5 Food Additives To Leave On The Shelf

Local nutrition experts weigh in.

There are many reasons to avoid processed foods—including unhealthy  additives and preservatives. Here’s the lowdown on five of the most common, and why you may want to steer clear of them.

1. Artificial Food Coloring
“Artificial food coloring and dyes are so toxic to our bodies that they are banned in many countries, including England and France,” says certified health coach Jodi Baretz, LCSW CHHC. “They are made from chemicals that are derived from petroleum and are linked to cancer, ADD, and ADHD in children.” Robert Silverman, DC, a certified nutritional specialist agrees, warning: “Avoid food coloring at all costs!”

2. Sodium Benzoate
“Sodium benzoate is a salt that naturally occurs in low levels in some fruits,” says Baretz. “However, when it is used as a preservative in food and synthesized in a lab, it can be dangerous, especially when it mixes with metal cans.” According to Silverman, consumption of sodium benzoate “can trigger allergic reactions in some people and be a potential trigger for hyperactivity in children with ADHD.”

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3. Sodium Nitrate
“Sodium nitrate is a salt that is added to hot dogs, bacon, and other cured meats to help preserve them,” says Silverman. “Consumption of nitrates can lead to a decrease in oxygen consumption and to an increase in cancer risk.”

4. Aspartame
“Aspartame is an artificial sweetener commonly found in diet drinks and yogurt. It is a neurotoxin and can cause headaches, as well as memory loss, nerve problems, and infertility,” says Baretz. Silverman adds that aspartame can “adversely affect the gut microbiome and lead to blood-glucose dysregulation.” Baretz says that people often “think they are being ‘healthy’ or will lose weight by drinking diet sodas, but it fools [their] metabolism into eating more sugar and makes them more likely to be overweight.”

5. MSG
 “MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a flavor-enhancer most commonly used in Chinese food, canned veggies, soups, and processed meats. Even if you don’t get sick immediately, long-term use can be harmful,” says Baretz. “Some symptoms are muscle fatigue, numbness or tingling, and flushing.” Silverman’s advice? “Avoid it.”

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