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. Not So Delciious!! Noooo! Haha I can understand the rest but why does So Delicious have to contain something bad?? :( Also, I was wondering what your position is on Stevia? I only consume it when I drink Zevia soda.
    1. I don't think Stevia is bad in moderation. I tried it in baking once and hated it so I don't use it in my recipes. I know what you mean about So Delicious! I loved it too! Now I just make my own vegan ice cream. :)
          1. My mother is a diabetic and just the thought of not having a white powder to sweeten her coffee kills her, what would you recommend?
          2. Stevia is safe for diabetics. Just watch the kind you buy because some of them are not pure.
    2. I'm ticked it's in my Silk Pure Coconut Milk. Ergh!!!! It's so frustrating how they can ruin a product with just one ingredient (that's really not necessary).
      1. I know it is very frustrating. Here is a list of foods that do and do not contain carrageenan.
  2. I know! I was disappointed in some products too! I have my own almond milk recipe and its awesome! The crushed vanilla bean makes it taste sweet even when there is no sugar added. :)
  3. OMG Melissa! Thank you for exposing BHT! Can you also add BHA to the list. It's past Christmas but, we always seem to receive popular expensive gift packs that include nicely preserved holiday junk food with both of these dangerous additives!
    1. Sure, I will do some research on BHA. There are so amny other scary additives that I have been meaning to add to that post. Thanks for reminding me to do so. :)
  4. The MSG thing is really scary. I've personally done a lot of research on this additive as it is known as an 'excitotoxin' linked to epilepsy - especially in children! It is in EVERYTHING! It goes by so many different names such as: autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate, enzymes, textured protein, natural flavor, seasonings, spices, yeast extract, glutamate, glutamate acid, hydrolyzed oat flour, etc... I could go on and on.
    1. I know! It can be especially scary for those that have a reaction to MSG. In my opinion, all the names it falls under should be labeled. I had no idea it is linked to epilepsy. I have epilepsy! Mine was from a childhood head injury though. It has been very controlled for 20 years with meds.
  5. Can you recommend a certain of deli meat that doesn't have all of those preservatives,etc?? We eat a lot of turkey sandwiches, wraps, etc for lunch. How about Boar's Head? Thanks!!
          1. thanks do you have other lunch ideas besides salads? We prefer sandwiches, wraps, etc. I love chicken salad sandwiches but what binder would you use instead of mayo?
          2. You can try using plain yogurt or avocado as a binder. You can try hummus and veggies, soups, pastas or chili. Those are some of the things my husband takes for lunch.
      1. I was buying Applegate, but it is listed as a brand to avoid because it contains carragen in most of the deli. So I am not sure what brand to buy now?
        1. I am not sure if there is a decent option in deli meat. You are better off buying meat and slicing it yourself. I really hope Applegate chooses to remove the carrageenan in their products since that is the only thing stopping me from buying them now.
    1. I think all carrageenan is made from seaweed. Some products might state that because they want you to think it's okay, but personally, I don't think enough testing has been done on it for me to feel comfortable eating it. In fact, a lot of companies are working to take it out of their products so that makes me think it's not so good.
  6. The Silk Pure Almond Milk has no carrageenan and can be purchase at Walmart or Vitacost online. Very good on cereal.
  7. I know of an ingredient called Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO). It is commonly found in sodas, and is vegetable oil mixed with bromine, a toxic mineral found deep underground. Bromine smells of chlorine, according to Wikipedia, and will irritate the mucus membranes. If too much is inhaled, médical attention is needed. Bromine is on Wikipedia's list of Highly Toxic Gasses. And to think this is in your soda.
  8. Thoughts on Erythritol? I just noticed that is the first ingredient on my "Truvia" packets and was wondering if this is yet another brand I should avoid. I am a daily coffee drinker and have made the switch from sweetener to Stevia products. Do you have any suggestions on Stevia products that are true to their name (all natural) but don't break the bank?
    1. I would stay away from Truvia. It's heavily processed. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol and can cause some people stomach upset. I avoid it because I don't like the aftertaste. Most stevia products are expensive. The only one I can find with clean ingredients is this one.
      1. Thanks! Unfortunately I'd prefer to avoid spending that kind of money on a regular basis and don't believe the "licorice flavour" will bode well with me. Any suggestions on a granulated natural sweetener to use in place of Truvia? Even if it's not 100% all natural, perhaps a "lesser evil" than the daily dose of cancer-linked aspartame I was getting from Splenda would be better.
        1. IF you can stomach erythritol, you can try this recipe?

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