5 Food Additives To Avoid

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, August 3, 2010

artificial sweetner

Our food is laden with additives, many times in order to preserve it. But some of the disadvantages of these substances outweigh the benefits. Here are the top 5 that made our list — we’ll let you decide if they’re worth it.

Summer is peak season for grilling up hot dogs, but their bright-red color is compliments of nitrites, which have been linked to cancer. You can also find this additive in bacon, cured meats, sausage, ham and smoked fish.
Read more about nitrites »

Although this fat substitute found in chips tastes like the real deal, you’ll feel the unpleasant results after eating a few too many.
Learn all about olestra »

Artificial Sweeteners
Why fill your body with chemicals when there are so many other natural ways to sweeten your food? The artificial sweetener debate is a controversial one — where do you stand?
Weigh in on the sweet debate »

Sulfites are best known for their ability to preserve wine as it ages. Although considered “mostly” safe, sensitivities to this additive can develop at any age, and can vary from itchy skin to not being able to breathe.
Learn all about sulfites »

Artificial Food Coloring
The colors that make junk foods visually appealing have been linked to cancer, allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Many of these artificial colors are found in high-calorie processed foods that contain few nutrients. Is this really what you want to be putting in your body?
Learn more about the risks of artificial food coloring »

TELL US:: What food additives do you avoid?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (134)

  1. fred says:

    I avoid gelatin and glycerin because, honestly, who wants to eat ground up animal bones/hides?

  2. Celtic Diva says:

    I avoid MSG (surprisingly in most soups!) even though as a diabetic, soup is often a good low-sodium, low carb choice. I look for it in other canned goods, especially. I also avoid olestra – it packs a power punch a while after you eat it! And it doesn't really taste as good as the real thing. Mostly, I just eat the real thing but not like I did when I was young! The plainer, the simpler. Unsweetened applesauce with no preservatives is great – tastes like the real thing! Who ever put sugar on an apple???

    • NurseMom says:

      The whole MSG thing is hype. There's MSG in animal protein. If you didn't know MSG was in the food you eat, you wouldn't have any "reaction." The poor Chinese restaurant industry took the fall – for nothing.

  3. Adam says:

    anything artificial, hydrogenated oils (trans fat), and trying to avoid too much isolated soy protein.. I’m vegetarian, not completely vegan, but I do try to avoid dairy for the most part these days

    • leslie says:

      Adam, may I ask why you avoid too much soy protein? I use it to get more protein in my diet, but maybe you have so info regarding the safety or quality of this. Thanks for ANY thoughts or info. I am relatively new to this 'watching what I put in my (and my family) body'. Wish I started sooner. Am almost 50.

      • I can't speak for Adam, but our family avoids soy because there is question about the safety of consuming genetically modified organisms. 99% of the soy products in the US are made from genetically modified soy. We've decided it's better to avoid soy unless we are certain it is from a source that does not use genetic modification.

        • cori says:

          too much soy can increase estogen levels in women AND men!!!

          • lurl says:

            And where is your scientific proof of this statement?

          • Christy Rapture says:

            Did you ever think that this is a side effect of the GMO process, as they add genetic traits to the DNA of the plant using viral and bacterial protiens and RNA to infiltrate the cells DNA.

            They can genetically change you by way of your food… they are now making people's stomachs into pesticide factories. They make the plants hericide/pesticide (AKA neuroTOXIN, neurons being NERVE/BRAIN CELLS) resistant by adding the DNA of the toxin into the DNA of the plant by way of viral or bacterial hoast…. THEN ONCE YOU EAT IT THE DNA OF THE FOOD IT INCORPORATES INTO YOURS!

            That GMO DNA makes the plants resistant to the pesticide/herbicied by causing the plant to produce secretions of the pest/herbicite within itself…. OR IMAGINE THE EFFECTS ON YOUR BODY! AND THIS IN IN ALL NON ORGANIC PRODUCE NOW.

          • Bring says:

            Your above statements are nothing more than paranoid statements repeated over and over by those with agendas. They do not have the benefit of the public as a concern. They are ready and willing to sell their hysterical books with statements about the eminent demise of all nations due to the foods they eat.
            Stop this silliness and try to learn something real truths.

        • lurl says:

          What organism is it that you are eating that is a GMO?

      • LugNut says:

        Unless it is a fermented soy product such as natto, miso, or tempeh; you should stay away from it like the plague. Please read a short well researched article on it from one of the best doctors in the country; Dr. Russel Blaylock: http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/dr_blaylock/soy_can_

    • Christy Rapture says:

      Then you should be eating Organic b/c even your non-organic veggies, meat, and fruit are artificial.

    • Tuesday says:

      You just described my eating habits exactly.

