What’s the best way to figure out which food additives to avoid?

Elvis Elvis

I guess they mean the unfortunate ones who don’t come across this website!

Here in the U.S., we have some of the best tasting processed foods available. The reason? In two words – Food Additives.

If you’re buying any processed foods for your family, then they are being exposed to food additives that may or may not cause immediate and long-term problems. Even if an additive is FDA approved, that doesn’t mean its safe in combination with all of the other chemical additives within any given processed food.

Some food additives, mainly sweeteners, are surrounded by so much controversy that no one would blame you for avoiding them altogether. Personally I never touch artificial sweeteners and never give my children any products with them in it.

I used to think that sugar-free gum was a good option but have since learned about aspartame, which is even an ingredient in some sugar sweetened gums. It’s used “to round out the flavor” I was told when I asked one gum manufacturer. Knowing that aspartame is addictive, I figured that might also have been a consideration but I’m not surprised it wasn’t mentioned.

What’s the best way to figure out which food additives to avoid?

First you need to know what they are, and then what they are used for in processed foods. Once you have an idea of the point of food additives, you can decide if you want to feed foods that contain them to your children. They are in almost all processed foods to one degree or another. Even organic foods can contain some of them, so it’s important to always read labels.

Whats the best way to figure out which food additives to avoid?

I once brought home a box of crackers from our local health food co-op without realizing until half the box was gone, that they had hydrogenated fat in them. I let my guard down because for some reason I thought that the co-op wouldn’t carry foods with unhealthy ingredients! Not true.

This was just one of many products I found there that contain some of the additives best limited or avoided altogether. So as always, buyer beware.

Federal Guidelines for Food Additive Usage

Food corporations do have to follow guidelines for properly using food additives, but no studies have been done on how the human body reacts when 3, 5, 10 or more of the USDA approved food additives are combined in one product.

So even if an additive has been approved, and you’ll want to try to determine who funded the testing to ensure an unbiased result. Formulas that use several additives for one end product have not be tested. It just couldn’t be done when over 15,000 new edible products for kids aloneare introduced in the U.S. every year. I just can’t bring myself to call them foods.

Which Food Additives Are Your Kids Eating on a Regular Basis?

The thing to remember about food additives is that even the ones that are known to cause cancer in lab animals won’t kill you right away. And unless your child is very sensitive and reacts quickly to certain additives, it may seem harmless that they ingest them regularly. We are led to believe that the body can take a little abuse – think loads of sugar on special occasions – and be ok.

While that’s true to a point, what’s happening with food additives these days goes well beyond the minimal health ramifications of the occasional overindulgence. It’s eating foods containing additives over long periods of time that causes the problems. I suggest avoiding as many processed foods as possible, and vary the ones you do use. With one exception – hydrogenated fats. I never eat them and never feed them to my children.

New York City has recently banned them in all restaurants.

It bears repeating that what no one has approved or even studied for that matter is how food additives effect the body when combined together in processed foods. Another reason to skip highly processed foods is the fact that the ones with the most additives are extremely low in nutritional value, and some take more energy to digest than they provide.

You can tell if you ate one of those by the way you feel about an hour afterwards. I always need a nap after eating a super-market white flour bagel for instance, or something loaded with white sugars. Yes, I know, I should know better! (and do but am only human after all!)

What’s a Busy Mother To Do?

Cooking fresh organic foods from scratch as much as possible is the safest way to protect the health of those you love, and once you start doing it, is not as daunting as it might sound. If you were never taught to cook or are feeling rusty, pick up some cookbooks and videos at your local library. Maybe your local community college or vocational school offers a class?

There is even an entire network on television devoted to food, which I imagine you’ve heard of already! I don’t usually recommend TV, but when learning to cook, seeing what is meant by the terms and the techniques described in the cookbooks is a big help.

If you’re lucky like me, your town or city might have a natural foods co-op with a full-service deli and bakery. Look for the closest one and buy prepared foods from them on those days you just can’t cook from scratch.

22 Common Food Additives

I’ll be adding pages with descriptions for each of the following additives as this site grows.

Acesulfame K
artificial colors
Brominated vegetable oil
hydrogenated fats
sodium nitrite
Free glutamates
Partially Hydrogenated vegetable oils
Potassium bromate