Food Additives to Be Aware of When Choosing Convenience - Intentional By Grace

Food Additives to Be Aware of When Choosing “Convenience”

There is a lot of fake food out there. As much as I like to think everyone is aware of these foods, I’m learning that I’m wrong. If you’re not sure, this post will help.

Food Additives to Be Aware of When Choosing Convenience  - Intentional By Grace
Recently while scrolling my Facebook feed, I came across a post from someone that said,

“My husband and I have been watching lots of food documentaries lately and are in the process of making some big lifestyle changes. I was completely unaware of where our food really comes from and what’s being added to it. I highly recommend these documentaries from Netflix: Fed Up
, Food Inc., 
Hungry for Change, 
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead {1 and 2}.”

I watched these documentaries years ago! I assumed everyone had heard of them and either decided to watch and learn or not. I assumed that everyone had heard the saga that our food system is a mess and that we need to be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies!

I was wrong. This person is someone I look up to (and still do, mind you). She’s highly intelligent, business owner! She creates helpful products and manages a team of women who inspire me to be a leader who manages her business for the glory of God. Yet she was completely unaware of the food choices she was making.

Today I’m going to give you the main list of fake foods my family seeks to avoid on a regular basis along with our reasons why to help get you started. I don’t want to assume you know!

Of course, there are way more than I’m listing below, but I’m learning to pursue healthy living through the lens of grace, which means I don’t know everything yet (and that’s okay!).

At the end of this post, I’ll point you to some resources to help you dig a little further. I’m still digging further and learning new things every single day that I didn’t know about food . Take it one day at a time. Don’t let the thought of revolutionizing your diet overwhelm you, but do take action! Start somewhere for the glory of God.

Let’s get started …

Note: I’m not a doctor or anything like it. I’m just a mom and wife who is seeking to steward the health of her family. This is my research and that’s it. Please do your own research and make the best decision you can for your family.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)

You’ve seen them standing on the street corner with their signs (people speaking out against Monsanto and the like), but do you know why?

First, you need to know that GMO’s are genetically modified organisms. They are foods whose actual genetic structure has been altered in order to make the food last longer, resist pesticides or provide some other similar benefit. Do you think this could be a downfall of a productivity-driven society?

Genetically modified ingredients exist in more than 80 percent of processed foods today. In fresh foods, more than 90 percent of the crops growing canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, zucchini, yellow summer squash and alfalfa are genetically engineered. This also includes many animal products, as livestock feed commonly includes soy, corn, cottonseed and canola.

Nearly half the GMO market is owned by the United States. (source) People are speaking out against these foods because there has been little to no testing on whether GMO’s are safe for human consumption, but many believe that the outcome is not good. This article will really make you think.

Personally, I seek to avoid GMO’s as much as I possibly can. The best way to avoid them is to stay out of the center aisles in the grocery store as much as possible! Avoiding boxed and processed foods is the easiest way to avoid GMO’s.


Other ways to avoid GMO’s:

  • Buy organic
  • Look for labels indicating GMO free (North America doesn’t have to label things as GMO, but companies are catching on by labeling when they DON’T use GMO’s)
  • Buy local and talk to the farmer
  • Grow your own food
  • Cook more from scratch
  • Use this shopping guide to help keep it straight

I have to say, from personal experience, I don’t buy the line that GMO’s don’t hurt anything. When we took our road trip in the fall of 2014, we drove through wide open fields of clearly labeled Monsanto plants. Right across from these fields were some of the saddest, most pathetic looking cows I have ever seen. Not much further down the road, the stench would knock you over. Factory farming galore alongside these mass producing crops. Side by side. I don’t buy it. It doesn’t add up to me. It feels like a slow fade to me. There has to be another way. There is another way…

I’ll move on. I probably shouldn’t have led this list with GMO’s…

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

High fructose corn syrup is a commonly used sweetener and preservative in many of our processed and packaged goods. It is a form of sugar that is fructose instead of glucose. Glucose is used by our bodies as an energy source. However, fructose is stored directly as fat. Plus there are no enzymes in HFCS, which means there is zero nutritional benefit to consuming high fructose corn syrup.

Let’s say mainstream is right and HFCS doesn’t hurt you. However, since our bodies depend on our food consumption to run, it is important that we not waste our calories on foods that have zero nutritional value. Not to mention, we all know sugar is bad for us in high amounts, and if HFCS is in everything we eat (plus sugar in other forms), avoiding high fructose corn syrup seems like common sense to me.

