Top 15 Food Additives to Avoid

When it comes to food, it is best to always consume those that are as close to natural as possible. The allure of cheap, processed food is high, but so is their likelihood of causing negative health effects. But eating the wrong foods, enriched with numerous additives is only part of the problem. The first half of the problem, however, arises from the fact that people simply do not realize the foods they consume on a daily basis are bad for them.

Not sure which food additives to avoid at all costs? Read on to find out the 15 most popular and unhealthy additives you typically consume every day.

1. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Butylated Hydroxytoluene, often abbreviated as just BHT, is an extremely popular additive found in a wide array of foods, being used as far back as the 1940’s. Its function in foods is primarily as a preservative, with BHT acting as a synthetic anti-oxidant. In particular, it slows down the rate of oxidation of fats, which in turn delays the time before the oil goes rancid and the product needs to be tossed.

BHT can also be found in other products too- including cosmetics, some medications and even petroleum products. Should you avoid BHT? Absolutely. BHT possesses possible carcinogenic effects, may cause liver damage and affects normal DNA replication processes.

2. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

Very similar to BHT, Butylated Hydroxyanisole is another popular food additive found in numerous foods. Indeed, many foods contain both BHT and BHA, as they work synergistically to deliver anti-oxidant effect for the fats they help preserve.


Again, similar to BHT, BHA may pose a carcinogenic threat. Though believed to be safe in low concentration when used in food, there are contradictory results that also prove it negatively affects health and is a known carcinogen.

3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Another popular food additive, that was quite popular in Chinese cuisine, it is now included in many packaged foods as a flavoring agent. It is believed that MSG brings out the savory taste of meat, but also carries with it significant health risks.

Among the most popular health risks are allergic reactions, development of migraine like symptoms, nerve tingling and it is also believed to promote the development of cancer.

4. Nitrites and Nitrates

At their core, these are both nitrogen based preservatives used frequently to preserve meat, as they prevent bacterial growth.

Most packaged meat contains a nitrogen based preservative, so if you’re a fan of sausages, canned chicken or even bacon, you need to be extremely careful. Under certain conditions, these nitrates and nitrites can transform into cancer causing compounds known as nitrosamines.

5. Trans Fats

These are artificial fats created by modifying oils under the presence of hydrogen gas. The result is a fat that is stable to at room temperature, which is cheap to manufacture and useful to companies looking to make money off of unsuspecting customers. Trans fats are included in foods too numerous to mention, but are often found in foods marketed as “low carb”. Low carb foods are higher in fat, and sadly this is the fat commonly found.

Trans fats are much worse than saturated fats, in the sense that they accelerate oxidative damage in cells and are much less friendly to the heart and circulatory system. Trans fats may appear on labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”.

6. Food Coloring

Though believed to be harmless, the artificial food coloring included in to make foods more visually appealing may result in a number of adverse effects. Many are actually banned in certain countries within the EU, due to known effects such as allergic sensitivities, ADHD in children, and promoting cancer development.

7. Propylene Glycol

This is the main compound in anti-freeze coolant, used in car engines and popularly used as “slow poison”. So why is it found in food? Because at low occasional consumption levels, it is deemed to be safe. The problem, however, is that the foods that frequently contain it are consumed regularly, and in amounts that are not considered safe.

Propylene glycol is commonly included in milk products as a thickening agent, but is associated with a host of adverse effects. Among them are acidification of blood, leading to damage to vital organs such as the kidney, as well as development of severe allergic reactions, asthma and leaky gut syndrome.

8. Sodium Benzoate

This is a common preservative used in acidic foods and beverages as a bacteria and fungi-static agent. It is deemed as safe for use in low consumption, but this is another case of mistaken safety. Sodium benzoate is known to convert to the highly carcinogenic compound benzene when exposed to Vitamin C. this is a big issue, as many kids’ fruit juices and other products come enhanced with Vitamin C.

Sodium benzoate has also been shown to increase DNA damage significant, which may lead to mutations occurring at a faster rate.

Food chemicals

9. Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, that may be touted as low calorie, but which is extremely high-risk. Aspartame forms formaldehyde as a product of its breakdown, which is extremely toxic to humans. Among its serious health risks are the occurrence of birth defect, cancer, diabetes and neurological diseases such as epilepsy. Table sugar is a better option.

10. Refined Vegetable Oils

There are oils such as corn, peanut and soya bean which carry an extremely high omega-3 fatty acid content. These oils are pro-inflammatory, and contribute greatly to diseases of the circulatory system as well as cancer development and DNA damage.

11. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone

This is modified growth hormone given to cows to boost milk production. It is then found in products produced from this milk, and is known to boost levels of IGF-1 in the human body. IGF-1 plays an important role in cancer development in susceptible individuals. Opt for products that state “does not contain growth hormones”.

12. Carrageenan

Used as a binding agent, carrageenan is prepared from red seaweed passed through chemical processes. Carrageenan has no nutritional value, but is associated with negative health effects, such as gastrointestinal ulceration and cancers, suppressing the immune system and promoting abnormal growth of polyps in the colon.

13. Carnauba Wax

Used in gums and as glaze on certain foods (such as M&Ms), carnauba wax is also found in car wax. It is associated with promoting development of various cancers.

14. Enriched Flour

Both an additive and main ingredient, this is flour that has been bleached and all nutrients removed. It is treated as a type of refined starch in the body, causing insulin resistance and promoting diabetes development. Enrichment with minerals does not work well either, as they are poorly compatible in most cases.

15. Sodium Phosphate

Commonly found in meat products to keep them tender throughout transit and storage. Inorganic phosphates in the form of sodium phosphate is associated with heart disease, and causing bone mineral leaching, eventually causing osteoporosis and even kidney failure.

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