Have you ever been fooled by something that seemed so good and honest and then it turned out to be just the opposite? We all have probably, in one way or another. When you’re fooled by someone you trust it hurts even more. The majority of us are fooled on a daily basis by the marketing and advertising schemes of today’s major food corporations. For years I used to believe them, because why wouldn’t you? Their products are approved by the FDA, so they must be safe, right? Well, somewhat safe, and that’s good enough for them. The FDA has a food safety rating that includes a category called “Generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
If my child’s toys had a sign on it that read
“Generally recognized as safe”
I would have some serious doubts about letting him play with that toy.
What if he sticks it in his mouth? Is that “not safe” then? But it’s ok to sell us food that has this dubious safety rating?? I’m not ok with that. Are you?
Every time I learned about a new additive, what it does to the food, and what it can do to my body, I made a mental note to avoid it in the future. Over the years the list has gotten so long, that I couldn’t remember them all and just decided to eliminate all of them out of my life. BEST. DECISION.EVER. My digestion improved, my hair got healthier, I was less tired, and my skin cleared up quite a bit!
So, I could just tell you to avoid all food additives and be done with it, but remember what I said about being fooled? What would you think if you read “caramel color” on the ingredient list? Sounds safe, no? Caramel =butter+sugar so we’re in the clear. Unfortunately not. Caramel color is an artificial coloring that has nothing to do with your beloved caramels. Some types of this artificial coloring contain a potentially carcinogenic (=can cause cancer) chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). In 2007, a federal government study concluded that 4-MeI caused cancer in mice and the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined the chemical to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 2011. There’s no federal limit for levels of 4-MeI in foods and beverages. No limit. Think about that. The FDA knows it can cause cancer and still allows it to be in your food.
Because the list of ingredients can be so deceiving to us consumers, I decided to put together this glossary of additives to avoid and why. My goal with this list is to educate and hopefully get you to make the right choices when you’re shopping for food. Because “generally recognized as safe” is not safe enough.
|What it’s called||Why it’s bad for you||What you could use instead|
|ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS||Natural sweeteners: honey, or pure maple syrup. Try to “wean” yourself off sugar.|
|Acesulfame K||Contains methylene chloride, a known carcinogen; Long term exposure can cause nausea, headaches, mood problems, impairment of the liver and kidneys, problems with eyesight and possibly cancer. May contribute to hypoglycemia|
|Aspartame||Long term exposure/consumption can cause: headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, tingling of limbs, depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, chest palpitations, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, precipitation of clinical diabetes, joint pain, excessive thirst, …|
|Saccharin||Saccharin is a sulfa-based sweetener; its primary ingredient is benzoic sulfimide. For those with sulfa allergies, saccharin may cause nausea, diarrhea, skin problems or other allergy-related symptoms|
|Sucralose (splenda)||Can cause shrinking of the thymus gland, an important immune system regulator; reduces healthy intestinal bacteria, can impact the effectiveness of prescription and other drugs. Side effects: headaches, stomach cramps, diarrhea, bladder issues, skin irritation, dizziness and inflammation.|
|Stevia / Truvia / PureVia||In its natural form of the stevia leaf it is perfectly safe. You can even make your own stevia extract. The powders sold at stores contain refined stevia, often with added fillers, like cellulose and dextrose.|
|Sugar Alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol)||Mostly made from corn syrup (GMO corn); can cause gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, bloating|
|High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)|
aka corn syrup, corn syrup solids, glucose-fructose
|Chemically derived from GMO corn; high doses can cause “leaky gut” where toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins leak through your intestinal walls and enter your blood stream, triggering inflammation (the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging). Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn sugar”.|
|Maltodextrin||An artificial sugar created by applying acids or other enzymes to cornstarch (GMO). |
May cause allergic reactions (rash, asthma, itching and difficulty breathing), unexplained weight gain, bloating and flatulence
|ARTIFICIAL COLORS||The use of artificial food coloring signals a lack of nutrition in food (i.e. the nutrients that give color to real food are absent in the processed version, necessitating fake colors). Artificial colors have been linked to hyperactivity disorders and cancer.||Make your own real food colors:|
|Blue # 1||chromosomal damage, banned in France and Finland||Purple: red cabbage juice or blackberries|
|Blue # 2||Brain tumors, banned in Norway||Blue: boil red cabbage and slowly add baking soda|
|Red #3||Thyroid tumors, chromosomal damage, neuro-chemical and behavioral effects||paprika|
|Red #40||Lymphomas, chromosomal damage, hyperactivity||Strawberries, raspberries|
|Green #3||Bladder tumors, banned in Europe||Spinach juice|
|Yellow #5||Lymphomas, chromosomal damage, asthma, allergies, hyperactivity, aggression, violent behavior,||Turmeric, saffron|
|Yellow #6||Asthma, eczema, hives, chromosomal damage, hyperactivity, thyroid tumors, allergies||Carrot juice, pumpkin|
|Annatto (or Achiote)||Although this food color is derived from the annatto seeds, allergic reactions have been found, similar to those from artificial colorings.||Paprika, red pepper juice, carrot juice|
|Caramel Color (brown)||Some contain the potentially carcinogenic 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI);||Use real caramel, or cocoa|
|Carmine (red);||coloring (extracted from an insect) may cause||Strawberries, raspberries|
|aka: Cochineal Extract||allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis|
|“color added”||Very vague statement approved by the FDA|
|ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS||Usually made up of chemicals called esters, tar and crude oil. Over consumption can cause obesity, high blood sugar and cholesterol. |
If a food has added flavors, it usually means that the ingredients are of lesser quality, and less nutritious.
