Reading Labels Made Easier

 There are over 3000 different food additives that are purposely added to our food supply. It’s important to pay attention to food labels and get used to spotting hidden ingredients. Additives in our food have been linked to a variety of health problems including headaches, asthma, allergies, hyperactivity in kids and even cancer. These additives in the form of colorings, preservatives, flavor enhancers, emulsifiers and thickeners can make your body’s system less efficient and increase the toxic load.

We are fortunate today that food manufacturers are required to list the ingredients in their products. Despite this, studies show that food labels can still be confusing and misleading for consumers. Look out for the following:


A dangerous class of additives, and one of the easiest to avoid, are the dyes capable of interacting with and damaging your immune system, speeding up aging and even pushing you in the direction of cancer. Steer clear of foods made with artificial colors. Watch out for labels with any of the following:

Artificial color added. The words green, blue or yellow followed by a number. (FD & C colors) most of the colors are derived from coal tar and contain lead and arsenic.

A color added with no explanation, such as tartrazine (E102), Quinoline yellow (E104), Sunset yellow ( E110), Beetroot red (E162), Caramel (E150) or FD and C red no 3.

The word ‘Lake‘ (an aluminum compound). Unfortunately the most common place this is found is in children’s supplements.

Some foods contain natural colors obtained from plants and these are safe. The most common is annatto, from the reddish seed of a tropical tree. Annatto is often added to cheese to make it more orange or butter to make it more yellow. Red pigments obtained from beets, green from chlorella and carotene from carrots are also okay.


The main function of preservatives is to extend a food’s shelf life.

Citric acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C, ascorbates, E300-4) are natural antioxidants added to a number of foods and they are safe, but synthetic additives such as BHA and BHT (E320-21) (can cause liver and kidney damage, behavioral problems, infertility, weakened immune system, birth defects, and cancer) are not. They also promote the carcinogenic changes in cells caused by other substances.

Alum, an aluminum compound, is used in brands of many pickles to increase crispiness and are also found in some antacids and baking powder. Aluminum has no place in human nutrition and you should avoid ingesting it.

Nitrates (Nitrates, E249-52) are a type of preservative often added to processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and ham. They can create highly carcinogenic substances called nitrosamines in the body. It is best to avoid any products containing sodium nitrate or other nitrates. Nitrates form powerful cancer-causing agents in the stomach; can cause death; considered dangerous even by the FDA but not banned because they prevent botulism. Nitates also cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG or 621) – a natural product used in East Asian cooking- is added to many manufactured foods as a flavor enhancer. It is an unnecessary source of additional sodium in the diet and can cause allergic reactions. MSG can cause headaches, itching, nausea, brain disorders, nervous system disorders, reproductive disorders, high blood pressure; allergic reactions are common; may be hidden in infant formula, low fat milk, candy, chewing gum, drinks, over- the- counter medications, binders and fillers in children’s supplements, prescription drugs, IV fluids in hospitals, chicken pox vaccine, sprays that are used as growth enhancers on fruits and vegetables, (now proposed for use on organic crops).

Other flavor enhancers and preservatives to avoid include monopotassium glutamate (622) and sodium osinate (E210-9) found in soft drinks, beer and salad dressings.

Free glutamates can cause brain damage, especially in children; always found in autolyzed yeast, calcium caseinate, enzymes, flavors and flavorings, geletin, glutamate, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed protein, plant protein extract, protease, protease enzymes, sodium caseinate, textured protein, yeast extract, yeast food and yeast nutrient; may be in barely malt, boullion, broth, carreenan, malt extract, malt flavoring, maltodextrin, natural flavors, natural chicken flavors, natural chicken flavoring, natural beef flavoring, natural pork flavoring, pectin, seasonings, soy protein, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, soy sauce extract, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, anything that is enzyme modified, fermented, protein fortified or ultrapasteurized and other foods that advertise ‘NO MSG’.

Emulsifiers, Stabilizers and Thickeners

These are often found in sauces, soups, breads, cookies, cakes, frozen desserts, ice cream, margarine and other spreads, jams, chocolate and milk shakes.

Today more manufacturers are cleaning up their products as people get more concerned about toxins in their food and you will increasingly see ‘no artificial sweeteners’ or ‘no artificial ingredients’. This is helpful but watch out for hidden fats, salts and sugars and alternatives names for foods that aren’t very good for you when eaten in excess. Sugar for example, has a lot of different names and they include: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, maltodextrin, golden syrup, and so on.

High Fructose Corn Syrup 

Fructose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) have been aggressively promoted as natural sugars. After all, we’ve been taught since childhood that fructose is fruit sugar. HFCS is routinely added to processed foods and beverages including Coca-Cola, Snapple, and many health food products. Fructose is not from fruit. It’s a commercial, refined sugar. In fact, consumption of HFCS has been fingered as a causative factor in heart disease. It raises blood levels of cholesterol and another type of fat, triglyceride. It makes blood cells more prone to clotting, and it also accelerates the aging process. Most fructose sneaks into the diet in the forms of sucrose and HFCS. Sucrose breaks down during digestion into equal parts of glucose and fructose. HFCS consists of 55 percent fructose blended with 45 percent glucose.

Sodium is just another name for salt.

Acesulfame -K (potassium) also seen as ‘Sunette‘ can cause low blood sugar attacks, causes cancer and elevated cholesterol (in lab animals).

Animal or vegetable shortening is associated with heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and elevated cholesterol.

Animal fat is saturated fat and trans-fatty acid is another name for hydrogenated fat. Hydrogenated fat is associated with heart disease, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein can cause brain damage in infants, it has a high salt content and contains free glutamates.

Brominated vegetable oil is linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, and growth problems.

Mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, saccharine, and aspartame (Can cause brain damage in phenylketonurics (Phenylketonurics are people who suffer from phenylketonuria (PKU), a disease that makes it difficult to metabolize phenylalaine, an amino acid); causes central nervous system disturbances, menstrual difficulties and affects the brain development in unborn babies.) are alternative names for carcinogenic artificial sweeteners.

Some chemicals are harmless, for instance, ammonium bicarbonate, malic acid, fumaric acid, lactic acid, lecithin, xanathan, guar gums, calcium chloride, monocalcium phosphate and monopotassium phosphate.

Other Additives

Artificial flavoring can cause reproductive disorders, developmental problems and is not adequately tested.

Caffeine is a psychoactive, addictive drug. A psychoactive drug is a chemical that alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness, or behavior. Extreme use can have permanent affects on the brain. Caffeine can cause fertility problems, birth defects, heart disease, depression, nervousness, behavioral changes, insomnia, etc.

Natural flavors may be chemically extracted and processed and in combination with other food additives not required to be on the label. Some may contain free glutamates.


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