Nowadays it seems as if all food is loaded with some type of filler. The type of filler I am referring to are the additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients. The western diet is home to the aforementioned, there’s this ever growing presence of extras in our food. Actually, what I’m noticing is the more advanced society is becoming the more “fillers” are being incorporated into food. Could this be a sign of the times? What does this mean for our health?
Interestingly, a large portion of our budget is spent on processed food. Processed food is one of (if not) the biggest catalyst out there for preservatives and additives. As the western diet relies heavily on processed food, this means that we are over consuming food that is potentially harmful to the body. Many people are oblivious to the dangers or simply choose not to acknowledge them, but as obesity and other cardiovascular disease soar in numbers, it’s time for us to pay close attention to what exactly is in our food and strategise.
What are additives and preservatives?
Good question, and let me offer you an easy explanation. Whenever food is factory manufactured, the vast majority of the time additional chemicals and/or substances are added, these are the additives and preservatives. Here’s a tip for you, the next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up any processed food i.e. a box of cookies, or a chocolate bar and have a look at the back of the packet. That’s where you’ll find a list of the extras I’m talking about in this post.
Why are additive and preservative add to food?
Well there are a number of reasons why manufacturers do this. Sometimes additives are added to enhance the flavour of food or heighten the aroma/texture. Colouring for instance, is used to change the appearance of the product. When food is being prepared, during production it may loose its nutritional value, so synthetic dietary vitamins and minerals are utilised as a means of restoring the original health properties.
On the other hand, preservatives are used to prolong the shelf life of food. This explains why food can stay on the shelves for months or even years because additional chemicals were used during the production stage to extend freshness. Preservatives also can be used to eliminate the risk of mould, bacteria/fungal growth or oxidation.
The health risks
Sadly these additives and preservatives have been known to exacerbate health problems like; asthma, ADHD, allergies, skin disorders, kidney problems, cardiovascular disease, headaches, obesity just to name a few. There aren’t any health benefits to chemically enhanced food, only toxic side effects. Our bodies aren’t designed to breakdown food loaded with harmful substances.
In the case of reacting adversely to food with “fillers”. The body responds by releasing a chemical compound called histamine, helping to ease the effects of an allergic reaction or an inflammatory response. Not surprisingly inflammation is largely responsible for many skin problems – a perfect example of why we need to be mindful of those “extras”. Other additives which come with a warning are; Monosodium Glutamine (taste enhancer) and aspartame (artificial sugar). Some studies reported health problems like confusion, headache, confusion and even stomach ulcers.
How to identify additives and preservatives
First and foremost, self-awareness and knowledge lead to making more informed choices, hopefully this post will have offered some insight into defining those terms and what they are. Once this has been established, make a conscious effort to read labels of manufactured goods. Let me give you an example, so you’re in the supermarket and want to purchase some tinned pineapple, okay great….STOP RIGHT THERE…let’s have a look the ingredients. Pineapple should only have TWO ingredients; pineapple and its juice anything else in a “extra”. What you’ll also find during your investigation is a long laundry list of additives and preservatives that can’t even be pronounced by a harvard text book scholar. If we can’t read what the word says, should we really be eating it?
Here is a list of some commonly used “extras”
- Citric acid (emulsifier/preservative)
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
- Monosodium glutamine (taste enhancer)
- Benzoates (used to kill microorganisms)
- Potassium Sorbate (kills mold)
- Carrageenan (used as thickening agent)
- Propylene Glycol (thickener and texturizer, also used as antifreeze for cars and airplanes)
- Disodium Guanylate (taste enhancer)
- Cochineal (Red coloring)
- Titanium Dioxide (white coloring)
Hopefully this post serves as a gentle precautionary measure, regarding those harmful chemicals in food that we can barely pronounce. The next phase should be a slow transition with changing food habits, a good start would be to cook food from scratch. Having more control over what you eat is crucial to omit harmful foods. Grant cooking from the ground is time consuming, but you can’t put a price on health, can you? Purchase wholesome fruit and vegetables that have been minimally processed and carefully treated.