I’m not convinced mainstream thinking is correct though. In addition to not having any nutritional value, HFCS has been linked to major health complications such as obesity, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, and contributes to high cholesterol and insulin resistance. One of the biggest problems is that it tricks your mind into thinking that your body is hungry; thus, increasing our desire for more food.

When my husband and I began our natural living journey, eliminating HFCS from our diet all together was one of the first things we did. It was hard at first because it was in many of our staple foods like bread, ketchup, salad dressings, etc. However, I learned how to make these things myself, and we found we enjoyed homemade better anyway.

Just like with GMO’s, the best way to avoid high fructose corn syrup is to stay out of the center aisles at the grocery store. If you do venture down the center aisles, just take a few extra minutes each trip to read the labels. It’s not the fastest way to shop, but I’ve been doing it for five years now, and it hasn’t killed me yet.


Hydrogenated Oils

There is a difference between good fat and bad fat. Good fat, like real butter from grass-fed cows, coconut oil, and olive oil are good fats.

However, consuming the wrong kinds of fat can wreck havoc on our bodies. What is the wrong kind of fat? All hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils should be avoided.

Hydrogenated oil is a liquid oil which has been turned into a solid or partially solid state through the process of hydrogenation.

The process of hydrogenation usually involves injecting oil with a metal (such as nickel or aluminum) in order to extend the shelf life of oil and also to make a liquid oil into a solid form (like margarine).

Many oils are quite healthy before going through the process of hydrogenation. In their natural state, the oils are unsaturated fats, which are better for us. Once hydrogenated, these oils actually change their structure and become trans fats.

Manufacturers manipulate fat in this way so they can make more for cheaper and ensure a longer shelf life (i.e., get their money’s worth).

Animal fats are far more expensive to manufacture. However, we should not mess with how our bodies were designed to consume fat for mere sake of convenience.

If you want to read more about good fats and bad fats, I suggest reading this post I did a while back.


Carrageenan is a thickening and emulsifying agent made from a red algae commonly called “Irish Moss.” It is used to improve and stabilize the texture of many common foods, usually dairy and dairy-substitutes.

Studies are conflicted on whether or not carageenan is safe for human consumption.

Some studies indicate that carageenan causes inflammation in the body, and when you consume it on a regular basis, you are chronically exposing your body to this irritant. This can in turn cause harm to your body. Think: inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, etc.

On the other hand, carageenan likely doesn’t harm you if you consume it occasionally, but how easy is that to do when you’re not paying attention?

Carrageenan is commonly used in dairy products (such as ice cream, eggnog, buttermilk, yogurt, and ultra-high pasteurized whipping cream), dairy substitutes (such as almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk), deli meats, juices, dips, dressings, puddings, and frozen foods.

Basically, it’s in a lot of what we all agree are junk foods, yes, but it’s also in many of our health foods (even in our health food stores!).

The best way to avoid carageenan is to read labels religiously. It’s easy enough to avoid (or at least consume way less) of the junk foods like ice cream and puddings. It’s the deli meats, yogurts, and dairy substitutes that are the hardest. These are staples in my families daily food intake!

For now, my family buys Silk brand Almond Milk, avoids yogurt altogether, and consumes deli meats only occasionally. It’s not ideal, but sometimes we have to do without when we can’t find a good source and aren’t in a position to make our own.

One pitfall of our productivity driven society - real food.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium glutamate is the beast of all beasts in the food industry. It’s in everything, and food manufacturers are opting more and more to replace what’s left of the real food in our processed foods with these cheap fillers (one of which is WOOD PULP!).

MSG is more than just a seasoning like salt and pepper, it actually enhances the flavor of foods, making processed meats and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better, salad dressings more tasty, and canned foods less tinny.

So what’s the problem?

Glutamates are amino acids that naturally occur in the body and their very important job is to transport messages. They alert various bodily functions in the brain, nervous system, eyes, and certain organs to turn on and be active.

However, by adding glutamates to our systems via our diet (that’s filled with MSG), the amount of glutamates in the body gets out of whack.  Turn them on all at once (naturally occurring glutamates and synthetic glutamates), and you’ve got more than what your body can deal with at one time.

This is exactly why MSG is classified as an excitotoxin, meaning that it can overexcite your cells, which can cause brain and nerve damage, irregular heartbeat, skin rashes, and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.

And because it tells your brain that what you are eating is tasty, satisfying, and even nourishing, you’ll eat more of it and crave it without abandon.

Y’all, that’s just dangerous! To chemically cause an imbalance in your system, taking away logic and reasoning? That’s like taking away your free will. *shudder*

MSG lurks in nearly every boxed, canned or fast food. Manufacturers are only required to list it on the label if they use the exact ingredient, “monosodium glutamate,” but there are more than 40 other commercially produced glutamates that function similarly.