|Fresh, seasonal and locally grown produce has more flavor and nutrient density. Try to wean yourself off artificial flavors and re-discover how amazing real food tastes.|
|Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)|
Aka : -Glutamic acid
-Autolyzed Plant Protein
-Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP)
-Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
-Soy Protein Concentrate
Brand name: Accent
|MSG is a flavor enhancer, often made from (GMO) corn. The use is usually a sign of inferior quality ingredients in the product. Be careful of packages touting “No MSG” and read ingredient labels carefully. A form of MSG may still be inside, disguised under one of the names shown on the left.|
Over-consumption can cause headaches, sweating, flushing, nausea, heart palpitations, chest pain, weakness, numbness, burning, or tingling of the face and neck.
For more info, look here: http://foodidentitytheft.com/culprits/msg/
|A note on glutamates:
Glutamate occurs naturally as well and is present in a variety of protein-rich foods,
and is particularly abundant in aged cheese, meat,
and broth. I personally try to stay away from artificially derived glutamate and forms of such. Simply because I believe that food made in a lab is not real food. And it often is made from GMO ingredients, which to me, are not proven 100% safe yet.
|Ascorbic Acid||A synthetic form of Vitamin C made from a process involving (GMO) cornstarch and volatile acids. It is not the same as naturally occurring Vitamin C. Synthetic vitamins in large doses can have toxic effects, and may increase the white blood cell count.||If you see this added to orange juice, don’t be fooled- it will not give your body the benefit as natural vitamin C.|
|BHA and BHT||Common preservative to keep foods from changing color or flavor, or becoming rancid. Affects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior, and may cause cancer.||Eat fresh foods|
|Citric Acid||Citric acid occurs naturally in citrus and pineapples. The synthetic, powdered citric acid, however is manufactured using a mold that feeds on (GMO) corn syrup glucose.|
Citric acid (or ascorbic acid) together with sodium benzoate can produce the carcinogenic compound benzene.
