Top Food Additives to Avoid for a Healthier Life

Food additives snuck into our diets long ago to help ease processing, packaging, and storage. Processed foods loaded with these additives are unfortunately making up a large percentage of most diets. Most basically, the nutrient density of these foods is deteriorated by the additives and processing. But most frighteningly, although some food additives are worse than others, high consumption of the items in the following list can cause dire consequences to your health.

Food Dyes

Although the simple way they are listed as ingredients on packaging, Red #40, Blue #1, Yellow #5, etc., seem innocuous, food colorings have some frightening side effects. These dyes, often made of coal tar and petrochemicals, have been used in processed foods for years despite their absolute lack of nutritional value. For children in particular, consumption of Red #40 has been reported to cause ADHD, OCD, and other psycho-social and behavioral disorders. There are six particular coloring additives that may soon, pending current research on animals, cause cancer. These include Blues #1, #2, and #3, green #3, red #3, and yellow #6. Read product labels carefully and try to avoid sodas, artificial fruit juices, sports drinks, cherry pie mixtures, American cheese, and salad dressings, to steer clear of these dyes potentially destructive to your health.

Additives in Canned Foods

Bisphenol A and Phthalates are among the two most dangerous preservatives used to make canned foods edible for their lengthy shelf lives. Although there are some organic canned food alternatives that do not utilize Bisphenol A (BPA) for preservation, 92 percent of canned foods include this dangerous synthetic hormone. Phthalates are another synthetic hormone commonly found in canned foods and in many beauty products. This chemical has been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage in laboratory animals. Although it’s always nice to have canned food stowed away for emergencies, eat fresh foods whenever possible to avoid over-exposure to these synthetic hormones.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is an amino acid used to enhance the flavor of many restaurant foods (notoriously, though not exclusively Chinese cuisine), frozen meals, soups, and snack foods. This salty and lazy substitute for actual flavor can be extremely toxic if consumed regularly. Studies of patients who’ve regularly consumed MSG for years show side effects to include depression, disorientation, eyesight damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. Avoid canned soups, frozen dinners, seasoning packets, and large quantities of snack foods like chips and cookies to reduce your MSG intake.


Although most associated with paint, lead ingredients have been found in many juice drinks marketed to children. The toxic effects of lead on the central nervous system and mental development are widely known, but the threshold for listing lead as an ingredient is quite high. These drinks require a warning in some jurisdictions, like under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, but are still highly available and served to many children. In addition to juices, lead can be found in high quantities in packaged peaches and pears and some baby foods. The best way to avoid serving lead-contaminated food to your children is to eat seasonally available fruits as much as possible. From these fruits, juices, purees, etc. can easily be made in order to preserve the nutritional content and eliminate lead exposure.

As you can see it’s not always easy to stay away from these harmful materials as they are present in many processed foods. It is no secret that eating meals from natural and additive-free ingredients is harder and more expensive but it’s worth trying in sake of your improved health and well-being. In the long run you can avoid chronic health problems that may help you with your health insurance costs too. So when you do your daily grocery shopping, look out for what you put in the basket – it will benefit your health a lot.