10 Worst Food Additives & Where They Lurk

Increase your food safety knowledge

Leading nutrition authorities assert that consuming whole foods is the most effective dietary approach. The more whole, natural foods you eat, the better off you will be. This means consuming foods that are not processed and that do not contain preservatives, chemicals, fillers, artificial flavors or artificial colors.

Here's a list of foods you should avoid that commonly contain added ingredients. Plus, check out the chart below of the top 10 worst food additives, why they're used, and why they're bad for you.

Where are added ingredients found?

1. Refined sugar and sweetened foods

Avoid foods with refined sugars as well as high fructose and regular corn syrups. Candy, soda, syrup, jelly, cookies and baked goods are on the avoid list. Instead, eat foods that are naturally sweet or sweetened with fruit or 100-percent fruit juice. You can also use natural sweeteners, such as honey or agave nectar.

2. Packaged foods with “un-whole” ingredients


Many packaged foods that seem healthy often contain fillers, preservatives and other ingredients you don‘t want in your diet. If you do choose something that has been manufactured (anything canned, packaged, etc.), try to avoid those that contain ingredients you don‘t recognize.

3. Diet foods

Diet foods are lower caloric versions of their high-calorie cousins, made by reducing the sugar and/or fat content. Reduced sugar foods and beverages are often loaded with highly processed, chemically-derived sugar substitutes; reduced fat foods usually have a lot of added sugars. Both options require the very additives and processing that are best avoided.

4. Fried foods

Fried foods, especially those that are packaged or come from fast food restaurants, more often than not contain saturated and trans fats. These fats have been linked to disease and other health problems.

5. Fast Foods

As upsetting as this may be, fast foods are, by all means, the worst of the worst offenders. Most are mass produced, processed and filled with preservatives, artificial flavorings, colorings and other additives. Furthermore, fast food restaurants tend to use ingredients of lesser quality combined with unhealthy fats.

Top 10 added ingredients to avoid

Artificial Colors
  • Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color
  • Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches
Artificial Flavorings
  • Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors
  • Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma
  • Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid


(Acesulfame-K, As-partame, Equal®, NutraSweet®, Sac-charin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)

  • Highly-processed, chemically-derived, zero-calorie sweeteners found in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving
  • Can negatively impact metabolism
  • Some have been linked to cancer, headaches, dizziness and hallucinations



  • Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid
  • May result in hyperactivity, angiodema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and urticaria
  • Can affect estrogen balance and levels

Vegetable Oil


  • Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks
  • Increases triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys

High Fructose Corn


  • Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar
  • Sustains freshness in baked goods
  • Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness
  • May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat
  • Increases risk for type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Isn’t easily metabolized by the liver


(Monosodium Glutamate)

  • Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and more
  • May stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing


  • An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked
  • Inhibits absorption of some nutrients
  • Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence

Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

(Palm, Soybean and others)

  • Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S.
  • Cheaper than most other oils
  • Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to risk of heart disease

Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate

  • Preserves, colors and flavors cured meats and fish
  • Prevents botulism
  • Can combine with chemicals in stomach to form nitrosamine a carcinogen


Get Real and Stop Dieting BookReprinted with author permission from the best-selling book GET REAL and STOP Dieting!: Forget the Fads, Get the Facts and Feel Fabulous by Brett Blumenthal. © Copyright 2009 Brett Blumenthal.

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