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An A-Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce

An A-Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce

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by Deanna M Minich PhD CN

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Cochineal extract, diacetyl, teriary butylhydroquinone, BHA, HFCS, MSG--it's not just knowing how to pronounce what's in your food, it's knowing what it does and how it can affect you that matters most. But with so many processed foods on the supermarket shelves and additives showing up in the most unlikely foods, that's certainly a tall order. An A-Z Guide to


Cochineal extract, diacetyl, teriary butylhydroquinone, BHA, HFCS, MSG--it's not just knowing how to pronounce what's in your food, it's knowing what it does and how it can affect you that matters most. But with so many processed foods on the supermarket shelves and additives showing up in the most unlikely foods, that's certainly a tall order. An A-Z Guide to Food Additives will help consumers avoid undesirable food additives and show them which additives do no harm and may even be nutritious. Designed to fit in a purse or pocket, this little book will serve as an "additive translator" when navigating through the landmine field of additives or ingredients that may cause allergic reactions like headaches, fatigue, and breathing difficulties or those that cause bloating or make one hyperactive. Included are safety ratings to 300 ingredients and reference charts of such additives as those that may potentially cause cancer or allergic reactions or that should be limited for sodium-sensitive individuals. There is also essential nutrition advice, hints on what to look for when reading those unreadable ingredient labels, and even tips on buying fresh produce in order to avoid pesticides.

* The average American consumes about 150 pounds of food additives per year.

* Safety ratings on over 300 ingredients -- all based on the latest scientific evidence.

* Formatted for easy reference and small enough to carry along to the supermarket.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Finally, a list of the top twelve additives to avoid. I now have a trusted resource regarding the 'loaded' issue of food additives and the conflicting information about these additives in our food supply. I have long waited for someone to write this book for my patients to refer to. Dr. Minich has thoroughly covered this topic, along with genetically modified foods, sugar substitutes, food colorings, and label reading. It is a must for your reference library." --Barb Schiltz, MS, RN, C.N.

"A guide to make us understand why we need to return to the essence of our food." --Peter J. Voshol, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Integrative Physiology of Lipids and Glucose, Leiden University Medical Center

"Minich's helpful and far-ranging explanation of additives includes a list of terminology consumers should learn as well as lists of the top food coloring and flavoring agents and artificial sweeteners. Highly recommended." --Library Journal, Rachel M. Minkin, Lansing Community Coll., MI

"Dr. Minich has condensed a tremendous quantity of information into a clearly written and well researched reference guide filled with good advice for the health-conscious consumer. Her tips on hidden sources of gluten and her rating system for food additives are practical and useful. Removing her 'Top 12 Additives to Avoid in an Ideal World' from the American diet would be a great step towards better health. This is a book to read and to take along when supermarket shopping." --Robert H. Lerman, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Medicine and Extramural Clinical Research, Functional Medicine Research Center, MetaProteomics LLC

"Deanna Minich is the genius of nutrition, a perfect blend of spirit and science. Dr. Minich has yet again created and delivered another piece of literary nutritional art. Skillfully detailed, you're guided through the maze of food additives and chemicals. With a deep sense of care, and a refusal to believe that a growing list of food chemical additives need stop consumers from making healthy and safe food choices, Minich details what you need to know to shop for and consume healthful foods." --Nicole Zivalich, ND

"Beware foods whose ingredient names you can't pronounce." --Michael Pollan, author of the best-selling The Omnivore's Dilemma

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An A-Z Guide to Food Additives

Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce

By Deanna M. Minich

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2009 Deanna M. Minich, Ph.D., C.N.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-081-2


An A-Z List of Food Additives

Following is an alphabetical list of the most common food additives you will find in products on your grocery shelves. I have rated them based on current science and regulations; they could change based on new findings. The following scale rates their impact on your health:

