What Do Food Additives Look Like?

We all know packaged foods that roll off the assembly line are loaded with many mysterious additives.

But have you ever wondered what these factory formulations actually look like and exactly how they’re made?

In this upcoming new book, Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products (to be released September 29 and available for preorder now on Amazon), macro photographer Dwight Eschliman focuses on some of most common ingredients in processed foods while science writer Steve Ettlinger probes the exact makeup of each.

Azodicarbonamide is a food additive to strengthen dough and is also used as a foaming agent to make rubber products such as yoga mats.

Azodicarbonamide is a food additive to strengthen dough and is also used as a foaming agent to make rubber products such as yoga mats. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the often complicated compounds that go into those bags, boxes and cans that line grocery store shelves.

It’s estimated there are more than 5,000 different food additives used in the U.S – apparently know one, including the FDA, knows for sure. (The government doesn’t regulate or approve food additives.)

And considering 70% of the average American’s diet is made up of processed foods, what exactly all those multi-syllable food additives might be up to inside our bodies would be good to know.

Artificial dyes Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5 They start out as grey and white powders that include nitric acid and tartaric acid. Then they're mixed with petroleum byproducts, neutralized with lye, and sprayed as a mist onto hot walls to instantly dry the mixture into these brightly-colored powders. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

Artificial dyes Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5 They start out as grey and white powders that include nitric acid and tartaric acid. Then they’re mixed with petroleum byproducts, neutralized with lye, and sprayed as a mist onto hot walls to instantly dry the mixture into these brightly-colored powders. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

Recent consumer demand for more “natural” foods have made many processed food conglomerates take a second look at the artificial colorings, preservatives, emulsifiers, flavor-enhancers and other ingredients they’ve routinely dumped into their packaged goods for years.

Manufacturers say food additives are perfectly safe, while many health advocates – including paleo followers – are highly skeptical of those claims.


Shellac is also called confectioner’s resin or candy glaze. It’s a colorant and preservative made out of the resinous excretion from the Laccifer lacca insect. It’s harvested and processed for use as a natural plastic coating for candy and other foods. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

If you’d like to learn more about food additives from a new perspective, Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products looks like a good place to start.

All photos © Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

Main Photo at top of post: Chlorophyll extracted from plants with harsh solvents, and typically treated with copper to prevent oxidation.

Here’s a link if you’d like to check out the upcoming book on Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products

Read “What Do Food Additives Look Like Before They End Up In Your Food” via for more.


The Ugly Truth About Some Beauty Products

If you’re a regular visitor to Paleo Newbie, I know you’re someone who cares a lot about the quality of the food you choose for you and your family.

So when you hit the grocery store you may be looking for fruit that’s organically grown, or shopping for hamburger meat that’s grass-fed, or scanning product labels to check for things like chemical preservatives, food dyes and artificial flavorings.

Many of us go to great lengths to make sure what we’re eating is healthy, nutritious, and safe – and that’s great.

But…when it comes to the cosmetics and other personal care products we buy, most of us don’t give a second thought about what’s actually inside those tubes and bottles.

We figure if it’s a brand name we know, trust, and have used for years, it must be okay. And besides, it’s not like we’re going to eat our hair shampoo – so what’s the big deal?

Well according to a recent article posted on Chris Kresser’s web site, we should all be paying far more attention to the personal care products we buy because chances are they’re loaded with potentially harmful chemicals our bodies are drinking up like a sponge.

As the site’s excellent article “Are your skincare products toxic?” points out, your greatest risk to toxic exposure isn’t in the food you eat – the real danger may be what you’re rubbing into your hair and skin every day.

The article provides a great introduction to why your body’s largest organ is more efficient at absorbing whatever it comes into contact with than you might think.

And then it goes into more detail about the damage just a handful of the hundreds of unregulated chemicals commonly found in personal care products here in the U.S. may be causing. (The article specifically mentions a few of the worst offenders including triclosan, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycols, and some of the chemicals found in fragrances – you’ll want to check your products labels after reading about these!)

This is a great article everyone should take a look at to learn what’s really inside the personal care products we buy – and how making smarter choices now can help protect you and your family’s health in the future.



Is It Time For An Oil Change?

If you’re new to paleo, you may be wondering why I’m constantly reaching for high-fat coconut or olive oil to cook with instead of a “healthy” bottle of canola oil with the cute red heart on the label…  Read more


Eat This / Don’t Eat That

PaleoNewbie - foods to eat and avoid on the paleo lifestyle

Living the paleo lifestyle begins with choosing the right foods to fuel your body.  Here’s a good starter list of paleo diet foods you can eat, and which ones shouldn’t be on your menu.


Meats – just about every kind of meat is paleo, with the exception of processed meats such as hot dogs, Spam, bologna, and so on. Choose grass-fed beef and free range poultry over grain-fed meats whenever possible.

Fish – freshwater and saltwater fish provide great nutrition for the paleo lifestyle. Avoid farm-raised fish and choose fresh-caught instead.

Eggs – eggs are paleo and rich in protein and omega3 oils. Choose eggs that come from cage-free/free range hens if possible.

Oils/Fats – minimally processed oils and fats are good for you on the paleo diet. Healthy choices include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee and grass-fed butter.

Vegetables – almost all are perfect for the paleo lifestyle. Just avoid those higher in starch and lower in nutrients – especially white potatoes. Also note most legumes (especially dried beans) corn and peanuts are on the do-not-eat list.

Fruits – concentrate mainly on berries to avoid consuming too much fructose (sugar), especially if your goal is to lose weight on the paleo lifestyle.

Nuts – okay to eat, but do so in moderation due to some toxins and generally high omega6 content.


Processed/Junk foods – if it comes in a box, package, pop-top can or fast-food wrapper, it probably includes additives, preservatives, sugars, processed oils, or any number of things that add useless carbs and health-robbing ingredients to your diet. Think wholesome fresh food and steer clear of pretty much everything else.

Grains – wheat, rye, barley, rice, corn – all grains and products made from grain such as cereals and breads should be avoided following the paleo lifestyle.

Sugars – definitely no table sugar, brown sugar, powered sugar, cane sugar and similar refined sugars that provide no nutritional value and can be downright harmful. Sweeteners that are better for you (but should still be limited to small amounts) include raw honey, coconut sugar, and pure maple syrup.

Vegetable oils – consuming heavily processed and chemically refined oils (corn oil, canola oil, seed oils) may cause inflammation and possibly lead to more serious problems.

Dairy – no milk, ice cream, cheeses, yogurt, pudding, and so on. We make an exception for grass-fed butter or ghee, however if you want to follow a strict paleo diet, avoid those too.

Soft drinks – no sodas, and it doesn’t matter if they’re “diet” – avoid them all. Get used to drinking pure water instead.

Fruit juices – most fruit juices are about the same as a glass full of sugar water. Enjoy whole fruits instead.

Legumes – most beans, particularly dried beans such as lentils and navy beans, contain toxins and other stuff that can be bad for your digestive system. This includes peanuts. Fresh green beans and peas are less toxic, and when cooked, are fairly benign.

Starchy vegetables – it’s best to avoid white potatoes, squash, beets and other vegetables higher in starch and lower in nutritional value. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with them, you’ll look and feel better limiting your intake of starch – especially if you’re trying to lose weight.