Whole30 – Additives

Whole30 Additives

Whole30 additives

I’m on Day 22 of my Whole30 today and still doing great!

I already wrote about this program when I was on day 15. I’ve been thinking a lot about about additives lately and once again browsed through the list of additives that are off-limit for the Whole30 program. They are:

  • Carrageenan
  • Corn starch
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Soy lecithin
  • Sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite)

Why is this? What’s the reason we should stay away from these, on and off the Whole30 program?


What is it?
Carrageenan is an extract from an edible red seaweed.

How is it used in food industry?
It’s used as a thickener and gelling and stabilizing agent and can be found widely in ice cream, frozen pizzas, almond or coconut milk and infant formulas. It is added to organic foods as well as it’s considered ”natural”.

Why should we avoid it?
There have been some studies that claim carrageenan to be very inflammatory and problematic to the digestive and immune system by activating an immune response in our bodies that leads to inflammation. These studies link carrageenan to colitis, diabetes, IBS and colon cancer.

There are also studies that claim carrageenan to be safe. That’s because a lot of the studies that show carrageenan’s harmfulness have been done with carrageenan called poligeenan which is not meant for food industry.

So carrageenan might not be quite as bad as some research makes it out to be. It seems though that even the carrageenan that is used in food industry can cause leaky gut, intestinal irritation and inflammation.

Carrageenan also causes symptoms such as bloating, stomach ache and skin rash to some people.

Corn starch

What is it?
It is the starch extracted from the corn grain.

How is it used in food industry?
It’s used as a thickening agent in sauces, soups, pies and desserts. It is also used in making corn syrup.

Why should we avoid it?
We should avoid it while we’re on Whole30 because it is considered grain – and not a particularly healthy grain. It probably isn’t exactly dangerous to our health (in the portion sizes that we usually eat it) but it doesn’t add any nutritional value either.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

What is it?
It is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (glutamate)

How is it used in food industry?
It is used as a flavor enhancer (umami taste) in processed meat and canned vegetables. It is popular in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisine.

Why should we avoid it?
No research has found it to be dangerous but it’s use is still controversial. One of the reasons that I’d stay away from MSG is the fact that research shows that MSG stimulates insulin production in our bodies even when there are no carbohydrates in the food!

Some people get headaches, chest pain and weakness from MSG.

Soy lecithin

What is it?
Soy lecithin is the byproduct of soy oil production.

How is it used in food industry?
It is very commonly used as an emulsifier in salad dressing, chocolate, pasta, breads, meat, infant formulas and even tea bags. It is used in organic food products too.

Why should we avoid it?
Soy lecithin is another controversial additive. Some studies claim that it can increase the risk of breast cancer while others say that it actually has some health benefits and could help lose weight.

Some people get diarrhea, stomach pain and skin rashes from soy lecithin. These can also be symptoms of an allergic reaction – it is possible to be allergic to soy and soy lecithin.

Sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite)

What is it?
Sulfites are a group of sulfur-based compounds.

How are they used in food industry?
Sulfites are used as enhancers or preservatives. They are added to foods such as dried fruit, baked goods and canned vegetables, but occur also naturally in wine.

Why should we avoid it?
Sulfites can cause asthma symptoms. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) estimates that one out of 100 people is sensitive sulfites, if you have asthma you’re chances of being sensitive could be as high as one in ten. The symptoms vary from mild to very severe problems with breathing.

I’m pretty sure that I’m sensitive to some additives, the problem is that I don’t know which ones. I sometimes have problems with cough and I have asthma – I’m pretty sure I’m sensitive at least to sulfites.

Do you get symptoms from additives?




2 thoughts on “Whole30 – Additives

  1. I didn’t realise I had symptoms from food additives until I too them out of my diet. As soon as I took out sulphites my asthma improved dramatically, to the point that I no longer needed my preventative medication that I had been on for over 10 years. If I have something with sulphites in it I will flare up and need Ventolin, however I know what has caused it and it doesn’t last long. If you have asthma it is well worth avoiding sulphites, and other additives that affect asthmatics.

    • Hi Nyssa!

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with sulfites. I’ve noticed that I get asthma-like symptoms from sulfites too. I love having a glass of wine with my dinner but I try to not have it too often because of this. It’s amazing that you no longer need the preventative medication! That’s my goal too, one day…

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