allergic reactions, liver and kidney damage, and gastric irritation
Sodium nitrate/nitrite is used as a preservative and a flavoring. It is also used to retain the red color in meat products.
Where you'll find it: bacon, ham, corned beef, hot dogs, sausages, luncheon meats, smoked meats, and smoked fish
Possible side effects: According to studies, sodium nitrite/nitrate is linked to certain kinds of cancer, especially once the meat has been subjected to high-temperatures (e.g. barbecuing). It has also been linked to birth defects and childhood leukemia
These food additives are used as preservatives.
Where you'll find it: dried fruit, shrimp, frozen potatoes, wine, and restaurant salad bar items
Possible side effects: asthma attacks, allergic reactions
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