No matter what type of food or grocery products you purchase, you’re likely to find food additives in the ingredients. These additives are used to stabilize food, enhance flavor and increase shelf life. While you may want to avoid food additives as much as you can, there’s virtually no way to eliminate all of them from your diet or lifestyle. That’s why it’s important to know which ingredients are safe, and which could by harmful to your health.
Healthy/ Natural Additives
One of the additives that is commonly found is seaweed-based carrageenan. This additive is used to give beverages and foods a creamier or thicker texture, and is also an ingredient in products we use daily, like toothpaste. It is a fiber that is extracted from seaweed. In centuries past, this ingredient was used as a natural treatment for respiratory conditions, and can be used as a vegan alternative to gelatin.
There are also additives that enhance the nutritional value of food. Minerals like folate and iron are often added to breads and cereals. Vitamin D is commonly placed in foods as well, since people don’t spend as much time outdoors as they did in years past, and sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. Salt, which is usually listed as sodium chloride on an ingredient list, is also used to keep packaged food from spoiling and to cure meat.
Unfortunately, there are several food additives that don’t have a positive effect on the body and can cause health issues. Aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener that is commonly found in foods and beverages that are labeled “low calorie” or “sugar free.” It is believed that aspartame is a cancer-causing ingredient and causes more health problems that other food additives. Aspartame has toxic compounds that can even lead to conditions like Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, seizures and migraine headaches. This additive is often found in chewing gum and low-fat yogurt, as well as diet sodas and breath mints.
Trans fat is another food additive to watch out for. It is one of the main ingredients in margarine and is used to increase the shelf life of food. This additive is also found in fast foods that have been deep-fried. Trans fat lowers HDL or “good cholesterol” and increases “bad” cholesterol, or LDL. Eating foods that are high in trans fat can also raise the risk of strokes and diabetes.
It’s also important to watch out for sodium sulfite in foods and beverages. This ingredient is used to make wine and is a stabilizer in foods like dried fruit. The FDA even states that around 1 in every 100 people has a sulfite sensitivity. Rashes and breathing difficulties are common sulfite sensitivity symptoms. In extreme cases, sulfite sensitivity can even lead to cardiac arrest.
Common Food Stabilizers
There are several stabilizers that are derived from safe sources, so it’s best to check the ingredients on all packaged food to ensure that the foods you’re consuming won’t cause adverse reactions. Safe food additives that are found in many foods include potassium alginate, which is in cream cheese, ice cream and cake frosting. Calcium alginate is another safe food additive that you’re likely to find in salad dressing and ready-made sauces. You can also safely consume carob gum, which is an ingredient used in biscuits and cookies, as well as a number of low fat foods. You may also find carob gum in sodas and marshmallows.
Being more mindful of the additives that are used to preserve the shelf life of your food can make a big difference in the way you feel after each meal. This could have a significant impact on your health both now and in the future.