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Top 12 Food Additives to Remove From Your Diet

by Jennifer Newell

There are many reasons that some people choose to shop and eat a completely organic range of foods, but the primary reason seems to center around the additives in various non-organic food items. Those additives have been studied and linked to various diseases, and instead of taking the chance that unhealthy preservatives and flavorings might be integrated into grocery store items, people often opt for the strictly organic route so as to avoid them altogether.

But everyone cannot afford the prices of organic foods or the time it takes to shop at specialty markets for them. Thus, becoming informed about the additives in everyday food items can make for an easier shopping experience and healthier items being ingested by everyone. In addition, a mass boycott of foods that contain such additives could prompt food manufacturers to remove such harmful ingredients from their products in the future.

Thanks to MSN Health & Fitness contributor Jean Weiss, a list of the most medically questionable and harmful additives in everyday foods has been compiled to educate the masses. There are several that may be recognizable due to news reports and popular opinion, but others may be new to some and worthy of notation.

One of the most common additives in food is the preservative, which can come in different forms. Sodium nitrite is one of them, as it is added to not only preserve food but to add color and flavor to meat products, most commonly bacon, ham, hot dogs, sandwich meats, and smoked fish. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydrozyttoluene) are other preservatives added to foods like cereal, gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils to prevent them from oxidizing. And propyl gallate has similar de-oxidizing values and is found in meats, chicken soup base, and gum. All of these preservatives have been found to cause cancer through certain types of food preparation, such as cooking meat at high temperatures. Though the studies are not conclusive and mostly conducted on animals, all of them contain reactive compounds that can be harmful.

As far as flavoring, monosodium glutamate (MSG) used to be a very common amino acid used in restaurant foods, soups, and salad dressings, though most food preparers and manufacturers have removed it from their list of ingredients. Beware of canned and frozen foods that still may attempt to use it, as MSG can cause migraines and other adverse effects. Trans fats are also being eliminated from most foods, as the studies linking them to heart disease, strokes, and kidney problems are widely-accepted.

Sweeteners are another item to avoid when possible. Aspartame is found in products like Nutrasweet and Equal as well as diet foods and soft drinks. And acesulfame-K is a newer sweetener used in soft drinks and some baked goods. These products, only preliminarily linked to cancer, have the same negative nutritional value as white sugar, all of which should be minimized in any diet.

Many food colorings have been banned by the FDA but some can still be found in foods that require a particular color. And Olestra is a product also discouraged by health food organizations that is rarely used anymore, though was common for a time in potato chips as an additive that prevented fat from being absorbed in the digestive system. Each of these items should be avoided at all costs, as the food colorings have been tied to cancer and Olestra simply blocks vitamins from being processed through the body and blocks the digestive process from functioning normally.

Potassium bromate is sometimes added to white flour, breads, and rolls to increase the volume of the products, but there are cancer-causing properties that have prompted some states in America to actually require a label to that effect.

Finally, sodium chloride is also known as salt, and though it is a common additive in many—if not most—foods, it can be dangerous if not kept to a minimum. Large doses can lead to heart and blood pressure problems, as well as strokes and kidney failure.

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