  4. Ruth says:

    I', a type 2 diabetic that has to avoud phosphates, because of kidney disease. I read labels all the time

  5. Donna says:

    My understanding is that most soy protien produced in the US is GMO. Can anybody confirm that? Also, soy is not good for people with thyroid conditions

    • kilty says:

      Can you site your research on your statement that Soy protein is not good for the diet and that it causes Thyroid problems. Peer reviewed citations would be appropriate. Most everything we eat is a GMO product and if you will notice these products have been used for many years. The longevity has done nothing but increase.

    • kristen says:

      That is definitely true. Most corn sold in the US is GMO as well, though its easier top find non-GMO corn than soy.

    • Hi Donna,
      Thanks for your comment! Here are two of our previous posts about GMOs and Soy Products: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2009/03/1http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2009/04/1

    • Krafty19 says:

      If you take thyroid medicine, eat or drink soy products 2 hours after you've taken your medicine. The soy will not allow the body to absorb the thyroid as it is needed. It states this on my medicine info sheet. Check with a doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

      • lurl says:

        The medication sheet will also tell you not to eat anything for an hour after taking the medication. It also advises one to not drink milk, take anti-acids or consume any meals during the dissolution time.

    • Christy Rapture says:

      This is now 100% true for ALL non Organic CORN, WHEAT, & SOY… oh and corn is in almost every boxed, canned, or bottled food, as modified ingrediants. It is even in plastic and soda. Almost all non-organic will be GMO… our meat as well… if it is non-organic, AND with the way the wind naturally pollinates seeds… the GMO can be creeping into the organic fields too!!!

      • Brig says:

        There is no truth to this what so ever! What do you eat rice powder or do you just like to promote this nonsense.
        Those who sell books and other information on this subject are the first in line at McDonald's to get the fixes.
        Eat what you want but don't try to influence others with your distorted "facts."

    • sue says:

      that is why i use silk almond orignal milk

    • fitchick101 says:

      The true benefits from soy products that you see in many Asian countries is from fermented soy, not from the processed kind of stuff on U.S. shelves like soy milk and faux meat products.

      • NurseMom says:

        You are absolutely right. This processed soy stuff is crap, and I believe it contributed to my developing breast cancer. I was on Atkins and eating those awful high protein bars, not realizing it was cheap soy. My burden to live with.

    • NurseMom says:

      Also not good for breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive. The radiologist who diagnosed me said, "soy is like fertilizer for these tumors." Be aware!

  6. lurl says:

    Today, even people are GMO products. How do you think everything from food to humans have changed over the eons.

  7. Jill says:

    I suffered from migraine headaches since I was a kid. They became worse as I grew older and no one could figure out why. Then I got asthma too, sometimes at the same time. Nearly 40 years later I found out it was the additives in the processed food. I wasn't allergic to the food, but how it was prepared. I haven't had a headaches now over 20 years.

    MSG caused the headaches, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbet along with the nitrates caused the asthma, diet sodas put me in the hospital within and hour. My throat literally closed up with hives.

    MSG is found in so many foods and is often listed as vegetable protein. One would think that sounds good but it can actually kill people. We feed it to our babies in soups and other foods. The main side effect of MSG in children is hyper activity! Look up MSG on the web. It will shock you.

    Hope this helps at least one person.

    • MJW says:

      Very helpful, from a school teacher in Texas.

    • Jessie says:

      I'm with you Jill, I kicked the MSG habit a few years back and I've never felt better! It is truly amazing how many things it IS in!

    • brenda spain says:

      thank you now i dont feel so alone i am allergic to msg. it causes my mouth to hurt and is cousing my glacoma so i am going blind. there is no recipies out there for msg free foods

  8. Alice says:

    We avoid high fructose corn syrup–too high glycemic, and partially hydrogenated oils. Also most of what you have above. We try to buy, and grow, products that do not have an ingredient label because it is easy to tell what they are.

    • Christy Rapture says:

      During the process of creating high frucose corn syrum MERCURY is leached into the product.


  9. LugNut says:

    Read this; as I replied in a previous post: http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/dr_blaylock/soy_can_

    • lurl says:

      You must be kidding! You are quoting news max health magazine? It is a piece of junk produced by the glen beck types.
      Try real resources journals from the various food and medical societies.

    • Brig says:

      Blaylock is nothing but a con man. He is a self promoting disqualified medical person.

  10. lurl says:

    Just a thought! The Asian community developed MSG from the humble sugar beet and they have been using it as a flavor enhancer for hundreds of years. They seem not to be plagued by these complaints. Are you suggesting the Asian community has a different genetic make-up?

    • MamaR says:

      Who are you, are you a doctor that is over 50? If not, maybe your opinions should be listed as opinions not as the only person that knows anything.

    • Jessie says:

      I'm with MamaR… some people are extremely sensative to it, me being one of them. Did your grandfather invent msg or something? Relax dude!

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