Common Food Additives in Processed Foods

Besides large amounts of sugar and sodium, Big Food companies love to add unnecessary additives to their foods.  Think about it.  They produce foods that have a very long shelf life and some are designed to NEVER rot.  That can’t be safe for human consumption. The FDA will try to tell you they are safe, but they admit here that they are not testing enough. The most commonly used additives are:

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

This is often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese foods, soups and other processed foods.  MSG, in various studies, has been linked to obesity, asthma and behavioral problems in children.

Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame and Saccharine)

Don’t think you are safe drinking a diet soda.  They, and many lowfat, fat free and no sugar  products contain these artificial sweeteners.  The FDA will try to tell you they are safe, but many symptoms have been linked to the artificial sweeteners, such as, tumors, diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) BHA ( Butylated  Hydroxyanisole)

This is an anti oxidant that companies add to food to help preserve taste and color.  It is most cereals, bars and also beauty products.  BHT has been linked to cancer, allergies and abdominal problems.


Carrageenan is found in almost all meat and dairy products. For a list of products that do and do not contain carrageenan please click here. It is used by food companies as a stabilizer and also to thicken.  Even some foods that claim to be healthy contain it.  That surprised me the most.  Recently, it has been linked to cancer, especially colon cancer.  Some of the studies are inconclusive, but I feel there needs to be more research done before I decide to put it into my body.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

When you start reading labels, you will find that HFCS is in almost all processed foods, even foods that you would not add sugar to.  Such as ketchups, dressings, mac and cheese and most processed breads and cereals.  Companies add it because it is a cheap filler.  Cheaper than table sugar actually.  It has been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.  If you cut out all processed foods, you find that you will lose weight without even dieting.  My husband and I did.  People just don’t realize the extra amount of sugar that is in processed foods.  If I was going to make mac and cheese from scratch, the recipe would not call for sugar.  It can be made without.

Trans Fats


Trans fats are extremely dangerous and fatty.  They are created by hydrogenating oils creating even more unhealthy fats.  Trans fats are found in many processed and deep fried foods because they help increase their shelf life.  It is important to note that even though a products claims 0 trans fats, they could still contain some.  Certain additives, like mono and diglyceride are not grown, but rather, manufactured and do not have to be classified as trans fats even though they are.  These food makers have become very sneaky and know exactly what they need to do to get around labeling. You can read more on that here.

Sodium Nitrate


Sodium nitrate is found in a lot of processed meats.  It is used as a preservative and also as a colorant.  Consumption of sodium nitrate in processed meat can be a contributing factor to heart disease.  You can read more on that here.  In addition to heart disease, sodium nitrate has been linked to pancreatic cancer.  In 2005, 200,000 men and women were studied over the course of 7 years.  The study showed that those who ate a diet that included processed meats were 67% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.  Scary.  You can read that here.

Potassium Bromate


Potassium bromate is used to create volume in processed breads.  In laboratory studies, potassium bromate is known to cause cancer in animals.  You are better off to avoid this.

For another post on additives to avoid, you can read 7 Gross Ingredients You Have Probably Eaten.


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52 thoughts to “Common Food Additives in Processed Foods”

  1. Is it always listed as carrageenan on the food label? I know the FDA is very shady about getting around listing certain harmful additives. Does it go by any other names? That way I won't have to memorize this list!

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