|For a natural zing to your food, add real lemon juice.|
|Lactic Acid||Used as a food preservative, curing agent, and flavoring agent; used as a decontaminant during meat processing. Lactic acid is produced commercially by fermentation of carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose, or lactose, or by chemical synthesis. Carbohydrate sources include corn, beets, and cane sugar (all GMOs).|
|Phosphoric Acid||Linked to low bone mineral density in women, associated with a twofold risk of developing kidney disease; causes tooth enamel erosion. Also used in fertilizers, livestock feed, soaps, polishes, and dyes. Yum|
|Potassium Benzoate||potassium benzoate in foods and soft drinks may react with added vitamin C to make benzene, a cancer-causing substance.|
|Potassium Sorbate||May cause diarrhea, nausea, allergic reactions; In extreme cases overconsumption can lead to renal or kidney problems which can cause serious damage over time.|
|Sodium Benzoate||May increase hyperactivity in some children. Sodium benzoate in soft drinks may also react with added vitamin C to make benzene, a cancer-causing substance.|
|Sodium Sulfite||May cause headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. Often added to dried fruits|
|Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite||highly carcinogenic; wreaks havoc with a number of internal organs; the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970's but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products. Why does the industry still use it? It's actually a color fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant.||Look for lunchmeats or hot dogs that are uncured or use only celery salt (like Applegate J )|
|Sulfur Dioxide||A preservative that can cause bronchial problems particularly in those prone to asthma. Low blood pressure, flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E. Not recommended for consumption by children.|
|TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone)||Overconsumption of TBHQ can cause nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus, and vomiting. May lead to hyperactivity in children as well as asthma, rhinitis and dermatitis. May further aggravate ADHD symptoms and cause restlessness. May be responsible for affecting estrogen levels in women.|
|Tocopherols, mixed||Tocopherols are a class of naturally occurring chemical compounds related to Vitamin E; synthetic versions may be derived from petroleum products. From what I’ve found this seems to be one of the safer preservatives for our bodies.|
Aka: (partially) hydrogenated vegetable oils
|trans fat raises the "bad" LDL cholesterol, and lowers the "good" HDL cholesterol, in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Stiffens arteries and may increase the risk of diabetes.|
Note: The FDA requires that all food manufacturers list a food's trans fat content on the label. This law applies to lipids, like triglycerides, but not to emulsifiers like mono- and diglycerides. Therefore, even though mono- and diglycerides may contain trans-fatty acids, they do not fall under these labeling requirements. This means a food may be labeled as possessing "0% trans fat" yet still contain trans-fatty acids from mono- and diglycerides.
|Look for unsaturated fats, use olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, organic grass-fed butter|
|EMULSIFIERS, THICKENERS, FOAMING AGENTS||agar agar|
|Carrageenan||Derived from red seaweed, it's often added to beverages to keep their ingredients from separating; Carrageenan is destructive to the digestive system, triggering inflammation which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding. This ingredient is even found in organic products, so read your labels carefully.|
Aka cellulose gel, carboxymethyl cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, or MCC
|Used as an anti-caking agent (what keeps shredded cheese from clumping); makes low-fat ice cream feel creamy, and adds fiber to otherwise low-fiber foods (except that this form is not absorbed by your body=useless). The FDA rates cellulose gum as GRAS/FS, which means "generally regarded as safe, but subject to limitations in some foods."|
|Diglycerides, Mono-&||An emulsifier made up in part of fatty acids. May contain trans fats, either when manufactured in a lab or, if they come from an animal or vegetable source.|
|Guar Gum,||These are derived from real plants and are the most tolerable to the human body. Some may cause excess gas though.|
|Locust Bean Gum|
|Xanthan Gum||Produced by bacterial fermentation of a sugar-containing medium (a potentially allergenic substance such as corn, soy, dairy, or wheat). In large doses xanthan gum can have a profound impact on the gut microbiota.|
|Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate||A foaming agent and emulsifier and also found in breads to keep them softer longer. May be derived from corn, soy, milk or peanuts. If from corn, soy or milk, it could be GMO.|
Aka Dipotassium Monophosphate
|Used as a thickener, stabilizer, and humectants. There’s a known risk of development of calcium phosphate stones in people with alkaline urine. (on the GRAS list)|
|Sodium Caseinate||Some people are allergic to sodium caseinate, and it has been linked to autism and gastrointestinal problems.|
|Soy Lecithin||An emulsifier. Soy lecithin likely contains small amounts of pesticides and solvent residues. Unless organic, it’s made from GMO corn.|
|Potassium Bromate||Additive used to increase volume in some breads and rolls; Known to cause cancer in animals; Even small amounts in bread can create problems for humans.|
Most side effects occur when people consume large amounts of these additives. You may think that you don’t over-consume on pickles, or fake blueberry muffins, but if the majority of your food contains artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, taste enhancers, etc. then you are consuming them in a large amount: they’re in almost everything you eat. So treat your body well, and read the labels. If you can’t pronounce it, stay away from it. Except for Quinoa. That one is good for you!
For a fun and colorful (no pun intended) infographic, click here:
Disclaimer: Yes, I gathered the above information from the internet, but used only reputable sites including consumer reports, Environmental Working Group, Wikipedia, fda.gov, webMD, etc. If you disagree with any of the statements made above, please let me know. I’m always open to learn. Please note that the information on my site is only meant to further educate and open minds. I am not a doctor and am not authorized to give any medical advice. What you read on my website are my own personal findings. I encourage you to also do your own research if you’re looking for more answers, but please always find out who sponsored the research. Is it a group that has your health in mind or is it a group that has your money in mind?