A+ = Safe to eat; may be nutritious

A = Safe to eat

B = Most likely safe, but cut back

C = Reasonably safe, but limit quantities

D = Safety questionable, try to avoid

F = Do not eat foods with this additive

Acacia gum. See Gums

Ace K. See Acesulfame-potassium

Acesulfame K. See Acesulfame-potassium

Acesulfame-potassium (Acesulfame K, Ace K, Sunett®, Sweet One®, potassium 6methyl-2, 2-dioxo-oxathiazin-4-olate). Artificial sweetener. White, crystalline sweetener discovered in 1967, used in foods in the United States since 1988. 130–200 times sweeter than sugar; often blended with other artificial sweeteners to give a more true sugar taste. Heat stable and contributes no calories. According to FDA guidelines, it is a general purpose sweetener to be added to all foods except meats. Found in thousands of foods, typically in soft drinks and other beverages, instant coffee and tea, gelatin and pudding desserts, syrups, baked goods, chewing gum. Acceptable daily intake set at 15 milligrams per kilogram body weight. Limited animal studies from more than two decades ago indicate it may cause cancer, although there is no definitive evidence to suggest that it is a carcinogen in humans. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has criticized the FDA for their lack of long-term animal studies using higher levels of the sweetener. CPSI has a Web site dedicated to quotes from cancer experts on its testing: www.cspinet.org/reports/asekquot.html. Rating: F

Acetic acid. Acid, flavor enhancer, preservative. Found naturally in plant and animal tissues as a product of carbohydrate fermentation. Added to a variety of products including baked goods, cheese, condiments, dairy products, gravies, mayonnaise, meats, oils, salad dressings, and sauces. Can be used as a pickling agent. Safe to consume when diluted and in small amounts such as those found in foods. If ingested in its pure form can cause severe damage (bleeding, ulcers) in the intestines. Rating: A

Agar (agar-agar). Bulking agent, emulsifier, fiber, stabilizer, thickener. Mucilagenous substance from various seaweed sources used to thicken and stabilize desserts, soups, baked goods, frostings, and canned jellied meats. Used extensively in Asian foods and medicinally as a treatment for constipation. May have a laxative effect. Since it swells with water, may promote a feeling of fullness when eaten. May cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Avoid if allergic. Rating: A+

Algin. See Alginate

Alginate (alginic acid, algin, sodium alginate, pacific kelp). Bulking agent, emulsifier, fiber, stabilizer, thickener. Brown seaweed-derived ingredient that can stabilize foam and act as a thickener in products like jellies, salad dressings, beverages, custards, ice cream, soups, and cheese. Sodium alginate is the sodium salt form. Theoretically, due to its ability to trap dietary cholesterol in its gel-like structure, it may have cholesterollowering effects. Limited studies suggest it may create fullness or satiety, although this concept needs further testing. May cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Avoid if allergic. Rating: A+

Alginic acid. See Alginate

Alpha tocopherol. See Vitamin E

Aluminum ammonium sulfate. Buffer. Odorless crystals with astringent taste used to purify drinking water and to manufacture baking powder. Two known cases of human poisoning when high amounts (30 grams) were eaten. Excessive amounts may cause digestive upset and nausea. Contains small amount of aluminum—it is unknown whether there is a causal association between aluminum ingestion and Alzheimer's disease. Rating: B

Aluminum calcium silicate. Anti-caking agent. Used in table salt (at 2 percent) and in vanilla powder. Contains a small amount of aluminum—it is unknown whether there is a causal association between aluminum ingestion and Alzheimer's disease. Rating: B

Ammonium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of ammonia, ammonium hydrogen carbonate, hartshorn). Alkali, leavening agent. An alkali used in making baked goods, especially before baking soda was invented. Now sometimes used in conjunction with baking soda. Added to pesticides. Rating: A

