9 Common Food Additives; Pros and Cons?

tinned food

What Do You Know About Additives?

Food additives are unavoidable ingredients of all processed foods. They range from artificial sweeteners to food colorings. Therefore, it is possible that you will find one or two food additives on the label of almost every edible product you pick up in a supermarket.

Food additives are either used to enhance the taste, color, appearance, texture, or flavor of foods. They are also used to prolong the shelf life of the food.

As much as these food additives tend to make our foods taste, smell, and look nicer, a number of them have been identified to cause serious adverse effects and should be seriously avoided. Although not all food additives are harmful to health. Some of them are safe for consumption, but it is advised that you consume them cautiously, even though they can expose you to minimal risks compared to other types of additives.

The following are some of the most common food additives and directions on whether or not you should add them to your diet.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium glutamate is simply a food additive that is used to increase the savor and flavor of foods. It is a common additive found in processed foods like snacks, frozen dinners, canned soups, among others. It is also added to foods that are served at fast food joints and restaurants.

It improves the taste and flavor of foods, prevents them from going sour or tasting bad, no matter how long they stay.

However, certain studies found that MSG might have adverse neurological effects on you and inhibit proper growth and development in children. Other studies argue that since it cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier, then it might have little or no side effects on your neurological health.

Another side effect of MSG is excessive weight gain. Further research found that people who are sensitive to MSG develop symptoms like swellings, headaches, and numbness after eating foods that contain MSG.

It is important that you keep MSG out of your diet if you notice any of these side effects. Nonetheless, if you do not show any symptoms after eating foods that contain MSG, then you can consume it moderately and in tiny amounts to prevent the development of the risks of its side effects.

Food Coloring

Artificial food coloring, just like MSG, is a food additive. It is not used to improve the taste of foods like MSG. Instead, it is used to improve the appearance and color quality of foods. In other words, artificial food colorings make foods attractive and colorful. Over the years, so many people have raised concerns about the adverse effects of food coloring. Some food colorings like yellow 5 and 6, red 40 and blue 1 have caused allergic reactions in many people.

In addition, studies have found that certain food colorings have increased hyperactivity in children who are sensitive to them. While other ones like erythrosine can increase your chance of developing thyroid tumors

It is important to rule out foods that are processed with colorings and opt-in for whole organic foods.

Sodium Nitrate

Sodium nitrate can be found in canned and processed meats. It serves as a preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria on meats, no matter how long they stay. Also, sodium nitrate adds flavor and color to meats.

Nitrate upon conversion to nitrosamine as a result of exposure to high heat can cause many negative and adverse effects on humans.

According to research, nitrosamine and nitrate can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer, while other researches have linked the consumption of processed meats to risks of developing breast, colorectal, and bladder cancer. Type 1 (although research is still ongoing on this) has also been discovered to be caused by excessive consumption of processed meat.

Instead of consuming processed meats, swap them for healthier, natural, and unprocessed meats, as they are healthier sources of protein, with zero side effects.

Other foods you can replace processed meats with include; chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Guar Gum

Guar gum, as the name implies, is a food additive that is used to thicken foods and bind them together. They are used in the production and processing of sauces, ice creams, and soups.

Guar gum is a high-fiber food additive; thus, it has positive effects on humans. Some people who ate foods that contain guar gum have recorded reduced symptoms of indigestion, like constipation and bloating.

Also, people who took guar gum alongside other meals have recorded increased satisfaction from foods, which has helped them reduce their junk consumption and excess calorie intake.

Other studies found that guar gum can help reduce the levels of high blood cholesterol and beat down unhealthy blood sugar levels.

Despite all these health benefits of guar gum, excess consumption of it can cause serious adverse effects like obstruction of the small intestine and the esophagus since it has the potentials of doubling its size after you must have eaten it. It also causes symptoms like bloating, gas and cramps in some people.

Asides from these, guar gum are safe when taken moderately.

High-fructose Corn Syrup

drinkThis is a food sweetener that is made from corn. It is a common ingredient in sweet drinks, candies, cereals, and snacks. It is packed with fructose, a compound that can cause adverse effects on health if consumed in excess amounts.

High-fructose corn syrup has at all times been linked to unnecessary weight gain, excess increased blood sugar levels, belly fat, and reduced insulin sensitivity.

Fructose may also cause cell inflammation, which plays an important role in leading to many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.

High-fructose corn syrup adds no essential vitamin to the body. Instead, it provides pseudo calories and added sugar. It is best to shun sugary drinks and snacks and go for unprocessed and natural fruit drinks.

Artificial Food Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are known to reduce calorie contents in foods while increasing and improving the taste of foods. Some common food sweeteners include;

  • Aspartame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose
  • Acesulfame potassium

Some studies found that artificial sweeteners can help in weight management, as well as regulate blood sugar levels. Although some artificial sweeteners may not have obvious adverse effects on the health, others like aspartame can cause headaches and allergies.

To an extent, artificial sweeteners are considered safe if you consume them in moderate amounts. However, if you notice any symptoms after consuming foods that have artificial sweeteners in them, it is best to limit the rate at which you consume them or avoid them completely.


Carrageenan is a food additive that is gotten from red seaweeds. It is used as a food thickener, preservative, and emulsifier.

Common foods that contain carrageenan include milk ice cream, cottage cheese, and coffee creamers.

Carrageenan is believed to disrupt the proper functioning of the digestive system and can cause intestinal ulcers and painful growths.

Sodium Benzoate

It is a preservative, usually added to carbonated drinks, condiments, salad dressings, and other acidic foods. Food and drug enforcement agencies in certain countries have considered it to be healthy. However, research has unraveled some of its side effects. Some of these side effects include; hyperactivity in children and cancer development under certain conditions.

Carbonated drinks contain higher contents of sodium benzoate. It is best to look through the labels of the foods you are buying to check if they have this food additive or not; if you want to reduce your intake of it. Also, when benzoate is mixed with vitamin C in any product, do well to avoid it.

Trans Fat

Trans fat is unsaturated fat that has passed through the process of hydrogenation with the sole aim of enhancing the shelf life of foods. Trans fat can be found in foods like margarine, biscuits, and microwave popcorn.

A picture of a man holding his left chest regionHowever, eating trans fat can increase inflammation by 60%. This alone can put your heart health at risk. A link between trans fat and diabetes has also been discovered.

One of the best ways of conquering your trans fat intake is by cutting down on the rate at which you consume processed foods.

In conclusion, not all food additives are unhealthy. As much as some of them have been identified to cause grievous side effects, some other ones have proven to be healthy enough to be consumed but in moderate amounts. The best way to keep track of what additives you include in your diet is by reading the labels of every edible product that you pick up from the supermarket.