10 Food Additives That Show ‘chemicals’ In Our Food Are Useful, Not Dangerous

Education and fear can’t go together, so let’s examine what some of the most common food additives are and what you should know about them.


#1: Color additives

A color additive is “any dye, pigment, or other substance that can impart color to a food, drug, or cosmetic or to the human body.” They make food more exciting and less dull but their role is also informative. For example, say you’re a senior on 8 different meds concurrently but all pills had exactly the same color. Giving them colors makes them easy to discern.

#2: High Fructose Corn Syrup

This is true, only what is often not said (but we discussed in the sugar alternatives article) is that HFCS is like table sugar (sucrose). And eating too much of it will have the same effects as eating too much sugar. Does overconsumption of sugar affect diabetes risk? You bet it does, being overweight is a major risk factor. So there’s no surprise there.

#3: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Many deceptive labels proudly declare that the product does not contain MSG, a flavor enhancer, as if that’s actually a particularly good thing that should convince you to buy their product instead of their competitors’.

The advertisement of “no MSG” is a byproduct of the accusations that MSG is directly involved in the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, which refers to physical symptoms after dining at a Chinese Restaurant. Symptoms include numbness, weakness, palpitations and others.

#4: Trans Fat

Trans Fat is officially a no-no: It increases LDL and decreases your HDL. It puts you at an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Based on the evidence the FDA has removed partially hydrogenated oils from the list of items that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

#5: Aspartame (APM)

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Because it’s so sweet, only a a very small quantity is needed to be added to food, hence aspartame does not really add calories. 

#6: Sodium Sulfites

Sulfites are a preservative. They release sulphur dioxide, an (irritant) gas. That’s why they can cause allergy-like symptoms in people with asthma or allergic rhinitis.

You’ll find this preservative in most wines, as sulfites stop the fermentation process.

#7: Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate

Sodium Nitrite is a salt, an anti-oxidant, and a meat preservative. It stops bacteria like listeria from growing in processed meats such as ham, bacon, and frankfurters. It particulatly prevents the growth of botulinum bacteria.

#8: BHA and BHT

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of foods (usually edible fats, vegetable oils and salad dressings) that results rancidity or discoloration.

#9: Potassium Bromate

This is a controversial flour additive that’s used in baking; it strengthens the dough and helps the bread rise.

#10: Vitamin D

Did you know Vitamin D is also an additive? For example, remember those milk cartons that proudly declare “Vitamin D?” Milk is not a natural source of Vitamin D, but since we’ve found that Vitamin D is so good for us and vitamin D deficiency is widespread manufacturers are adding it in.

The reasons we use them, and the benefits and risks involved, feel free to enjoy your breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack (or second breakfast, supper, elevenses, afternoon tea); we’re after all lucky to have these choices. In Venezuela right now for example, you can’t find food at the supermarket and lines of 60 people or more form, all looking to get food for their families.

We’re so lucky to live in places with abundant food and in an era where food is safer, lasts longer, is more nutritious, more appealing, and at the end of the day, well-regulated. Does this mean we can’t do better? Of course we can do better. But it does mean we’re doing pretty well.