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one green planet

If you flip over any number of store-bought food packets and scan the ingredients list, you will likely find a food additive listed here or there.

Food additives do a number of different jobs from extending shelf-life to changing the food’s color, texture, or flavor.

Many common foods such as vinegar, salt, and sugar have been used for centuries as food additives to help preserve food, and many of us understand these as an ingredient and their impact on our bodies.

Others, however, come with unpronounceable names which make you feel as though you ought to stay clear before you even know what it is.

Despite their scientific-sounding names, it is worth taking a closer look at some of the most common food additives to find out what it is you are actually putting into your body.

You might be horrified and vow to ban said additive from your diet, or you might find that a particular additive isn’t really anything to be too worried about. In the end, it should be up to you to decide.

1. Guar Gum

Guar gum might be something that you have seen listed in your vegan ice cream, salad dressings, sauces, and soups. It is a natural substance made by grinding up the seed of the guar plant.

It acts as an emulsifier helping to thicken liquids. It is generally considered safe to eat, though the FDA has set limits on how much guar gum can be in a product due to some negative effects felt by some people.

Guar gum has been found to have positive effects on some people’s digestion due to its high fiber. However, for some, guar gum may cause symptoms of bloating and constipation.

2. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Source: TED-Ed/YouTube

MSG has been lurking in our foods for decades. Used as a flavor enhancer, this food additive can be found in almost everything, particularly savory dishes, and snacks.

This flavor enhancer is derived from L-glutamic acid, a nonessential amino acid that is present, naturally, in many foods.

Research has found that some people experience adverse effects from consuming MSG. Headaches, numbness, and sweating are among some of the symptoms felt by those with a sensitivity to it. That said, this is thought to affect only about 1% of the general public.

3. Artificial Food Coloring

Reading the word ‘artificial’ on anything you are about to eat doesn’t exactly increase your appetite. One particular artificial additive that has caused some concern is artificial colorings.

Over the years a number of artificial food dyes were found to be unsafe and only a few are now in circulation.

Red # 3, Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Blue #1, and Blue #2 are a few of the most common food colorings deemed safe by the FDA.

Green #3 is deemed safe by the FDA but is banned in Europe.  Inconsistencies such as this one seem to be common throughout the world when it comes to food colorings.

Some small studies have found that food colorings may cause hyperactivity in children, and negatively impact children with ADHD.

Tartrazine (Yellow # 5) specifically has been linked to behavioral changes in people, such as irritability, restlessness, depression, and sleeping disturbances.

4. High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Source: Cleveland Clinic/YouTube

High-Fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn and is found in everything from fizzy drinks and sauces to candy and even breakfast cereals.

One of the issues that people have with this substance is that it adds extra sugar to foods without adding any other nutrients.

It has been linked to increased blood sugar levels and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. This can put people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

5. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is another emulsifier that is added to vegan ice cream and vegan cheese as well as other non-vegan food products. It is derived from red seaweed.

Though it was thought to be completely safe in the past, it has been more recently linked to concerns about digestive health.

Some scientists believe that carrageenan may be linked to general inflammation, and digestive issues, such as bloating and irritable bowel disease (IBD), and possible colon cancer. However, much more research has to be don’t to fully support these claims.

6. Xanthan Gum

Source: Mashed/YouTube

Here we have another emulsifier found in salad dressings, soups, syrups, and sauces. If you make a lot of gluten-free recipes, you might find xanthan gum as an ingredient as it helps to improve the texture of some gluten-free dishes.

It has been deemed safe by the FDA which placed no limitations on how much can be used in products.

It is a soluble fiber that most bodies cannot digest. As a result, it has been found to help with digestion and relief of constipation.

Some research suggests that it may help to lower blood sugar levels as well as lower cholesterol.

In Conclusion

Whether or not some of these food additives have been deemed generally safe or not, doesn’t mean that everyone wants to see food additives in their food.

If you prefer, there are lots of ways to avoid food additives altogether by choosing a whole-food diet and trying to make otherwise processed foods at home yourself.

Things like condiments, ice cream, and plant-based milk can be made at home with really simple ingredients.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. 

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