Food additives are nothing but chemicals that are added to food products to ease the processing, enhance the flavours and improve their shelf life. However, unlike the term suggests, these chemicals don’t really “add” any value to the food. Some of these additives are said to be cancer-causing and have been linked to triggering several ailments.
Listed below are some of the most common additives to stay clear from:
Aspartame (E951) is a chemical compound that is most commonly used in “diet” and “sugar-free” foods. A neurotoxin and a carcinogenic, this compound is said to have drastic effects on intelligence and short-term memory. Brain tumour, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures are some of the ailments that artificial sweeteners are said to trigger. Some of the most commonly consumed food products that contain aspartame include sugar-free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, tabletop sweeteners, cereal, breath mints, pudding, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is widely used as a flavour enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin – a substance that causes cells to get overexcited to the point of damage or death. Increased consumption of MSG can result in adverse side effects including depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG is used as an additive in Chinese food, many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, frozen dinners and lunch meats.
Trans fat is on the extreme end of the dangerous additives chart. It finds application in increasing the shelf-life of food products. Several studies show that trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems. Deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, baked goods, fast foods, chips and crackers are some examples of trans fat-containing foods.
Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite
Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is often used as a preservative, colouring, and flavouring in processed meats. This compound is highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. Once inside the digestive system, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs, the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrate is found commonly in food items such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats.
Soy lecithin is used to give products a smooth, uniform appearance. Some of the more commonly recognized side effects associated are like bloating, diarrhoea, mild skin rashes, nausea and stomach pain. Used primarily as an emulsifier, you can find this compound in anything from salad dressing to tea bags, especially chocolates.