Healthier living

Not all E’s in ingredients are harmful. Which ones are better to avoid?

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E” are not always harmful additives that we should avoid. Natural ingredients such as vitamin C or vitamin B2 are often coded in this way. The problem lies not in the presence of E’s, but in our ignorance about the permissible intake. Here’s a list to help you find your way through the enigmatic names on the packages of your (perhaps by now) favorite products

First the bad news – there are more harmful E’s than good ones

Before we move on to specific examples, it’s worth knowing that ‘E’ is the code name for a food additive that has been deemed safe. The entire list was compiled by the European Food Safety Authority, and the name comes from our European continent. The list includes additives of various types, not only dyes and emulsifiers, but also antioxidants, stabilizers, or preservatives. The list is long and let’s stress again – not everything on it is potentially harmful to us. E-additives are considered safe for our health. What should arouse our vigilance is consuming some of them in excess:

Here’s the list:

  • 100-199 – dyes,
  • 200-299 – preservatives,
  • 300-399 – antioxidants and acidity regulators,
  • 400-499 – emulsifiers, raising agents, gelling agents, etc,
  • 500-599 – auxiliary agents,
  • 600-699 – flavor enhancers,
  • 900-999 – sweeteners, glazing agents and others,
  • 1000-1999 – stabilizers, preservatives, thickeners and others.

Codes of substances potentially hazardous

E621 – monosodium glutamate

A commonly used flavor enhancer that is associated with umami flavor.

Some people are more sensitive to this substance. Known side effects include symptoms such as headaches, nausea, muscle aches, and even palpitations or heart pain. Opponents of this substance are often accused of short-sightedness, since this flavor enhancer is often added to products that contain a lot of salt in their composition (instant soups, powdered sauces, chips, fast food). So feeling bad after excessive consumption of MSG products may actually be caused by excessive amounts of salt or processed fats.

E951 – aspartame

Kolorowe żelki obsypane cukrem
(Photo: Glen Carrie, source:

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener. It is most often found in products designed for people on a diet or people with diabetes. Aspartame is the only sweetener that is processed by human organs. Digested – it breaks down into two basic natural amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. But it should be noted that for people with phenylketonuria it is a serious danger, because they do not metabolize phenylalanine. In addition, the metabolism of aspartame produces methanol, which is also toxic to the body. However, studies show that with a small intake of aspartame, the level of methanol is not dangerous to the human body. In large quantities, it can cause ailments such as headaches and dizziness, nausea, rashes and insomnia.

E211- sodium benzoate

This is a popular preservative used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mold. The acceptable intake for sodium benzoate is set at 5 mg per kilogram of body weight per day

E213 – calcium benzoate

May cause allergic reactions, asthma, eczema and hives. It should not be consumed by people who are allergic to aspirin. The acceptable daily intake of calcium benzoate has been set at 5 mg/kg body weight per day

List of friendly” E-additives

Kciuk w górę wśród liści
(Photo: Katya Austin, source:
  • E100 (curcumin),
  • E101 (riboflavin, vitamin B2),
  • E140 (chlorophylls and chlorophyllins),
  • E160 (carotenes),
  • E300 (ascorbic acid),
  • E306 (tocopherols, vit. E),
  • E322 (lecithin).
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