7 Additives You Didn't Know You Were Eating

Clean eating is a great way to get healthy. But for some, that's not always an option. You can try and read nutrition labels and make smart choices at the grocery, but Shape found seven scary food additives that you may not have noticed.

Titanium Dioxide: Dunkin' Donuts recently announced that you'll no longer find titanium dioxide in their tasty treats. Thanks, DD — but why the heck was it in there to start? The food additive is used in a lot of products, including some powdered sugars, to make whites whiter (And if that sounds like a commercial for laundry detergent that's because it's found there too.). In fact, the white mineral makes up about 70 percent of the pigments used in the world. It's odorless, highly absorbent, and cheap, making it the perfect "dye."

Where you find it: In addition to some types of powdered sugar and laundry soap, titanium dioxide is in thousands of other products, including ranch dressing, plastic cutlery, many types of makeup, paint, icing on baked goods, and as a filler in vitamins and supplements. It also blocks UV rays, making it one of the most popular ingredients in sunscreen.

What the experts say: The FDA currently classifies it as GRAS, or generally recognized as safe, and it's estimated that most Americans eat up to a trillion nanoparticles of it a day, most of us with no ill effects. However, new research has linked the chemical to inflammatory bowel diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease, and a 2015 study found that it caused genetic damage. Plus, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified it as a class 2 carcinogen after numerous studies found it causes cancer in lab animals. While not everyone agrees it's dangerous, some companies are phasing it out just to be safe, like Dunkin'.

powdered donuts
(Photo: Shape)

>> Recipe: Skinny Cream Cheese Glazed Pumpkin Doughnut

Beaver Anal Gland Juice: Yes, you read that right. And we can't believe this is actually in food either. (First question: how did people even discover that beaver anal gland juice is tasty?) But castoreum (as it's technically known) is a "creamy orange" natural flavoring made by drying the perineal glands of beavers and combining them with their secretions, and, yes, that includes urine and the other stuff that comes out of beaver butts. However, since beavers eat a variety of wood and plant products, their secretions have a "musky vanilla" scent and are said to naturally enhance fruit flavors.

Where you find it: Snack foods, candies, gelatin, ice cream, and drinks with strawberry and raspberry flavors

What the experts: As gross as it sounds, it's actually a safe non-toxic alternative to artificial flavorings. The FDA classifies it as safe for human consumption and a 2007 study concluded that its long historical use as a flavoring and fragrance shows no reports of adverse reactions in humans. The scientists even found it has some natural antibiotic properties. So eat up!

red candy
(Photo: Shape)

Arsenic: Because of it's rep as the drug of choice for old-time murderers, most of us would never suspect there's arsenic in our modern-era food. But the metalloid element occurs naturally in dirt and is easily absorbed by foods growing in these soils. Too much arsenic can kill you (hence its popularity as a poison of both rats and humans), but the FDA says even tiny amounts can lead to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

Where you find it: While grains, produce, juice and even water contain some arsenic, the biggest culprit is rice, thanks to its ability to efficiently remove the toxin from the soil and store it in its outer hull. Brown rice and foods containing rice flour, like crackers, cereals, granola bars, rice syrup, and even baby food have the highest levels.

>> Read more: 10 Foods We Should NEVER Eat Again

What the experts say: It's impossible to completely avoid arsenic, so it's all about minimizing your exposure, according to the FDA. This is why they've set acceptable limits of how much of the toxin can be found in juices and drinking water. When it comes to rice, choose white over brown, Basmati over other varieties, and California-grown brands over southern- or foreign-grown. But in the end, it's all about moderation. "If you are a person who is eating rice every day, and also snacking on rice products, then that five micrograms from rice crackers becomes significant," Brian Jackson, Ph.D., director of the Trace Metal Analysis Core Facility at Dartmouth College, told the New York Times. "If once a month, not so much. The idea is to eat a varied diet and be aware of how much rice you are eating."

brown rice
(Photo: Shape)

What other additives are lurking in your food? Click here to read the original article on Shape.


>> Read more: Clean Eating: A Full Day's Menu