Eating well is tough given how much accustomed we’ve become to eating junk food. If you choose to go organic, you will have an uphill task since these foods tend to be a little more expensive. On the other hand, packed foods contain additives, chemicals and fillers you might want to avoid. These undesirable additions to food can be easily avoided by reading the labels on the foods you buy or going completely organic. Below are some of the considerations you need to put into account.

Harmful Preservatives in Food that You Should Worry About



MSG is a flavor enhancer that is present in many things including infant formula, candy, low fat milk, drinks, chewing gum, fruit yoghurts, OTC medications and prescription drugs. This excitotoxin is a form of the naturally occurring chemical glutamate. It overexcites body cells to the point of damage or death. This can cause brain damage or dysfunction, and even lead to learning disorders, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. While the FDA still maintains that MSG is safe for consumption, many other scientists disapprove of its use. You might not find it listed as MSG on food labels so you should look out for other ingredients that contain MSG such as autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed soy protein.


High Fructose Corn Syrup

This is a sweetener made from corn. It’s cheaper and sweeter than sucrose. It is a common additive to many processed foods including most soft drinks and sweets. The problem with high fructose corn syrup is that it increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. According to experts such Marion Nestle, PhD, a New York University professor of Nutrition, there’s not much difference between high fructose corn syrup and sucrose (sugar made from sugarcane). On food labels, you’ll find it listed as high fructose corn syrup.



This is an artificial sweetener that’s also known as NutraSweet and Equal. It is used to sweeten diet soft drinks. Its controversy stems from the fact that concerns have been raised repeatedly about its impact on your health. It’s suspected of causing cancer, headaches, seizures, mood swings, and reduced mental performance. A study published in 2005 submitted that the sweetener could cause lymphoma and leukemia in rats. Though several other studies done on people and animals suggest otherwise, you still look out for aspartame on the label.


Partially Hydrogenated Oil

This one of the preservatives in food is the arch nemesis of heart health. Partially hydrated oil is the main source of trans-fat. It helps manufacturers reduce costs, stabilize flavor and increase shelf life. However, trans-fats are bad for your health. They are difficult to dissolve, increase bad cholesterol and contribute to conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cellular deterioration and nutritional deficiencies. Some of the foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil include margarine, crackers, shortening, salad dressing, chips and bread. It is worth noting that foods containing less than 0.5g can be labeled as trans-fat free.



BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) are used as preservatives in the food industry where they prevent the oil in food from becoming rancid or oxidizing. The effects of these preservatives include increased appetite that’s unnecessary, kidney and liver damage, cancer, baldness, growth retardation, sleeplessness, fetal abnormalities and behavioral problems. According to a National Toxicology Program report, BHA is viewed as a carcinogen. The Toxicology Data Network says that BHT causes abnormal cellular behavior and increases liver weight.

You should limit how much HHA or BHT you consume especially in sweets and snacks. Check the label for BHA or BHT.


Phosphoric Acid

This is an odorless and colorless syrup used in soft drinks and fruit juices for its ability to stop the growth of bacteria and the sharp tangy taste it introduces. According to a report in General Dentistry, phosphoric acid is as harmful to the teeth as battery acid. It is also responsible for kidney disease and low bone density. It’s usually indicated in the label as Phosphoric acid.


Sodium Nitrite

This is one of the preservatives in food that raises a lot of eyebrows. It is used in meats including salami, sausages and hot dogs. Not to be confused with sodium nitrate, this chemical can trigger reactions in the body that produce nitrosamines, which are cancer causing compounds. Sodium nitrite can also affects the red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen throughout the body. If you want to avoid it, buy organic meats.


Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is one of the preservatives used in deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash and food (mostly in acidic foods like pickles, soft drinks, salad dressings, etc.). It is also used in products labeled as ‘all natural’. This additive is manufactured in the lab and is responsible for starving mitochondria cells of oxygen, thus prevent molding. This can cause damage to DNA. It also causes hypertension, kidney disease, asthma attacks and stroke. Look out for it when you go shopping.


Potassium Nitrite

While Sodium is widely consumed in the United States, people don’t consume enough Potassium. Nonetheless, potassium nitrate is a horrible source of this compound. It is also added to a variety of meats, especially ham. While it is generally considered safe in small quantities, it has been linked to irregular heartbeat, comas, convulsions and cancer. Research has shown that it can cause headaches and dizziness in children. It is also used in fertilizer and gun powder. According to the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer 2010, it is a probable carcinogen. It’s listed on the label as Potassium Nitrite.


Propyl Gallate

Used in chewing gum, vegetable oils, soup bases, cereals, potato sticks and processed meats, propyl gallate is one of the preservatives in food that causes plenty of health problems. It is linked to liver damage, stomach irritation, cancer of the colon and stomach, and kidney damage. Some scientists believe that propyl gallate interferes with hormones and causes neurological and developmental problems. Check food labels for propyl gallate before you buy.


Ammonium Sulfate

Also used in cleaning products and fertilizers, ammonium sulfate is one of the preservatives used in bread. When consumed in copious amounts, ammonium sulfate can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal irritation. It can also aggravate existing pulmonary diseases. Check the label for Ammonium Sulfate next time you buy bread.


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