Food Additives: What’s the Real Story?

Top 10 Food Additive Ingredients to Avoid: Part 1

Did you know there are thousands food additives in our food supply and that most of them have little to no long-term safety studies?

Most processed foods these days contain multiple food additives, many of them harmful to your health.

While it is almost impossible to know what every single additive is and what the health implications are, these are some key ingredients to avoid. A good rule of thumb is to read the ingredient list.

If there is anything on it that you cannot pronounce, chances are it belongs in a lab, not your stomach!

1. Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (also known as trans fats) are found in things like cookies, crackers, pie crusts, bakery items, tortillas, industry fried foods such as French fries, powdered creamers, frostings, peanut butter, microwave popcorn, and margarine. It is made by using a metal catalyst that chemically alters cheap oils such as soybean oil into a solid fat. This gives the fat the ability to stay solid at room temperature and gives the product a longer shelf life (Twinkies, anyone?). The fat is then steam cleaned to get rid of the bad odor, bleached to get rid of the unappetizing grey color, and mixed with artificial dyes and flavors so that it resembles butter. It’s no wonder birds and insects won’t eat this stuff!

The problem is that your body does not recognize this substance as food. Trans fats are dangerous because they contribute to heart disease and obesity. They also weaken the immune system, inhibit the body’s ability to metabolize toxins, carcinogens, and medications, decrease cellular response to insulin which leads to diabetes, interfere with the reproductive system, contribute to Alzheimer’s, and can cause blood clots and strokes.(1) If there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving in a product, the product can be labeled “zero grams trans fat per serving.”

This is misleading advertising. Check the ingredient list. If you see “hydrogenated” anywhere on it, avoid the product.

Food Additives

Food Additives

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly processed sugar that is in many products. Those products include sodas, fruit juices, breads, processed snacks, chips, yogurts, and more. HFCS makes your insulin levels skyrocket, which leads to weight gain, diabetes, and obesity. It also suppresses leptin, the hormone that regulates your appetite, causing your to overeat and have food cravings. Click Here to Read More About HFCS

3. MSG

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a flavor enhancer in many processed foods and used by many fast food companies. It is also in many fat free and sugar free foods to make up for the lost flavor. It is a neurological excito-toxin, meaning that when you eat it, it lights up the pleasure centers of your brain and makes you think the food tastes better than it actually does. This allows food manufactures to use cheap ingredients and keep you eating more and more as it is very addictive. “Once you pop you can’t stop” is more than just a slogan!

MSG is a significant contributor to obesity. It is a common practice for scientists who are studying obesity to give their lab animals MGS because it is so effective in inducing obesity. Many people are allergic to MSG and may experience headaches, migraines, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, depression, fatigue and other symptoms. Many people do not even realize that their symptoms are the result of consuming MSG. MSG can be listed as monosodium glutamate on the label, but it can also hide under a lot of other names. Check your labels for hidden MSG names such as natural flavorings, autolyzed yeast extract, soy protein isolate or concentrate, whey protein isolate, maltodextrin, bouillon, and anything hydrolyzed. If you eat out, choose a restaurant that can verify they do not use MGS in their food.

4. Sodium Nitrates/Sodium Nitrites

These are preservatives often used in processed meat such as hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, bologna, SPAM, corned beef hash, salami, and deli meats. Their purpose is to preserve the meat, improve flavor, and make it a more appealing color. These are known carcinogens, meaning they have been shown to cause cancer. Childhood brain cancer and leukemia have been linked to sodium nitrate/nitrite consumption among children and in children whose mothers consumed these preservatives while pregnant.(2)

These preservatives have also been linked to lung disease and pancreatic cancer. The FDA has been petitioned to require a warning label on these products. Choose alternative products that do not contain these preservatives (often they will be labeled “uncured”.) They might cost a little more, but it is worth avoiding the health hazards these preservatives cause.

5. Artificial Colorings

Artificial food dyes are in many foods and beverages today, and a large portion of them are marketed to children. They are used because they make food more aesthetically appealing to us. For example, did you know that mint ice cream is not actually green? It has just been dyed green to make it seem more “minty.” Brightly colored foods are appealing to children because they seem “fun” and “tasty.” Many of these dyes are derived from petroleum, which is a carcinogen.

Artificial food colorings are also linked to hyperactivity in children, asthma, allergies, learning disorders, visual disorders, nerve damage, and skin conditions. (3) Did you know that most of these food dyes are banned or require a warning label in Europe and other countries? Rather than put a warning label on their products, food manufactures use natural food colorings like annatto and vegetable based colors. They do this while still serving the artificial food colorings to American children! (4) If you see “Red,” “Yellow,” “Blue,” “Green,” or “Orange,” with a number after it on the label, avoid the product and find an alternative. You can also buy natural food colorings for treats you make at home, or you can make your own food colorings using beats, blueberries, spinach, and more!(5)

Also check your over-the-counter and prescription medications. Many of them contain artificial dyes. If your prescriptions contain artificial colors, ask for an alternative. If one is not available, write to the manufacturer and let them know you would like them to remove these dyes.


As someone who struggled for years with dieting, food addiction, and the emotional turmoil that comes with binge eating, this issue is very close to my heart. I meet many people who feel like food has control over their lives and who cannot achieve a healthy weight, no matter how hard they try.

The fact is that most of our food supply is scientifically designed to be addictive and to bypass your brain’s ability to tell you when you are full. This is good for profit, but is leaving Americans sick and overweight.

Most “diet” food products are FULL of these chemical additives. If you struggle with food addiction, please know that it is not your fault. You are not to blame, these chemicals and the companies and food chains that use them are.

You do not need more willpower, you simply need to check your labels and avoid these additives. Once you rid your diet of processed food and harmful food additives, your body will finally be able to detoxify and achieve a healthy weight without ever “dieting” again.

Once you stop eating these chemicals, you will not even be tempted by trans fat filled cookies, MSG laden chips, or brightly colored candy. You’ll know what they do to you on a chemical level, and that they belong in a lab, not your stomach!







Elena Spraguer

About Elena Spraguer

Elena obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Saint Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN. She has extensive experience in the healthcare industry and continues to work to advocate healthy living. She is passionate about educating people on how to focus on good nutrition and promoting a safer, cleaner food supply. She loves yoga, baking, and all things coconut. Elena lives with her husband Shawn in beautiful Castle Rock, Colorado.
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