Sugar’s evil rival (that you probably eat every day)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Peeps 2 | Sugar'S Evil Rival (That You Probably Eat Every Day)


 I always wondered what was in a Marshmallow Peep…Now that I realize (what’s in it), I’m not sure I’m glad I do know…here’s what you need to know about foods (like Peeps) we’ve eaten for years…

As a kid, I loved the yellow, sugar-crystal crusted chicks. They were oddly delicious and…addicting. I could eat a whole box as a 5-year-old, no problem.

I never thought twice at the time about what I was eating, except they tasted good.

Check the ingredients out:

Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, contains less than 0.5% of the following ingredients: yellow #5 (Tartrazine), potassium sorbate (a preservative), natural flavors, carnauba wax.

Sugar, of course, is included in Peeps…

Sugar has gotten A LOT of hype over the past several years.

Documentaries have been made.

Books written.

Detoxes created.

Scare tactics used.

We KNOW foods like Coca Cola, Snickers, yogurt cups and even our tomato sauce contain added sugars.

We’ve heard “sugar is eight times more addicting then cocaine” and “Americans consume approximately 3 lbs. of added sugars in any given week.

However…the one thing no one is really talking about though?

Food additives (like that carnauba wax).

What is all that other stuff in peeps?

Tartrazine, potassium sorbate, natural flavors, carnauba wax? (Fun fact: carnauba wax is the main ingredient in car wax, also found in chewing gum, chocolate-coated nuts and coffee beans. Yum.).

Additives=Food colorings, synthesized, man-made ingredients, chemicals we can’t even pronounce the names of—and they are in at least 80% of our food supply today—even in some of our protein and “fresh produce” sections.

Yes, you heard me right—even your tomatoes and ‘healthy’ grilled chicken salad you chose to get at Chic-Fil-A may have food additives.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of suspicion or even awareness about the millions of chemicals in our food supply today, there is very little realization that many of our current health ‘issues’ (from hormonal imbalances, fatigue, digestive distress, failure to thrive, metabolic dysfunction, mental health, etc.) are linked to these small, little sneaky add-ins to our diets.

When you hear that word, “additive”, what comes to mind?

For a very long time, that word did not make me blink or think twice.

It was a buzz word I heard in the media, or occasionally moms talking about their kids ‘going crazy’ when consuming red food coloring.

But otherwise… “additive” was just as common as saying “dinnertime.”

It is what it is—not that ‘great’ for us—but so be it…it’s in a lot of foods…so what?!

In fact, Americans consume more than 600-million POUNDS of food additives every year in their diets, BUT…a little dirt never hurt right?

And I’m not just talking about additives in fake foods like Doritos, Hungry Man dinners, Pop-tarts, Twinkies, Dr. Pepper or Go-gurt…

But even “healthy foods” like soy milk, frozen yogurt, fat-free Jell-O, egg beaters, almond milk, Clif Bars, protein powders, nutbutters, sugar-free gum,


So what’s the real deal with additives?

 After all if the FDA approves them, they can’t be THAT bad right!?

Think again. Here’s the inside scoop.

Brainwashing You

What human being is born craving Twinkies, Ben & Jerry’s, Whataburger or greasy pizza? Not one. The thing about additives is, when we are exposed to them…they have the ‘power’ to brainwash us (and our tastebuds).

When you think about the word craving—is it a positive or negative connotation you have?

Typically, cravings are associated with foods that we say are “not good for us”: like that pizza…or donuts…sweets…fizzy soda…salty, buttery popcorn…

How many people say they are craving a grass-fed steak and broccoli, or pasture-raised chicken breast atom a fresh crisp salad, or crunchy carrots dipped in guacamole?

Not many.

Additives have ‘brainwashed’ us, over time (and re-wired our brains) to want (and need) these chemicals found in commonly craved foods (not just sugar).

On a scientific note, additives are known as excitotoxins.

Excitotoxins are a class of chemicals (usually amino acids) that overstimulate neuron receptors.

In other words: they are chemicals added to foods to make them tastier…and they destroy brain cells.

Excitotoxins cause brain cells to become very excited and your neurons basically fire spastically until they finally burn out.

Consumption of more and more additives in our food has literally brainwash us, posing hazards to our nervous systems.

This is particularly critical for children’s developing brains (given the “kid food” like Gushers, Lunchables and pizza bites we feed them).

A recent comparative review of animal and human studies both support the conclusion that excitotoxins used in foods today, may produce blood elevations high enough to cause damage to the nervous system of young children, damage which is not detectable at the time of occurrence but which may give rise to subtle disturbances in neuroendocrine function in adolescence and/or adulthood.

