Food Additives: What’s the Real Story? Part 2

Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid: Part 2

To read part one of this series (Please Click Here.)

With the industrialization of the American food supply, manufacturers have sought out ways to make food taste better, look more appealing, and last longer on the self. This has resulted in the production of over 3,000 different food additives. While some additives are harmless, others have serious health concerns.

Unfortunately, many ingredients which are proven to be unsafe are allowed into our food supply because of lobbying and intense pressure from the food industry on the FDA. Many food additives have inadequate safety studies done, and many of the studies that do exist were paid for or done by the food manufacturers themselves. This conflict of interest is the reason many of these ingredients are labeled “generally regarded as safe,” even though independent studies show otherwise.
It can be overwhelming, so I have compiled a list of the top ten most important ingredients to avoid. The simplest answer is to eat whole, fresh, organic, and locally gown food as often as possible. Making food in your own kitchen rather than relying on processed food or fast food is key to good health. It may cost a little more and take a little more time, but it will save you the time and money that being sick could cost you later on.

Check Your Food Labels!

Check Your Food Labels!


6. BHA, BHT, and TBHQ

• What is it? These are synthetic preservatives added to foods to prolong shelf life. They prevent oxidation (changes in color or flavor) when the food is exposed to air. These preservatives are banned in most countries and are known to accumulate in the body.

• Where is it? These preservatives are in baked goods, processed meats, canned goods, spices, chips, peanut butter, margarine, boxed cereals, salad dressings, Jell-O, creamers, candy, gum, and many other processed foods. They are also used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs.

• What are the health concerns? Animal studies show that these preservatives cause cancer and the US National Toxicology Program lists these as probable carcinogens for humans. Studies also show that these preservatives can cause liver and kidney damage, weaken the immune system, alter neurological processes of the brain, cause behavioral issues, and can cause birth defects. These highly toxic preservatives should always be avoided. (1)

7. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

• What is it? SLS is a detergent used in products that have “suds” such as shampoo, bubble bath, body wash, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and many other hygiene and cleaning products. In food it is used as a thickener and whipping aid.

• Where is it? Did you know there was soap in your food?! SLS is found in marshmallows, egg substitutes, angel food cake, boxed desserts, and other processed foods.

• What are the health concerns? There have been over 16,000 published studies on SLS which link it to skin irritation, organ toxicity, developmental and reproductive issues, disruption of the endocrine system, and show it to be a possible carcinogen. (2)

It is the cumulative, long term exposure to SLS in the products we use every single day that is most concerning. What you put on your skin absorbs into the bloodstream without any filter. Thankfully, many personal care products and cleaning products are now available that do not contain SLS. And you certainly want to make sure it is not in your food!

8. Sodium Benzoate

• What is it? This is another toxic preservative used to prevent mold.

• Where is it? Sodium Benzoate is found in soft drinks, fruit juices, and salad dressings.

• What are the health concerns? This preservative has been shown to dramatically increase hyperactivity in children. It can also cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria, which is a precursor to neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and premature aging. (3)

9. Natural and Artificial Flavorings

• What is it? That’s just it… it can be anything! These are “catch all” ingredients that can contain a host of harmful chemicals such as MSG. The term “natural” on any product, food or otherwise, can be misleading as there are no labeling laws dictating what that means. Often these ingredients are made up of man-made chemicals that trick your brain into thinking you taste something that isn’t actually there.

• Where is it? Sadly, in just about everything. It is almost impossible to buy anything that comes in a box, can, or bag that does not contain natural or artificial flavorings. Did you know that “strawberry flavoring” can contain over 50 different synthetic chemicals?! The best way to avoid it is to buy food that does not come in a package, such as fresh organic produce or quality protein.

• What are the health concerns? Because these ingredients can contain a multitude of chemicals, they can create food sensitivities and allergic reactions in some people such as headaches, skin rashes, depression, food addictions, fatigue, chest tightness, sleep problems and more. (3)

10. Artificial sweeteners

• What is it? Aspartame, saccharine, acesulfame K, sucralose, and fructose are all laboratory chemicals that taste sweet and are added to many foods and beverages.

• Where is it? Diet sodas, other “calorie free” drinks, protein powders, many “sugar free” foods, diet foods, candy, chewing gum, and the pink, yellow, and blue packets of tabletop sweeteners.

• What are the health concerns? Artificial sweeteners have one of the worst track records for causing health problems. They have been shown to contribute to and/or cause a multitude of health issues including weight gain, disruption of sleep patterns, migraines, memory loss, liver and kidney damage, some types of cancers, thyroid dysfunction, seizures, brain tumors, visual problems, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety, dizziness, nausea, mental confusion, and the list goes on. (4) Avoid these chemical sweeteners at all costs!

Click Here to Read Our Blog About Artificial Sweeteners

It is unfortunate that these food additives are allowed into in our food supply when they are known to cause health problems, but the good news is that you have a choice!

If you can’t picture it growing on a plant or running through a field, don’t eat it! We have traded in our health for the convenience of processed and fast food, but that can be changed… one bite at a time. Next time you pick up a product and read the ingredient list, you will be well equipped to know if it is something you actually want to be eating!



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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