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Top Food Additives You Should Avoid This Summer

sweetnersNow that summer has finally arrived, the season of barbecues, cocktails, and outdoor picnics begins. More Americans may find themselves eating more processed or fried food or  eating out more instead of cooking over a hot stove. So, if you’re hosting a BBQ and shopping to feed 10 hungry kids next weekend, just keep in mind these food additives that you absolutely want to avoid.

Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame is a popular sweetener found in diet or sugar-free soft drinks. It is also known under the brand name “Equal” and is commonly used to sweeten coffee or tea. It is believed to be carcinogenic and correlated with various neurological conditions. Sucralose or “Splenda” is commonly advertised as “natural” because it’s made from sugar, but it is actually genetically-modified from natural sugar to change its chemical compound. Saccharine (Sweet n’ Low) and Acesulfame-K (Sweet One) are also part of ongoing discussions linking them to cancer.

Bottom Line:

You should definitely avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners as much as possible. However, if the choice comes down to a diet or regular version of a soft drink, it would be best to choose the regular version (without artificial sweeteners) and drink it moderately (6 oz).


Also known as Monosodium Glutamate, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or yeast extract. It has been found in Chinese takeout (hence Chinese Food Restaurant Syndrome) but is also found in canned soups, frozen dinners, lunch meat and snacks. This neurotoxin has been shown to turn off the “I’m full” mechanism of the brain which in turn leads to weight gain.  It is correlated with obesity, Type II diabetes and Metabolic X syndrome.

Bottom Line:

Many prepackaged foods have this common additive. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid prepackaged meals as much as possible.

Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite

This preservative is used in the coloring and flavoring of cured meats such as smoked fish, bacon, hot dogs, lunch meat, and corned beef. Once digested and mixed with your body’s stomach acids, it forms a highly carcinogenic compound known as nitrosamines. Sodium nitrate/nitrite is regarded as a toxic ingredient and there have been various movements to ban this in the United States since the 1970s.

Bottom Line:

This widely known carcinogen is bad. Period. Its only function is keep dead meats red so they look fresh and appealing. Certain brands sell uncured lunch and deli meats that do not use nitrites to preserve their products.

Trans Fat/Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs)

One of the most dangerous substances you can consume, some states and municipalities in the United States are restricting the use of this additive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in 2013, a measure to cut trans fat in products sold in the United States. PHOs are found in deep fried fast foods, shortening, baked goods, bread, margarine, and frosting. Trans fats have been linked to heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, increased inflammation, diabetes and other health problems.

Bottom Line:

Avoid them completely. Use real oils and butters while reducing the quantity instead.

Potassium Bromate

This is a dough stabilizer commonly found in flour, breads and rolls. Only small amounts of it remain in bread but this chemical has been banned in other countries due to research linking it to cancers in animals. Small amounts have been found to be harmful to humans. It is also known as bromic acid and potassium salt.

Bottom Line:

There are plenty of flour and breads that come without this harmful substance. Recently, the Panera Bread restaurant chain announced it was eliminating 150 artificial chemicals from its products including brominated dough while Subway decided to drop another dough additive, azodicarbonamide, from its sandwiches.

These tips are for the whole family as these additives are also found in pet foods.

So while enjoying the rays of summer sunshine, longer days, and the inevitable family gatherings to break bread, remember that eating healthier doesn’t mean completely sacrificing what you love but making smarter choices and staying informing about what you are really eating.

S.C. Rhyne is an author and blogger living in New York City. You can follow her at @ReporterandGirl and check out her blog at

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