  • autolyzed yeast
  • glutamate
  • monopotassium glutamate
  • textured protein
  • yeast nutrient
  • calcium caseinate
  • monosodium glutamate
  • yeast extract
  • gelatin
  • hydrolyzed protein
  • sodium caseinate
  • yeast food

There are more, but that should get you started with the ones that always contain MSG. (source)

Food Dyes

Oh how I loathe food dyes. Much of their purpose is to make food (or medication) appear prettier. Isn’t that ridiculous?

But it’s true.

Food dyes are used to make orange rinds appear perfectly orange, make sports drinks all the colors of the rainbow, adjust the colors of children’s cough syrups and cold medicine, add color to candies, and make cereals appear fruitier (as if…).

According to the FDA, “Without color additives, colas wouldn’t be brown, margarine wouldn’t be yellow, and mint ice cream wouldn’t be green. Color additives are now recognized as an important part of practically all processed foods we eat.

An important part of practically all processed foods? Important part? Right.

Food dyes, originally synthesized from coal tar are now made from petroleum. What is petroleum?

Petroleum is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons that is present in certain rock strata and can be extracted and refined to produce fuels including gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil.

Is it any wonder that the food dyes have been linked with ADHD, hyperactivity, headbanging, and more?

Not everyone reacts to food dyes, but for those who are allergic, the effects can be immediate.

What’s especially interesting to me is that Great Britain has banned artificial food dyes entirely and the European Union requires complete transparency on food labels. However, companies like Kraft sell their famous Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese in the US as well as both of those places. In the United States, the recipe uses synthetic food dyes, but in Great Britain and the EU, the same product uses natural food dyes rather than the synthetic versions. This is the sort of stuff that gets me. It’s possible to use an alternative, yet we don’t.

This is one of the fake ingredients I’m only now becoming aware of so this isn’t something we’ve avoided quite like we will be moving forward. Writing this post and doing a little more research has kicked me into full gear on this one.

To avoid this fake food, I’ll be reading labels much more closely and avoiding, eliminating, or replacing common foods that contain food dyes. I’ll be especially vigilant with my sources of salmon, meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables.


Preservatives extend the shelf life of food products, enhance color and flavor, and maintain consistency and texture of foods across varying climates.

Sea salt is one of the longest used preservatives in the world. There is a time and place for preserving our foods!  However, right now there are currently more than 3,000 chemical (or some other type of) preservatives approved for use in foods in the United States, which makes avoiding them difficult, even if you buy healthy items, such as fresh produce or cured meats.

I found this post particularly helpful in breaking down how six commonly used preservatives affect our bodies.

The two that my family knows the most about are nitrates and nitrites which can be found in most all deli meats, bacon, sausage, etc. But again, I’m going to point you to this post. It’s well done and easy to follow. I can’t even begin to improve upon it.

All in all you can drastically improve your chances of avoiding these commonly used fake foods by reading labels regularly.

Sometimes you have to choose convenience. Sometimes you simply can’t avoid some of these food additives.

But when you can, choose real food. It will drastically improve your health and encourage your local farmers to keep on keepin’ on.

I’m of the opinion that we vote by the way we spend our money. If we buy the fake foods, they will keep making them. But if we choose real food, making one small change at a time, eventually we’ll overhaul our own lifestyles while improving the future of our food system at the same time.

Because here’s the reality. Some people, maybe even someone reading this post, cannot afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or organic, locally raised beef and pork. This breaks my heart.

But if this isn’t you. If you can afford it, but are choosing NOT to invest your dollars in real food, can I implore you to help your neighbor by choosing to buy real food. Help them cast their votes by not choosing convenience with your dollars.

If you haven’t read my post about the three pitfalls of a productivity-driven society, may I suggest you check it out?

Food is a touchy subject in our nation, but for my family, we choose to buy organic when it’s available.

We buy local and pay $.50 more for celery if I can get it from the farmer down the road.

We ask around for a local source of eggs and dairy products.

We don’t buy strawberries out of season, and instead spend a few hours in the month of May putting up the strawberries we pick.

We skip desserts to cut the fat (pun intended) from our budget, and pass on high end meats and choose whole chickens and manager’s special beef cuts instead.

We make choices. We don’t choose convenience blindly. It may not always be easy, at least not at first, but with time it’s become the way of life for us. We choose to cast our vote for ourselves and for our neighbor who can’t.

Other articles worth reading:

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A Grace-Filled Look at Real Food Series

This post is part of A Grace-Filled Look at Real Food series. See all the posts in the series here.

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