Keep in mind, this is by no means a comprehensive list. I may decide to write a sequel to this blog post to review more additives. For now, here are a few common food and drink additives to beware of and some helpful information on each.
♦ Why is it added to food?
♣ In which foods is it found?
♥ Why should it be avoided?
♦ Prolongs shelf-life and fat stability, improves texture of certain processed foods (look for the word “hydrogenated”).
♣ Packaged snacks, margarine, fried foods, baked goods.
♥ Leads to unhealthy cholesterol levels, increases risk of type 2 diabetes.
High fructose corn syrup
♦ Economical source of sweetener, sweeter than cane sugar.
♣ Sweetened juices, baked goods, candy, sweetener cereals, condiments, jams, sweet sauces, snack foods.
♥ Disrupts blood sugar regulation, linked to obesity, increases risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
♦ Zero-calorie additive used to replace sugar in “diet” or “sugar-free” products.
♣ Gum, “diet” drinks, yogurt, low calorie or “sugar-free” or “diet” foods and drinks.
♥ More research is needed but some studies have linked it to conditions such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s and some types of blood cancers.
♦ Economical source of salt flavouring, flavour enhancer, easy source of “umami” flavour.
♣ Processed foods, snack foods, restaurant foods.
♥ Some people experience an immediate reaction to MSG consumption that may include headache, flushing, racing pulse, nausea, sweating, etc. Long term use has been linked to different types of neurological damage.
♦ To improve texture and add “creaminess” to products with little to no fat.
♣ Milk alternatives, almond/rice/soy/hemp/oat/coconut milk, ice cream, yogurt, sauces.
♥ Increases inflammation, reduces insulin function, linked to some types of cancer.
♦ A meat preservative, often used in processed and cured meats.
♣ Cured and processed meats.
♥ Reduces blood oxygenation, increases risk of cardiovascular disease, linked to some types of cancer.
♦ A preservative and antibacterial agent used to prolong the shelf-life of certain food and drink products.
♣ Dried fruits, wine, pickled foods, preserved citrus juice.
♥ Headaches, digestive symptoms, difficulty breathing, aggravates symptoms in asthmatics.
♦ To add colour and make foods more appealing.
♣ Anywhere you see vibrant colour (note: prepared or cooked food tends to lose some of its vibrant colour so if it still retains its colour, food dyes may have been used), juices, snacks, cheese.
♥ ADHD, increases food and environmental intolerances, linked to some types of cancer, effects vary depending on the type of food dye.
A note on “natural flavours”
When reading the ingredient list on a product’s label, it is important to remember that “natural flavours” aren’t always as wholesome as they sound (more on this in another blog post, coming soon). Ideally, a product should list any and all ingredients that have been used, but this is not always the case. Beware of blanket statements like “natural flavours”.
Here’s a “Fun Fact”; well, it’s not so much fun, more like an “Icky Fact”. This is just one example of a “natural flavour” that may be found in many food items. Beavers’ castor sacks (located near the anal glands) secrete a substance called castoreum, which they use to scent-mark their territory. It just so happens that castoreum smells a lot like vanilla and is therefore used as a flavouring agent is some food products. So, if a food item lists “vanilla flavour” instead of “vanilla” as an ingredient, it is possibly derived from castoreum. This substance may not necessarily be detrimental to health, but this piece of information does highlight the importance of knowing just what is in your food!