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5 Food Additives to Avoid

Ever try to make sense of a food label? With a long list of indecipherable ingredients, labels can be confusing and deceiving. The Federal government has plans to redesign nutrition labels to make them easier to understand and more accurate, but until these changes go into effect, how can we know what is best for our bodies? Here is a list of five ingredients to watch for and avoid.

5 Food Additives to Avoid

Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have zero calories but they come with a bunch of other stuff that’s no so appealing. Studies show these processed sugar substitutes may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and because they are 700 times sweeter than natural sugar, they mess with your metabolism and make you crave more sweets, leading to greater calorie consumption throughout the day. So in reality, those little zero calorie pink, blue and yellow packets actually help you pack on the pounds, and load you up with potentially harmful chemicals.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup
If you see high-fructose corn syrup on the label, that’s a good sign the product is highly processed and filled with added sugar. Too much sugar in any form is unhealthy, high-fructose corn syrup included. It is widely used and found in some unsuspecting places like multigrain bread, ketchup, soft drinks, yogurt, canned fruit, and salad dressings. Because it is inexpensive to produce, it has replaced natural sugar in many products.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that is high in sodium and often found in soups and other canned goods, marinades, and processed meats. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as “generally recognized as safe” but because of its adverse reactions in some people they have required it to be listed on food labels. These reactions are known as MSG symptom complex and include headache (or migraine), flushing, sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, weakness and numbness. Symptoms are usually mild and don’t require treatment. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to avoid MSG.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are man-made unsaturated fats that increase the shelf life of processed foods. They are formed when liquid vegetable oil is turned into solid fat, through a process called hydrogenation. In the 1950s through the 1980s, trans fats were popular as a “healthier” alternative to saturated fats (or animal fats like the ones found in butter, cream and meat). But we are now finding trans fats are bad for your heart, just like their natural counterparts. They raise levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and contribute to fatty plaque in the arteries. Trans fats are found in almost half the products you find on supermarket shelves.

Caramel Color
Caramel color (also known as 4-MeI) is found in some of your favorite foods and beverages, including soft drinks, bread, and artificial maple syrup. This ingredient that gives cola and root beer its brown hue is also a potential carcinogen—researchers have found long-term exposure to 4-MeI caused lung cancer in mice. According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, many popular soft drinks contain high levels of 4-MeI. The magazine has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set federal limits for 4-MeI in foods, and to require manufacturers to list the chemical on ingredient labels instead of “artificial color” or “caramel color.”
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