3 Common Additives Found In Processed Foods

1 Dec

Processed food in America has become a staple in many people’s diets today. People frequently choose refined foods over fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and these decisions can wreak havoc on health in the long run. Most food-additivesprocessed foods have additional ingredients added, either naturally or chemically derived, to create a desired texture or flavor in the food. The Food and Drug Administration regulates all additives that are used in food, and requires manufacturers to label all the ingredients on the food packaging. Yet somehow there are still harmful ingredients that are added to foods today. These ingredients can cause adverse effects in people. Everyone needs to know more about what is in food in order to be able to make healthier decisions. Here are three additives that are very common in the marketplace.

1)      High Fructose Corn Syrup is a pretty well-known sweetener across America. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when I write about the health implications of HFCS. I remembered the topic flared up a few years ago of whether it is harmful to us or not and the debate is still going on. The Corn Refiners Association says its safe and the Mayo Clinic can’t even make a verdict about its safety. Even if the Corn Refiners Association is a little biased, why shouldn’t we believe HFCS isn’t bad for us? I can’t make an empirical opinion, but if you look at the kind of food High Fructose Corn Syrup is in, you shouldn’t have to be convinced whether it is healthy or not. Soda, popsicles, pastries and other processed junk are prime contributors to diabetes, obesity, and other illnesses. It’s safe to assume that you won’t find HFCS in any “health” food, it is it’s best to just stay away from it.

2)      Aspartame is a chemical sweetener sold as Nutrasweet; it isn’t a carbohydrate but a combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartame has 0 calories and is reported to be much sweeter than regular table sugar. While it isn’t as common as high fructose corn syrup, aspartame is commonly used in sugar-free gum, hard candies, cough drops, some sodas, breakfast cereals, and low calorie foods. Aspartame is dangerous because it is a known neurotoxin (destroys nerve tissue), and can damage brain cells while causing a list of side effects including migraines and ADHD, to fibromyalgia to brain cancers. It is best to completely remove aspartame from your diet and check food labels to make sure you aren’t ingesting this chemical.

3)      Artificial food dyes and colorings (FD&C Blue 1 and 2; FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5 and 6) are another additive that can be pretty much found in most processed foods at the grocery store. These dyes are used to give a brighter color to food products, beverages, supplements, etc. and are supposed to make food look more delightful. There has been a debate for some time over whether food dyes are linked to ADHD and other hyperactivity disorders in kids. The results are not clear though, and no assumption can apparently be made in America. In Europe, however, they don’t need any more evidence on whether artificial dyes are safe or not. In Europe in 2010, food manufactures were required to add a warning label on foods that used food colorings. Instead of using the warning label, the food manufacturers in Europe just switched out the artificial dyes for natural dyes derived from natural sources. 

The list could go on and on, but the moral of the story is if there isn’t a “safe” amount of any food additive. Everyone should take heed, and be more cautious about everything in their food. The FDA isn’t doing a good job of helping us out. This should serve as more of an incentive to cook more of your own food, and eat more whole foods, (preferably plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts). If you look at the ingredient list and see the periodic table of elements listed before you, words you cannot pronounce, or if it is 30 ingredients long, it probably isn’t healthy.  Eating fruits and vegetables will always be better than any processed snack you’ll find. Next time pack a piece of fruit like a banana for a snack instead of a Nutri-Grain bar, or plan ahead so you don’t have to buy food from a vending machine. Making small changes like this are a sure way to improve your diet and health.

By: Joshua Reid, Kent State University Dietetic Student

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3 Responses to “3 Common Additives Found In Processed Foods”

  1. Markey 01/12/2012 at 8:46 PM #

    Thank you for your article. You are so right and I hope you continue spreading the word. Back in the 70’s, parents were aware of the role these additives play in the behavior of their children and formed the Feingold Association, named for Dr. Feingold. This support group continues to help families and I’m a proud member. If you go to the website, you can see the studies, how the org. helps families, etc. http://www.feingold.org

  2. Rebecca Evans 07/12/2012 at 8:59 AM #

    Thanks for writing about this important topic. More parents need to be made aware that their kids “are what they eat.” Additives can cause inattention, aggression, risky behavior, impulse control problems, bed wetting, headaches, nausea, stomach problems, eczema, hives, hyperactivity, personality changes, mood swings, and tantrums. And the long term effects should be advertised too such as neurotoxicity, cancers, gene mutation, etc. I publish parents’ stories on my blog http://www.DieFoodDye.com about how their lives changed after ditching additives like petroleum food coloring. Petroleum. In their growing children’s bodies. Yep. If they can make the change and see such huge success, anyone can do it! I want to second what Markey said about the Feingold Association – they are a non-profit group that actually researches brands to see if troublesome additives are used in the food/drink/medicine or sprayed into the packaging (preservatives made from petroleum). There are ALWAYS healthier near exact replacements available nowadays. If parents just had their kids eat clean for one week they’d see a huge difference in just 3-5 days, and much more of a difference the longer they do this. Thanks again for getting the word out. I hope the academic community picks up on this and does more studies like the McCann 2007 study published in The Lancet. ~Rebecca at “Die, Food Dye!”

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