In our day and age, processed and packaged foods get our society through the day.  These foods are convenient and portable, as well as stay fresh for a long time thanks to preservatives.  Unhealthy amounts of salt, sugar and fat, (not to mention all of the additives that we cannot pronounce) are a few of the additives in processed foods, which make them appear and taste better.   These additives, however, have a price that may include side effects, increased waistlines, decreased absorption of minerals and vitamins, cancer, food allergies, and more. 

Here is a list of the 12 most pervasive and detrimental food additives and substitutes:

Artificial Sweeteners

These are a combination of chemicals that make foods sweeter minus the calories of sugar.  Most of these sweeteners have side effects and their chemical breakdown can be toxic in the body.  Moreover, artificial sweeteners can have a much more potent effect on nerve cells.

Refined Sugar

People do not realize how much sugar they consume each day.  Due to its insidious nature and the fact that it can be found in virtually all processed foods, unless they say “sugar-free,” we subsist on sugar.  High consumption of sugar leads to elevated insulin levels, which can cause weight gain, arthritis, fatigue, bloating, migraines, lowered immune function, cavities, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  Sugar can also disrupt absorption of nutrients, possibly leading to PMS symptoms, stress, depression and osteoporosis.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is used to bring out the flavor in foods-it is an excitoxin, which binds to certain receptors and can cause sensitive neurons to die.  Side effects include itchy skin, headaches, dizziness and respiratory, digestive, circulatory and coronary concerns.

Artificial Colors

These are synthetic chemicals that do not occur in nature.  Most are derived from coal tar and contain lead and arsenic- are still generally recognized as safe by the FDA.  Side effects are allergic reactions, hyperactivity and ADD in children, and visual and learning disorders or nerve damage.


These additives block the process of oil rancidity and seem to affect appetite and sleep.  They have been associate with kidney and liver damage, behavioral problems, cancer, hair loss, fetal abnormalities and growth retardation.

Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite

These preservatives are added to processed meat products and transform into cancer-causing agents in the stomach.  Side effects include vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

Caffeine (See post, “Caffeine…Friend or Foe?”)

An additive stimulant found in gum, diet pills, soft drinks, coffee, cocoa, tea and pain relievers. Caffeine causes calcium to be excreted from the bones, which may lead to osteoporosis and increase infertility.

Olestra (Olean)

This is a calorie-free fat substitute used as an ingredient in chips and snacks.  Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients.  This can cause diarrhea and anal leakage.

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

This is used to keep flavor oils in soft drinks in suspension.  It is stored in fat and overtime can accumulate when consumed.  This additive can lead to reproductive interference and birth defects and has been banned in 100 countries.

Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

This additive is made by reacting vegetable oil with hydrogen.  This is associated with breast and colon cancer, heart disease, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol.


Many of the pesticides used throughout the world are put into our food supply- more than 2 billion pounds are added each year.  These may impair fertility and contribute to miscarriages and birth defects as well as undermine our ability to resist infectious organisms.

Genetically Modified Organisms

These are animals or plants that have had their DNA modified.  The majority of the soybean, cotton, corn and canola crops are now genetically modified in the US and one or more of these can be found in nearly every processed food.

Take a peak at some of the processed foods in your cabinet and fridge; do you recognize any of these harmful additives?  If so, toss them!

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