Top 5 Food Additives You Should Avoid But Are Likely Eating

January 25, 2022

When making healthy lifestyle changes, most people only consider what foods they should and shouldn’t be eating…

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Dr. Cori Talks Food Additives

When making healthy lifestyle changes, most people only consider what foods they should and shouldn’t be eating, not once thinking about the food additives that are way more dangerous than the food itself.

It’s easy to make this mistake. No one really talks about food additives. When you go to your physician, they usually discuss big-picture healthy goals like exercise more, eat more vegetables, follow a more Paleo lifestyle. Sure that’s a nice speech, but in actuality, it’s not so much the foods that are bad. It’s the stuff that’s in them. So when you hear the word “processed”, this is the kind of stuff we’re talking about. I mean, let’s face it, most things are processed, that almond milk you buy is processed, but it’s the other stuff in the processing that really makes the difference.

Food additives aren’t new. In fact, they have been used for centuries with really 3 goals in mind; make food look good, taste good, and last longer than it’s supposed to. Those reasons don’t really get me excited to want to add food additives to my menu.

Here’s a fun fact for you:

The average American household spends about 90% of their food budget on processed food.

90%! So essentially that means 90% of household foods contain food additives that don’t actually add anything of value only result in weight gain, poorer health outcomes, and some even cause disease. How’s that bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit sound now?

Look I’m not here to scare you, only inform you that the decisions you make have consequences. If you have the information, you can make an informed choice. You can do what you want, but I want you to know exactly what you’re getting into.

Here’s the deal, there are a lot of food additives, so I am by no means about to give you an exhaustive list. I’m just going to focus on the top 5 food additives that you probably don’t even think about, that you likely eat every day, without realizing the impact on your health.

Top 5 Food Additives You Should Avoid But Are Likely Eating

Food Dyes

Think ice cream, baked goods, American cheese, macaroni and cheese. Getting hungry? Well, don’t. You wanted the cheeseburger so you order one with no bun and low-fat cheese, a win right? Assuming you had organic grass-fed beef, let’s talk about the cheese. So in your slice of 2% milk American cheese are food additives called food dyes. Food dyes are artificial coloring that live in almost everything. In animal studies, food dyes have been linked to cancer. And the impact on children? Far-reaching! In children, food dyes have been known to cause behavior problems, ADD, and ADHD, and there’s even data to show food dyes significantly reduce IQ! So maybe their bad grades really are your fault… Just saying…

Sodium Nitrate

We’ve all seen the commercials with a bunch of athletes talking about eating fresh and depending on what you’re comparing it to, this could be a game-changer for people, but let’s be honest, even eating fresh has some work to do to improve. Introducing sodium nitrate… These food additives live in processed meats. Meat like hot dogs, luncheon meat, bacon, and ham. Sodium nitrate gives meat that pretty color, but once digested, it’s not so pretty. It’s actually carcinogenic. Following digestion, sodium nitrate creates nitrosamine compounds that can be toxic to your internal organs, like your liver and pancreas in particular. So unfortunately sodium nitrate is yet another food additive that has been linked to cancer.

Potassium Bromate

Growing up, my grandmothers would tell my mom certain foods were good to “fatten” me up. Not exactly the look I was going for, but they meant well. Potassium bromate, however, does not… Potassium bromate is used to increase the volume in bread, so essentially “fatten” up the bread. I’ll let you guess what risk that can pose to people… You guessed it! Cancer. Potassium bromate is known to cause cancer in animals and even small amounts are toxic to people. Now I’m not saying you can’t eat bread, but did you know you could make your own? See that’s the point to this. This is again where I want you to think lifestyle change and not diet. No dieting here… And if you want more lifestyle insight, here’s the food philosophy that worked for me as a working mom.

Propyl Paraben

Who doesn’t love a nice, hot, big blueberry muffin from their local coffee shop? I’m willing to bet the smell of baked goods instantly makes you hungry, despite the fact that you had that protein shake before you left home. So if you’re looking to not get pregnant, feed this food additive to your partner every day because propyl paraben has been shown to decrease sperm count. So that heart-shaped basket of baked goods might just be ruining the mood. It doesn’t stop there though. Propyl paraben can also accelerate cancer growth because of its ability to alter gene expression in breast cancer. Accelerate cancer? No thank you….

Dr. Cori Talks Food Additives

Sulfur Dioxide

Now this one is really a buzzkill. Especially for a wine and French fry kind of gal. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative in foods like dried fruit and potatoes, and in beverages like beer, soft drinks, juices, and wine! Yep, wine. Heartbreaking, I know… But let’s be serious, sulfur additives are toxic. There’s really no nice way to put it. These food additives can cause asthma, low blood pressure, and even anaphylactic shock (which is science talk for a very severe allergic reaction). It even destroys your body’s vitamins B1 and E. This food additive might be worth eliminating first.

There you have it! The top 5 food additives you likely eat on a regular basis. So my friend, consider yourself informed. Now it’s up to you what you do with this information. Can you think of one change you could make? One food additive you might be able to eliminate? As you pick one, it will become easier over time to pick more. See that’s the key to what it means to make this a lifestyle and not a diet. This isn’t a sprint folks, take your time and enjoy your growth throughout the process.  You can also read this post on low glycemic eating to give you some ideas for how to get started.  

Now over to you. Tell me in the comments, what’s the one change you could make today? What food additive are you willing to skip and choose health instead?

Talk soon,

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I'm Dr. Cori, Your  coach + New bff!

I'm a pharmacist, Life Coach, and Master Certified Health and Nutrition Coach.  I inspire busy moms to let go of all the overwhelm, overwork, and underself (yes, I made up that word!).  I help women stop being so preoccupied with what everyone else needs and find a simple healthy routine so they can have more energy and finally make time for the things they enjoy.

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    Dr. Cori Cooper is a pharmacist, busy mom, and a Master Certified Health Coach specializing in diabetes and gut health.


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