What are preservatives?
Preservatives are the ingredients in food that prevent the item from spoiling and prevent the growth of bacteria. While this may sound like nothing to be concerned about, preservatives can actually cause harmful effects to your health. Some preservatives are natural, but most are chemical.
How to identify them.
The golden rule for identifying preservatives is that if you are unable to pronounce an ingredient, it is most likely a preservative. My recommendation would be to place it right back on the shelf.
When an item looks like it has been colored unnaturally, artificial coloring is likely included as a preservative. Artificial colors are chemical-based dyes and have been known to have negative effects on your health.
Many sweeteners can also act as preservatives.
Take, for example, high fructose corn syrup. This product is a simple sugar. Consequently, it readily becomes 100% glucose when consumed. Overconsumption of high fructose corn syrup can increase your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Another common sweetener is aspartame. You readily find it in foods such as diet sodas, baked goods, breath mints, and even some toothpaste. Research shows that aspartame can elevate blood glucose levels and sometimes even increase anxiety.
Additionally, any chemical ingredient with “sodium” in it is most likely a preservative. Names such as sodium nitrite, sodium sulfite, and sodium benzoate are common preservatives. These are the main ingredients that prevent food and drink spoilage. They are commonly found in jams and jellies, hot sauces, wine, and dried fruit. These ingredients can cause hyperactivity in children according to some research.
Companies often use sulfites as a chemical ingredient to prevent food spoilage. Sodium sulfite and sulfur dioxide are ingredients that can have harmful effects on your body. You may find these ingredients in beer, soft drinks, juices, and potato products. Studies have shown that too much consumption of these can lead to anaphylactic shock, low blood pressure, and/or asthma.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Plant-based products have been found to be void of most preservatives. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not likely to contain any preservatives such as sweeteners or food colorings. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and other healthy nutrients. However, some packaged canned fruits and vegetables usually contain preservatives. Canned products are likely to contain lots of artificial sweeteners. Therefore, it is still important to read nutrition labels.
Proteins such as meat and fish
Believe it or not, it is entirely possible, and in fact pretty easy to find meat, poultry, and fish that do not contain any additive preservatives. The main exception to this is processed meats. Most of them contain a heavy dose of preservatives either as artificial coloring or a preservative agent. However, you can now find products such as uncured bacon and nitrate-free salamis. Thus, you must be diligent and read nutrition labels.
Why to avoid them.
There are several unhealthy symptoms that preservatives can cause. Most consumers want to minimize any adverse implications on their health. Avoiding or at least minimizing the use of preservatives is one easy way to do this.
Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered that if an individual were to cut out or simply reduce preservatives from their diet, they would decrease the severity of asthma. Preservatives such as sulfites, yellow dye #5, benzoates, and aspartame are some specific examples that can trigger asthma symptoms.
Another study, which was published in the Archives of Disease in Children, was able to prove that by removing preservatives from a child’s diet, behavioral changes such as hyperactive behavior can be reduced. Simply put, by changing your child’s diet, you can help them.
It is super important to read nutrition labels on what you are purchasing! For every product with preservatives, you should be able to find a product void of such ingredients. You just may need to search a bit more.
It is important to take care of yourself. One easy step toward a healthier lifestyle is avoiding as many preservatives as possible.
Tucker, N. The Truth About Preservatives, (2012). Retrieved on 1st March 2019 from https://www.medicaldaily.com/truth-about-preservatives-242237
Colquhoun, J. 22 Additives And Preservatives To Avoid, (2016). Retrieved on 2nd March 2019 from https://www.foodmatters.com/article/22-additives-and-preservatives-to-avoid
Darby Robinson is a collegiate soccer athlete and is currently studying Exercise Science at Chatham University.
Her aspiration is to be a registered dietitian who specializes in sports dietetics. She enjoys learning everything about diets and sports and expanding her knowledge base.
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