In addition to messing with the child’s developing brain, excitotoxins have also been linked to:

  • strokes
  • brain injury
  • brain tumors
  • degenerative brain diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • meningitis
  • neurological Lyme disease
  • encephalitis
  • schizophrenia

Unfortunately, today, the process of adding hazardous excitotoxins to food is completely legal.



Food additives have been directly linked to “hyperactivity”—think ADD, ADHD, even stress and anxiety. Additives “light up” our brains and do some funky things to the wiring of otherwise ‘normal’ and balanced brain chemistry. Study after study has shown that food additives, like food dyes in particular, breed distractibility and hyperactivity. Dr. Mercola has a fabulous write-up here:


Metabolism Mayhem

In addition to throwing our brains completely out of whack, additives also mess with our metabolism. How so? Inflammation. Additives have the power to destroy our otherwise healthy gut environments—promoting more ‘bad bacteria’ than good bacteria to our guts (think about it: there’s a reason processed and packaged foods are stereotyped as “not being good for us.”). Since our gut is our body’s “command center” for all things “life” (hormone balance, mood stabilization, delivery and uptake of our nutrients, etc.), when our gut gets out of whack…our metabolism gets out of whack.

Check out more on this metabolic mayhem in these studies, here and here.


So what can I do to avoid food additives?!

Knowledge is power. Become aware of what additives are, where they lie, and how to make more positive food choices for your brain, gut and bod!

The Culprits

Here are some common additives found (and hidden) in many foods in your pantry, fridge and grocery store shelves:

  • Aspartame.
    An artificial sweetener known by various brand names, including Equal and NutraSweet. It’s a commonly used additive for sweetening. Side effects linked to aspartame consumption include: headaches, blurred vision, heart palpitations, reduced mental performance, abdominal cramps, constipation or loose stools, bloating and gas. Watch out for artificial sweeteners in sugar-free foods, protein powders and Diet waters and sodas.
  • Hydrogenated Oils.
    In practically every preserved, packaged and fried food on the shelves to keep it “fresher” longer. Look at a label, and you’ll probably see: “partially hydrogenated oils” as an ingredient. Transfats are the culprits for our society’s “cholesterol” scare, heart disease, metabolic syndrome (like obesity and diabetes). Limit your intake by avoiding packaged and processed foods, as well as cooking with vegetable oils, like canola oil and straight up Crisco, also contain it.
  • High fructose corn syrup.
    HFCS is a sweetener made from corn. It’s a common additive in many processed foods, not just sweets. Some culprits include:

    • Powerade
    • Raisin Bran cereal
    • Special K cereal
    • Ketchup
    • Nutrigrain Bars
    • Cough syrup
    • Wheat Thins crackers
    • Yoplait yogurt
    • Pickles
    • Mott’s applesauce
    • Grape jelly
    • Kraft salad dressings
    • Barbecue sauce
    • Cocktail peanuts
    • Canned fruit
    • Breads, frozen pizza
    • Baked Lay’s potato chips
    • Power Bars, Balance Bars and Zone Perfect Bars
    • Blue Bunny Vanilla Ice Cream
    • Graham crackers
    • Pasta sauce
  • Sodium benzoate
    Acidic foods tend to grow bacteria, mold and yeast more easily than non-acidic foods, so the sodium benzoate extends the shelf life, while it shortens human life. This chemical suffocates your body’s nutrients at the DNA cellular level by depriving mitochondria cells of oxygen, sometimes completely shutting them down. Linked to cancer, neuro-degenerative diseases, early aging and Parkinson’s, this chemical is often found in pickles, peppers, salad dressings, jams, most condiments, vinegar, fruit juices, salsa, dips, shredded cheese, ketchup, diet or regular soda, mouthwash, toothpaste, cough syrup, cream, lotion, and hundreds of cosmetic products.
  • Sodium Nitrite
    Found in many cured meats, like bacon, sausage and deli meat—this is the reason why buying “nitrate free” versions of these guys is uber important. If you saw this study this past year on meat causing cancer—nitrites are the reason.  
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    MSG is the most widely used flavor enhancer in the world. It is found in many condiments, restaurant food, frozen foods, canned foods, snack and salty foods. Other names it’s commonly known as include: “hydrolyzed soy protein”, “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” and “autolyzed yeast.” Find this little guy in your soy sauce, protein powders, some broths and stocks, carrageenan (in dairy substitutes), and some spices.

The bottom line:

Sugar is NOT the ONLY “culprit” to blame when it comes to the root of our country’s continuing health epidemics. Food additives are the sneaky add-ins no one is really talking about that could be to blame for a host of issues, including: difficulty ‘shedding those last stubborn pounds’, recovering from workouts, restoring your gut health, anxiety, stress, mental health, heart disease, strokes and more.

For more information on food additives, check out the “Dorito Effect” by Mark Schatzker as well, and also this podcast he did with Robb Wolf.

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