We should all be trying to eat better, and to make healthier lifestyle decisions for ourselves and our families. Not simply to feel better and look better, but to protect ourselves from serious disorders. Diet and nutrition play a very large role in our overall health, and what we consume can have either a positive or negative effect. But in the modern world, it has become more and more difficult to control our food supply.

Over the last hundred years or more, our national food basket has become contaminated with a myriad of unnatural food additives. These food additives offer no nutritional value, and are used merely to enhance the appearance of food or to lengthen the shelf life of certain prepackaged food stuffs. Unfortunately, beyond offering no nutritional value, many of these commonly used food additives may actually be detrimental to our health. Moreover, some of these food additives have been linked to a variety of chronic health disorders, not the least of which is cancer.

So let’s look at a few of the more common food additives that have been linked to an increased risk for cancer and other diseases.

#1 – Food Dyes and Artificial Coloring

Artificial coloring is the most common food additive used in the United States. Food dyes are present in many different processed foods, including soft drinks, salad dressings, and condiments. Indeed, artificial coloring can be found in some surprising places, such as flavored yoghurts, low fat butter alternatives and cheeses. Certain commonly used food dyes have been linked to a number of different disorders. For example, FD&C Yellow No. 5 has been linked to hyperactivity in children, and has been found to be a significant trigger for asthma sufferers. Artificial food dyes are typically made from petroleum based chemicals, and have been linked to brain cancer, immune deficiency and nerve-cell deterioration. The hazards of artificial food dyes are so pronounced, that most have been banned in the UK and Europe.

#2 – Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, first introduced to the marketplace more than 25 years ago. It was designed to be a substitute for saccharine, another artificial sweetener that had come under fire for its own health hazards. Originally used in low calorie diabetic food products, aspartame has since been more widely marketed as a low calorie alternative to sugar. Aspartame is marketed under a number of different brand names, including NutraSweet, Equal, and Amino Sweet. The effects of Aspartame have been a health concern since its original introduction, and the artificial sweetener has been linked to chronic headaches, mood disturbances, and impaired mental acuity. Recent studies have also linked Aspartame to an increased risk for leukemia, lymphoma, and brain cancer.

#3 – Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is used as a preservative in wide range of prepackaged and processed foods. Food manufacturers rely on Sodium Benzoate to give their products a longer shelf life, and therefore to reduce losses and increase revenue. The problem with Sodium Benzoate is that it reacts with vitamin C to produce Benzene, a recognized carcinogen. An FDA test in 2006 found that many popular soft drinks contained Benzene levels that were in excess of the US standards. Those soft drinks have since been reformulated, but the message is clear – Sodium Benzoate is a dangerous food additive that should be avoided whenever possible.

#4 – Potassium Bromate

Potassium Bromate is a food additive that is found in processed flour and many baked goods. It is used primarily to reduce baking times, standardize production, and increase yield. Home bakers who use prepackaged mixes will sometimes find it listed in the ingredients as Brominated Flour. While Potassium Bromate does reduce baking times, it also presents a serious health risk. Potassium Bromate has been linked to kidney disease, nerve damage, and a variety of cancers. Potassium Bromate is so hazardous, that it has been banned in Canada, China, and the European Union.

Food additives are a continual stumbling block for those who are trying to eat smart and maintain our optimal health. Too often, we fail to consider what might be lurking in the foods we choose to stock our pantries. But food additives present a real and present danger, and it is important to read the labels on everything we buy to ensure that we reduce our exposure to these cancer causing agents. The secret to a healthy lifestyle is to shop smart, eat smart, and always choose the all-natural alternative.