Ammonium carrageenan. See Carrageenan

Ammonium chloride (Sal Ammoniac, salmiac). Dough conditioner, flavor enhancer, leavening agent. Clear, white salt made by reacting sodium chloride (salt) with an ammonium salt. Used in baked goods, condiments, dairy products, margarine, dried and processed vegetables. Found in European candies. Higher amounts than those typically used in foods (0.5 to 1 gram) can cause nausea and vomiting. Rating: B

Ammonium hydrogen carbonate. See Ammonium bicarbonate

Ammonium phosphate. See Phosphates

Annatto extract. Food coloring, flavoring agent. Red food coloring derived from the tropical achiote tree. Imparts sweet peppery flavor. Used in dairy products (butter, cheeses), rice, smoked fish, dessert powders. Has potential to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Avoid if allergic. Rating: A

Anthocyanins. See Grape color extract

Arabic gum. See Gums

Artificial colorings (FD&C Blue No. 1, FD&C Blue No. 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red No. 3, FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Yellow No. 5, FD&C Yellow No. 6, Orange B, Citrus Red No. 2). Food coloring. Added to food to change its color. Usually found in low-nutrition foods; however, may also be added to "natural" foods like salmon to provide a more consistent tone in case of natural color variability. Recent studies suggest that artificial colorings cause hyperactivity and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children. Some of these chemicals have led to formation of tumors in animals, but no proof exists that they do the same in humans. Hives and asthma have been reported in a small number of individuals who are particularly sensitive to FD&C Yellow No. 5. Allergic reactions are commonly associated with artificial colorings.

Researchers at the National College of Technology in Japan tested the toxicity of thirty-nine currently used food additives in eight mouse organs. They reported that dyes were most toxic, causing DNA damage in the stomach, colon, urinary bladder, and gut. Damage to the colon was with low doses of the dyes, in amounts comparable to the guidelines for acceptable intake. There are nine certified colorings approved for used in the United States by the FDA. Seven are permitted for use in foods: FD&C Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue FCF), FD&C Blue No. 2 (Indigotine), FD&C Green No. 3 (Fast Green FCF), FD&C Red No. 3 (Erythrosine), FD&C Red No. 40 (Allura Red AC), FD&C Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine), FD&C Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow) Rating: F

Ascorbate. See Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid. See Vitamin C

Ascorbyl palmitate. See Vitamin C

Aspartame (NutraSweet®, Tropicana Slim, Equal®, Canderel, aspartylphenylalanine-1-methyl ester). Artificial sweetener. Found in thousands of consumer food products. Commonly found in soft drinks, in individual packets as a condiment, or even in chewable vitamins. Not suitable for baked products because it breaks down in heat. Composed of methanol (10 percent) and two amino acids, L-aspartic acid (40 percent) and phenylalanine (50 percent). Therefore, individuals with the inherited metabolic disorder that prevents them from metabolizing the amino acid phenylalanine (called phenylketonuria or PKU) must avoid this sweetener. Methanol breaks down in the body to a number of toxic metabolites such as formaldehyde. Formaldehyde production may be linked to incidence of migraines in aspartame users.

Animal studies have indicated that aspartame may cause negative health effects such as cancer. People have reported that it causes headaches, hallucinations, seizures, insomnia, and dizziness. Researchers Huff and LaDou from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences pointed out in 2007 that "the U.S. FDA should reevaluate its position on aspartame as being safe under all conditions."

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame are often used by Type 2 diabetics; however, Canadian researchers from Université Laval questioned the safety of use in this population due to their findings that a breakfast that contains aspartame led to the same rise in blood glucose and insulin as did a breakfast containing table sugar. This area of research needs further investigation. Rating: F

Astaxanthin. Food coloring, nutrient. Red pigment ("carotenoid") found naturally in algae, yeast, and fish (for example, salmon, krill) that can be used to color animal and fish foods. Used as fish feed and found in dietary supplements. Potent antioxidant, used throughout the body, especially in the central nervous system. May cause allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to fish or algae. Avoid if allergic. Rating: A+

Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate). Anti-caking, buffer, leavening agent, stabilizer. Fine, white, alkaline powder that combines with acidic ingredients or additives (lemon juice, cream of tartar, phosphates) to produce carbon dioxide gas, causing a food product to rise. Added to "self-rising" products like self-rising flour or self-rising corn meal, and incorporated into sweet baked goods (pastries, pies, cakes), breads, beverages, vegetable-based products, and cocoa products. Contains sodium. Limit if you are sodium sensitive. Rating: A

Beeswax. Flavoring agent, glazing agent. Honeybees secrete this waxy substance as part of honeycombs. Yellow beeswax is made commercially by removing honey from honeycomb, melting the comb, and refining the wax by melting and adding an acid or alkali to remove impurities. White beeswax involves bleaching the final product with peroxides or sunlight. Can be found in chewing gum and candies. Long history of safe use. Some individuals who may be sensitive to bee derived products should avoid. Avoid if allergic. Rating: A

Beet powder. Food coloring. Dark red powder made from beets used to color candies, yogurt, ice cream, salad dressings, frostings, dessert mixes, meat substitutes, drink mixes, gravy mixes, and soft drinks. No toxic effects when tested in high amounts in rats. Rating: A

Benefat®. See Salatrim

Benzoic acid. See Sodium benzoate

Beta-carotene (Vitamin A precursor). Antioxidant, food coloring, nutrient. Orange pigment ("carotenoid") that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables (for example, carrots). It can also be chemically synthesized. Often added to foods like margarine, shortening, and beverages to provide color. High amounts, more likely in supplemental form rather than foods, are not advocated for smokers. Once ingested, it can convert in the body to Vitamin A. Rating: A+

Beta-sitosterol. See Phytosterols/phytostanols

BHA. See Butylated hydroxyanisole

BHT. See Butylated hydroxytoluene

Bicarbonate of ammonium. See Ammonium bicarbonate

Bicarbonate of soda. See Baking soda

Brown sugar. See Sugar

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). Antioxidant. Functions to protect fats from rancidity. Widely used in fat-containing products like meats (sausage, lunch meats), butter, lard, cereals, and baked goods. May have estrogen-like effects. A report from the National Institute of Health states that BHA is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" since studies have demonstrated it causes cancer in rats, mice, and hamsters. There is, however, no scientific evidence that it causes cancer in humans. Rating: F

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Antioxidant. Functions to protect fats from rancidity; unknown whether it causes cancer due to mixed findings from animal studies. Acute, high doses (0.5 to 1.0 grams per kilogram—much higher than levels found in foods) have led to kidney and liver damage in male rats. Rats fed BHT at lower doses over a longer period of time developed enlarged livers and reduced liver enzyme activity. Has been linked to DNA damage in mouse gut. Has also been shown to prevent cancer in some experimental models. Rating: F

Caffeine. Flavoring agent. Naturally occurring substance in many plants and found in foods/drinks like coffee, cocoa, and tea. Added to cola-like beverages and "energy" drinks. Stimulant effects, mildly addictive. May cause heart palpitations and insomnia in sensitive individuals. Avoid in pregnancy, since caffeine crosses the placenta. Avoid if sensitive or pregnant. Rating: C

Calcium ascorbate. See Vitamin C

Calcium bromate. Dough conditioner. Used in baked products like bread, rolls, and buns. Contains bromate, which may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Rating: F

Calcium carrageenan. See Carrageenan

Calcium caseinate. See Casein

Calcium chloride. Firming agent, flavoring agent. Keeps fruit firm. Used in sliced fruits, jellies, pie fillings. Found in bottled waters as an electrolyte. Its salty taste enables it to be used in canned vegetables and pickles without increasing sodium content. Also used in beer brewing. Rating: A

Calcium dihydrogen phosphate. See Monocalcium phosphate, Phosphates

Calcium disodium EDTA. See EDTA

Calcium gluconate (calcium di-gluconate). Firming agent, nutrient, stabilizer, thickener. Calcium salt of gluconic acid (see Gluconic acid). Added to dairybased products, gelatins and puddings, frozen desserts, fruit preserves, bulk sugar substitutes, fermented soy products. Contains a small amount of calcium. Rating: A+

