8 Food Additives Sabotaging Your Mood

by Amanda Page Editor

You are probably aware of the physical impact food can have on your body, but what about the psychological? Even when you think you are eating a nutritious snack, chances are that there are hidden additives that could be harming your nervous system -- resulting in fatigue, anxiety, and even depression. Here’s what to look out for:

Pouring vegetable oil.

Hydrogenated Oils

These oils are used to prolong the shelf life of an item and are also responsible for the trans fat content in foods. Trans fats are particularly difficult for the body to digest, which is why they increase cholesterol levels and body weight. They also can cause moodiness. Avoid these oils by purchasing items that expire within a week or two and opt for healthier oils such as coconut or olive oil.

Sliced loaf of white bread.

White flour

You may have heard the phrase “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” While white flour isn’t exactly killing you, it certainly isn’t good for your waistline or your mood. Its empty calories and high glucose content can leave you feeling fatigued, hungry and cranky. Be careful – this ingredient is tough to avoid, as it’s used as a thickening agent in a wide variety of dressings and soups.

Sliced strawberries in syrup.

Concentrated fructose

Sugar in all of its forms - dextrose, corn syrup, lactose, sucrose, and fructose - can kill your mood and lead to a host of health problems. Even natural sources of fructose such as agave nectar can lead to insulin resistance and mood instability. This is because they contain concentrated levels of fructose, which can cause sugar highs and lows.

Colorful jelly beans.


This synthetic yellow dye also known as FD&C Yellow No. 5 is primarily used as food coloring and taste enhancer. Commonly found in sodas, candy, and cookies, this dye is linked to allergies, asthma, and mood disorders. The best way to avoid this chemical is to steer clear of brightly colored foods.

Gummy worms.

Allura Red AC

Another commonly used food dye, Allura has been linked to ADHD and hypersensitivity in both children and adults. Try to avoid any bright-red-colored products, which may include frostings, chips, fruit snacks and sports drinks.

Chinese food, Asian chicken.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

This additive is commonly used to extend shelf life and enhance flavor in a variety of frozen meals, chips, soups, and many other products. Consuming MSG can lead to brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, moodiness and nausea. Look for foods labeled organic or “MSG Free,” since the FDA doesn’t require MSG to be listed as an ingredient.

Potato chips.

Omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are an essential unsaturated fat, but eating too much (a serving of potato chips, for example) can block the mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids our bodies crave. Omega-6 is also a pro-inflammatory agent, which when inadequately balanced with omega-3 can lead to inflammation. To avoid overconsumption, avoid fried oils and instead of chips, opt for almonds when you crave some crunch.

Glass of diet soda.


If you see the words “sugar-free,” chances are that the product contains the artificial sweetener aspartame. Sure, sugar is bad for you, but it doesn’t help when it’s replaced with this chemical, which has been linked to headaches, GI problems, seizures, and mood disorders. If you need a sweet fix, try sweetening snacks with 100 percent raw cane sugar, raw honey, or coconut sugar.

Amanda Page
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Amanda Page

Amanda was an editor and graphic designer for HealthCentral.