Half the time we have no idea what we’re eating, and even the most simple sounding products and meals can end up including all kinds of strange and unusual additives that can have a number of effects on our health. They enhance the appearance and the taste of our foods yes, but they can also raise cholesterol, cause allergic reactions, lead to diabetes or increase risk of cancer. The discerning consumer then must use their common sense and take the time to check the ingredients on any foods they buy so that they might be able to avoid the worst of these additives. Here’s what to look out for…
Artificial sweeteners are often promoted as a good thing as they often take the place of harmful sugars. However the problem with them is that they can fool the body into thinking it’s getting normal sugar and this then causes an insulin spike resulting in us using up all the sugar that’s already in our bloodstream, in turn causing us to feel deflate and lethargic and often causing us to crave more sugar from other sources.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
However the worst kind of artificial sweetener has more serious problems and has been found to cause us to pack on pounds faster than any other ingredient – being the number one source of calories in America as well as being a cause for many cases of diabetes. It’s found in most processed foods, but try to avoid it as much as possible.
Trans fats are added to a large number of foods as a preservative which extends a product’s shelf life. However, while these fats are technically unsaturated, they have all the negative qualities of saturated fats and seriously increase our bad LDL cholesterol even in low amounts. Very important to avoid.
Food dyes have long had a bad rap. Remember when people started saying that blue Smarties were accused of causing cancer? Well that’s because they contained one of the unhealthy food colorings (while it won’t cause cancer as such, it will increase your chances of developing it very marginally). Studies have also suggested that some other food dyes might cause a reduction in IQ, kidney damage and more. The ones that you should try to avoid include E133, E124 and E102.
This form of salt is added to foods as a preservative, a flavouring and a coloring (turning unappealing looking meat red), but it has been shown to be a carcinogen in animals, leading of course to concerns that it might also increase the risk of cancer in humans. So bad is sodium nitrate actually that the government has tried to ban it – unfortunately though this lead to complaints from food manufacturers who claimed they didn’t have any alternative way to preserve packaged food.
BHA and BHT
BHA and BHT, or ‘E320’, are preservatives that are designed to prevent foods from losing their color appearing rancid over time. However they may cause nerve damage in the brain and result in behavioural and mood changes such as depression.
Found on raw fruit and vegetables in particular, these additives can lead to bronchial problems and hypotension as well as potential allergic reactions. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E in the body and isn’t recommended for consumption by children or those with asthma, bronchitis or other breathing or heart difficulties – watch out for ‘E220’.
MSG or Monosodium Glutamate is one of the most well-known food additives to avoid. It’s a food additive used to enhance flavors, but unfortunately it is also an ‘excitotoxin’ meaning it can ‘over excite’ cells ultimately causing damage or death. Side effects might include depression, disorientation, fatigue, headache, obesity or eye damage. It is found largely in Chinese food, as well as chips, cookies, seasonings, frozen foods and lunch meats.