Ever picked up a favorite item at the grocery store only to flip it around, read the ingredients, and realize you don’t know what half of them are?  We have become accustomed to seeing long lists of ingredients in our foods with additives and chemicals becoming increasingly more complex and prevalent.  To help sort out some of the confusion I have put together a list of common food additives, what they are, and if they are in fact safe to ingest.  Take a look!


What is it?

-Derived from red seaweed

-Thickening agent, stabilizer and / or emulsifier


-Commonly found in dairy, dairy alternatives(soy milk, almond milk), and deli meat

-For a more in depth list check out this website: http://bit.ly/14HL34g


-Can induce acute inflammation in the colon, which has been seen to cause ulcerative colitis in lab animals

-Has been used in labs to induce inflammation and test anti-inflammatory drugs


Glycerol / Glycerin

What is it?

-A natural compound that forms the backbone of fat and oil molecules


-The body uses it as a source of energy and to make more complex compounds

-Maintains water content in products like candies, fudge, and baked goods

-Sometimes added as a sweetener to certain products


-Typically obtained as a by-product from soap making, usually derived from animal sources

-Reported side effects have been nausea, headaches, and diuresis of doses more than 700mg


Xanthan Gum

What is it?

-Made from bacteria that’s been fermented in corn syrup and then extracted


-Used as emulsifier, good for texture of products

-Salad dressings, sauces, found in many gluten-free products


-May increase bloating, flatulence, and can even cause mild nausea

-Can cause diarrhea when 10 grams or more is consumed



What is it?

-Polysaccharide that is made from potato, corn, rice, or wheat starch and consists of short chain glucose molecules

-Can also be made into a fiber by treating starch with enzymes, heat, or acid


-Texturizer in processed foods

-Salad dressings, frozen yogurt, spice mixes, baked goods, fat-free and sugar-free products


-Quickly absorbed in the body and can be a quick source of energy after a workout

-May cause a reaction in those with a gluten sensitivity

-Similar to sugar, absorbed quickly, and can lead to increase fat storage if not used for energy


High Maltose Corn Syrup

What is it?

-Maltose is a sugar made from two joined glucose molecules and is less sweet than fructose

-Typically made from GMO corn


-Used to sweeten products and increase shelf life

-Provides texture and flavor to foods like granola bars, cereals, and ice-creams


-There is not a lot of research around the effects of HMCS on the body

-It is thought to have a different effect on the body than High Fructose Corn Syrup

-HFCS is processed and stored in the liver, maltose can be processed and used by all cells of the body


Natural Flavors

What is it?

-Man-made compound that is derived from a plant or animal source

-Not very different from the term “artificial flavors”


-Found in a variety of food products to enhance flavors


-Here are just some examples of approved “natural flavors”

-Benzaldehyde, used for almond flavor, has been found to cause central nervous system damage

-Vanillan, vanilla flavor, can cause allergic reactions

-Amyl Acetate, pear and banana flavor, can cause depression, indegestion, chest pain, and headaches

These are just some of the common additives I have been seeing in products recently.   While some of these additives may not have proven adverse health effects, why eat it if you don’t have to?  Let's take back our health, get back in the kitchen, and be more educated consumers.  Post below if you have any questions or concerns about additives you have recently come across.





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About The Author

Sarah Lefkowitz's picture

Sarah Lefkowitz, Registered Dietitian (RD) was raised in an “organic foods only” home which taught her first hand the importance of a healthy diet. She developed a passion for cooking, farmer’s markets, food nutrient composition, yoga, nutrition education, and living a healthy and active lifestyle. Her philosophy revolves around the idea of food as medicine; looking at the properties of individual foods and harnessing them into life-long health and vitality. Earning her Bachelor of Science from the Pennsylvania State University in Nutritional Science she moved to LA to study nutrition in the UCLA Medical Center Dietetic Internship Program. She has worked within health care as part of the patient care team, rounding with doctors in ICU (intensive care unit) and trauma centers. Additionally, she provided outpatient counseling in a digestive disease clinic, wound care clinic and center for geriatric health. One of her greatest accomplishments within health care, was starting a hospital funded garden in Lynwood, CA, that provided low income families with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Stepping out of health care was a highly anticipated change of pace within her career and opened her eyes to a world beyond the hospital. Working with a start-up company run by the former CEO of AOL and Myspace, presented an exciting amount of new challenges. She was involved in education, branding, social media and marketing of a widely popular woman's athletic wear company. Going further into her career she led the Los Angeles Dietetic Association as President and continues to build a community under the name FearlessFig that is focused on health and wellness, creating a support system for a healthy lifestyle.

"My passion for nutrition and helping others has taken me on an incredible journey and I want to share that with you.” 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SarahLefkowitzRegisteredDietitian
Blog: www.fearlessfig.com
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