The word food brings to mind various things, most often relating to the four taste categories: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and the like. However, food is more than just the four taste categories and other factors may influence our choice of food as well. In fact, each day is filled with challenges in regards to what we eat, and it has become a battle between our body’s need for nutrients and our cravings for sweets, carbohydrates, fats and other processed foods that may not be so healthy. When you are eating your daily food habits, you should realize that your food consumption is a choice, and you have choices when it comes to what you consume.

Today, there is increasing evidence linking food additives and our health. We are exposed to many chemicals, including over 200 different additives in commercial foods, at every meal. Some of these additives are helpful, but many have no nutritional value, and instead increase our risk for chronic disease. While the FDA does not monitor the safety of food additives, they have begun cracking down on the use of questionable products including “nutrient-free” foods, “natural” food, “natural” crackers and other marketing claims that have not been proven.

One of the most common food additives is the color additive CYANide. Cyanide is derived from cyanogenic glycoside, a naturally occurring sugar that is extracted from sugar cane and wood pulp. When added to foods, it serves as a natural preservative. It has been shown to keep foods fresh longer, enhance flavor and give color to otherwise bland ingredients. In addition to being found in sugar, CYANide can be found in the following common commercial food additives:

Most popular food color additives come from fruits and vegetables, and they are used to add color, flavor and nutrient content to foods that would not normally have those qualities. For example, if a manufacturer were to include sugar in a food, they could list it as an “attractive feature.” However, they would not list the sugar as an ingredient, because adding sugars to produce flavors or colors requires an extra step during manufacturing. Unlisted sugars will not be listed on the ingredients label.

Another popular food additive is the preservative BHA. While it is commonly added to “nutrient-free” foods, BHA is actually a substance that has been banned in some areas (such as Japan) due to the fact that it is linked to cancer development. Food manufacturers are allowed to add BHA to products that are “preservative free,” even though the substance is not approved by the FDA. The FDA does not regulate food additives per se, so adding this substance to food can be potentially dangerous.

Some nutrients are added to food without using substances known as free radicalizers. Free radicals are toxic substances that contribute to aging. They can form from exposure to sun, smoking and air pollution. The addition of antioxidants such as Vitamin E can counter the formation of free radicals, thereby improving the overall health of the body and preventing disease from occurring. Some of the antioxidant additives found in foods can be avoided if consumers take the time to read labels and understand what the food is actually comprised of.