Calcium pantothenate. See Vitamin B5

Calcium phosphate. See Phosphates

Calcium or Sodium propionate (propionic acid). Preservative. White or colorless crystalline solid that prevents bacteria and mold growth on products like bread, rolls, dairy products, processed sweet baked goods; also used to prevent fungal growth on growing produce. Unlike other preservatives, does not need an acidic environment to work. Can be found naturally (small amounts) in foods like cheese. Propionic acid is produced in the human body through metabolic processes. The calcium form of propionate is preferred from a functional perspective, since the alpha-amylase enzyme needs calcium to make the starch available to the yeast, allowing for better bread structure. Use of this additive in all forms is relatively widespread. There is debate about whether this additive is safe. Researchers have tested children's reactions to calcium propionate in bread against bread without calcium propionate. They found irritability, restlessness, inattention, and sleep disturbance in some children and advised minimizing concentrations added to processed foods. Sodium-sensitive individuals should limit or reduce their intake of sodium propionate. Rating: C

Calcium sorbate. See Sorbic acid

Calcium or Sodium stearoyl lactylate (sodium stearoyl fumarate). Dough conditioner, emulsifier, whipping agent. Slightly sweet white powder made from the combination of lactic acid and the fatty acid, stearic acid, followed by treating it with either calcium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide to make the calcium or sodium salt, respectively. When fumaric acid (see Fumaric acid) is used in place of lactic acid, the final result is called sodium stearoyl fumarate. All forms of this additive toughen bread dough so that it can be processed with machinery. They create increased bread volume by making the gluten structure stronger and can assist as a whipping agent in egg and dairy products. Since this additive contains a fat, high amounts fed to rats caused fat to build up in the body. This effect was reversed by changing their diets. Although somewhat rare, lactose-intolerant persons may be sensitive to the lactylate forms, since lactic acid (made from fermenting lactose) is a starting ingredient. Avoid if lactose-intolerant; sodium-sensitive individuals should limit the sodium form of this additive. Rating: A

Calcium sulfate. Bulking agent, emulsifier, stabilizer, thickener. White powder used in a variety of functions in dairy, egg, and meat products, frozen desserts, vegetables, confections, pasta, noodles, cereals, condiments, soups, sauces, and tofu. Found to be nontoxic in animal studies. Rating: A

Campesterol. See Phytosterols/phytostanols

Cane sugar. See Sugar

Canthaxanthin. Antioxidant, food coloring, nutrient. Orangered pigment ("carotenoid") found in crustaceans, fish, and eggs. Primarily used as feed additive for animals to produce more intensely colored flesh and egg yolks. Less commonly added to fruit spreads, candies, syrups, beverages. May also be found in dietary supplements containing "mixed carotenoids." Levels found added to foods do not seem to result in intake that exceeds the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of up to 0.03 milligrams per kilogram body weight. The amounts found in foods may be too insignificant for health effects. However, they may work in ways similar to other antioxidant carotenoids like beta-carotene (see Beta-carotene). Rating: A+

Capsanthin. See Paprika extract

Excerpted from An A-Z Guide to Food Additives by Deanna M. Minich. Copyright © 2009 Deanna M. Minich, Ph.D., C.N.. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Deanna Minich, Ph.D., CN, is an internationally known nutritionist, researcher, counselor, and author with more than fifteen years of experience in the nutrition field. Her ability to translate difficult nutrition information into everyday hints and tips allows others to make healthy choices in grocery stores, restaurants, and kitchens.

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An A-Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Hodahvyah More than 1 year ago
I have the paperback version of this book and LOVE it! I was very excited to locate the nook version. I immediately downloaded it. Its a very handy reference guide and it works beautifully on my nook color.