Artificial colors, flavors, enhancers, emulsifiers, preservatives…if you eat processed foods, you are consuming some very toxic ingredients. Of course, if you ate only fresh, organic food, you’d be fairly safe from worry, but that’s not very real-world, is it? Let’s take a look at a few of the toxic food ingredients you’re smart to stay away from.
Sodium benzoate is a potentially cancer-causing preservative that is often found in foods such as salad dressings, carbonated drinks, jams, fruit juices and condiments. Sodium benzoate is also used in fireworks because it burns fast and produces a lot of smoke! The FDA asserts that it is safe for food preservation because the amount used in individual products is very low. In Europe, however, there are stricter regulations concerning the preservative for use in products for consumption. Some research suggests that certain artificial colors, combined with sodium benzoate, may be linked to hyperactive behavior. Because it is contained in so many foods, you may be ingesting more than is even considered safe by the FDA.
Lecithins are oily substances that occur naturally in plants such as soybeans and sunflower seeds and animal products such as egg yolks. Soy lecithin is an emulsifier, and is often used in candy making to ensure that the cocoa and the cocoa butter don’t separate in a chocolate bar. Also used in bakery items, it can keep dough from sticking. Soy lecithin is typically extracted from soybeans chemically using hexane. Hexane is a flammable liquid, derived from petroleum. Hexanes are used in the formulation of glues for leather products and roofing. Hexane is associated with a degeneration of the central nervous system. Another consideration is that most of the soybeans used to make soy lecithin are genetically modified. Unless it’s specifically labeled as non-GMO or certified organic, there is a good chance that soy lecithin is genetically engineered.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), is an additive that is most known for being present in Chinese food, but it is also contained in a large number of packaged foods such as chips, crackers, soups, salad dressings, processed lunch meats and more.
Some side effects of consumption of MSG including fatigue, labored breathing, tingling, numbness, rapid heartbeat, skin rash and headaches. Research suggests MSG consumption may trigger or worsen learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Some of the MSG-containing ingredients you might see on store shelves include autolyzed yeast, citric acid, whey protein concentrate, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed pea protein and sodium caseinate.
Sobering, isn’t it? And this is just three of many—thousands—of ingredients to be aware of. If we have piqued your curiosity and you want to know more, consider researching some of these other common food additives.
- Artificial sweeteners (including Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Equal®, NutraSweet®, Saccharin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)
- Acesulfame potassium
- Food colorings
- High fructose corn syrup
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Potassium bromate