Food labeling is a new hot topic with revised labeling coming into effect in 2013. However, this new law will only modify what the labels looks like, but won’t always reveal the truth. Food labels are often misleading and you can see my articles about hidden sugars and concentrated juices for more insight into this. But for now, I would like to shed light upon the world of hidden additives and preservatives that you should stay clear of. Reality is that even “fresh” and “whole” foods are not always as pure as they look. For example, did you know that Oranges are often injected with Citrus Red No. 2 to make them more orange? And since you can buy a single “fresh” orange, there is no need to label the “extra” ingredients. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of examples like this out there. However, the lesson here is that buy organic and natural as possible, but don’t beat yourself up if you cannot always find everything organic. Sure, organic foods cost more, but they do taste much better and they are much easier on your body. The best part of eating whole foods and fresh foods and avoiding anything canned or boxed is that it will naturally help keep you looking younger. To help you all out, I have included below a list of the common top twelve preservatives that you should avoid. And remember, always read food labels carefully! Turn the box around and look for the ingredients, because more than often, whatever is stated in front of the packaging is usually misleading. For example, concentrated juice does not count as your one of your five a day!
1. Hydrogenated Fats – Basically, hydrogenated fats are artificially created and act like saturated fats within your body. Initial research studies declared that hydrogenated fats were “healthier” because hydrogenated fats are created from polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) mixed with hydrogen. Somehow, this process also made items, such as oils, cheaper to produce and thus sell. However, studies now show that hydrogenated fats actually act like saturated fats in your body and are now linked to higher cases of heart disease and cancer. When it comes to food labeling, you will see “hydrogenated” written in the ingredients, so be sure to stay clear of it. However, one place you will not see that labeling is when it comes to margarine. Margarine contains hydrogenated fats. And since the actual chemical composition in margarine acts like a polyunsaturated fat, food manufacturers are not required to write “high in saturated fat.” Therefore, margarine can be labelled as a healthier product because of a technicality. Therefore, if you must choose, butter is a safer option than margarine, although even too much butter can cause harm.
2. Artificial food colours – anything package that says added colours or dyes, is something you should stay clear from. Many of the colouring agents and dyes have carcinogenic properties and can lead to hyperactivity and learning problems in children, along with difficulties concentrating for children and adults. Food colouring is often found in coloured drinks, candies, gummy and chewy candies, coloured cereals, cookies and cakes. However, some natural food colouring is available, such as beet root extract, but remember, I highly doubt that food manufacturers add beet root extract to all the cereals out there.
3. Nitrites and Nitrates – These are preservatives that are commonly found in prepared, packaged, and/or preserved meats. Most lunch meats, such as hot dogs, bologna, bacon, and salami contain nitrates. Furthermore, nitrites and nitrates are known to be carcinogenic. High amounts of vitamin C supplementation can counter the negative effects of nitrates and nitrites.
4. Sulfites – This includes sulfur dioxide, which is often used to preserve fruits, especially in freshly cut fruits that may go black, such as bananas and apples. Sulfites are also sprayed onto grapes and used to preserve wine. Sulfites in particular are known to cause allergic reactions and often trigger asthma attacks. It can also cause headaches, nausea, and diarrhea. Be sure to cut your own fruit and always wash all your vegetables and fruits before consuming.
5. Sugars, Natural Sweeteners, and Artificial Sweeteners – yes, even natural sugars and sweeteners are not always good for you. They are often added to many packaged foods to make them sweeter. Remember, if a sugar or sweetener is one of the top three ingredients in any item, then it is considered to be a dessert. You can read more about sugars and sweeteners here.
6. MSG – MSG is now banned in many cities around the world, and is often banned from using in restaurants, but is still not illegal to put into foods. MSG is a flavour enhancer that is commonly found in Chinese food. MSG is short for Monosodium Glutamate and some ingredients list the longer version of the name because most people will not recognise Monosodium Glutamate as MSG. MSG can cause side effects such as headaches, agitation, increased heart rate, tightness in chest, and tingling muscles.
7. Preservatives – BHA, BHT, and EDTA are preservatives that are often used in cereals, grains, soup bases, and food products containing oil to prevent foods from going rancid and to preserve freshness. BHT is actually banned in England, which is great. But all preservatives are chemically created and thus they can potentially be toxic to the liver and kidneys.
8. Artificial Flavours – even “natural” flavours are processed and chemically created. Furthermore, they are found in almost all packaged foods. Artificial flavours can also have behavioral and allergic reactions due to the chemical composition of them.
9. Refined Flour – No grains are actually purely white. If you are eating anything that is purely white in colour, then its been processed. Refined flour isn’t a food additive or preservative, but it has been linked to obesity. Furthermore, the low fibre in refined flour can also cause digestive problems, especially constipation and bowel obstructions. The best grains to have are “whole-grains.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with the occasional refined flour consumption, but it should not be consumed on a regular basis.
10. Salt – Sodium chloride is salt. Remember, sodium content is required to be written on all food labels, but not the salt content. Salt is used in most packaged foods to enhance flavours. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, fluid retention, and potential problems with kidneys and bladder. For women, too much salt can affect their menstrual cycle and can aggravate menopausal symptoms.
11. Olestra – is a fairly new synthesized fat substitute. You will often see Olestra in foods that are low in calories or low in fat. You must be careful when consuming olestra because your body cannot metabolise it and can lead to digestive problems including abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence.
With that said, be careful when buying packaged foods because of all the extra and hidden ingredients in foods. Sugars and sweeteners are the main additives to watch out for along with salt and preservatives. The general rule of thumb is that if you can’t recognise the ingredient, then you shouldn’t eat it.
Health and Happiness,