Although there are dozens of food additives and ingredients to be aware of (and the Trash Panda app will flag all of them), we wanted to break down some of the most common potentially harmful additives to look out for. Whether you’re spring cleaning your pantry or shopping for healthy foods, stay on the lookout for these ingredients and opt for safer alternatives whenever possible.
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
Although there are over 61 different names for sugar that can be listed on an ingredients label, high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst offenders, as over consumption of fructose in this form is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and other diseases. High fructose corn syrup is commonly found in sodas, candy, flavored yogurt, and even salad dressing and bread, and we recommend avoiding it whenever possible.
2. Trans Fats
Trans fats are typically found in products containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. The hydrogenation process allows otherwise liquid fats (like vegetable oil) to remain solid in products like margarine. The trans fats created in this process are linked to health disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, obesities, and allergies.
3. Artificial Colors
Artificial colors like Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2 are commonly found in candies and other treats typically marketed to children. However, multiple studies have linked these ingredients to hyperactivity in children, demonstrating that consumption of artificial colors can result in an increase of ADHD symptoms.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
A common additive found in many processed snack foods is Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG. MSG is used as a flavoring to enhance the umami flavor of foods like packaged ramen. MSG contains glutamate, which when consumed in high doses acts as an excitotoxin or neurotransmitter known to kill brain cells. It has been linked in studies to causing headaches in certain people, as well as other averse symptoms like muscle tightness, numbness, tingling, weakness and flushing.
Carrageenan is an additive used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks, and is often found in nut milks, coffee creamers, meat products, and yogurt. Studies have linked this food additive to gastrointestinal disease and inflammation which can lead to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It has also been shown in animal and test tube studies to increase blood sugar and even cause intestinal ulcers and growths.
6. Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Benzoate is a preservative added to processed foods to extend their shelf life. Commonly found in condiments, sodas, and other acidic foods like pickles or bottled lemon juice, when combined with vitamin C, light, or heat, sodium benzoate can form benzene, a strong carcinogen. If over consumed, it can also cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and interfere with the body's intermediate metabolic processes.
7. Sodium Nitrite
Added to processed meats like bacon, sausage, hotdogs, and ham as a preservative, sodium nitrite has been linked in studies to an increased risk of stomach cancer as well as colorectal, breast and bladder cancer. To avoid it, look for products labeled “nitrate and nitrite free” or simply scan the product with your Trash Panda app to get to the truth about those ingredients.
With the Trash Panda App, identifying these additives is quick and easy: simply scan a barcode or ingredients list to get clear insights. Sign up for emails to be notified as soon the app is available in the app store, and get more content like this in your inbox.