When trying to understand food preservatives, it can get a little confusing. On the one hand, having some additives in food is essential, but on the other hand, having too many preservatives can affect people's health. Hence why experts recommend avoiding them. So how is it possible to avoid artificial and processed foods while staying on a healthy diet? In the Body Reboot book, we talk about how a high fat, low carb diet can result in healthy lifestyle changes. We also discuss why staying away from artificial and processed foods is imperative. Below are some food additives to avoid at all cost:
What Are Preservatives?
Before we dive into 5 food additives to avoid, Perfect Keto does an excellent job at providing a brief overview of what preservatives are:
The concept of preserving food, allowing it to last longer, dates back as far as history can recall.
Our ancestors would freeze meat on ice, allow fruits and vegetables to dry in the sun, or ferment foods to enhance shelf-life. All of these natural processes allowed people to stock up for the Winter, and settle down into communities.
But we’ve come a long way since our hunter-gatherer days. The need to stock up for the Winter is certainly not a topic of concern today.
In fact, the rise of packaged foods has made it easier than ever to find sustenance.
The need to keep food fresh, however, has not diminished.
Preservatives that are added to your food protect the food from spoiling. They act as antioxidants, fighting free radical damage, and antimicrobials, protecting against bacteria.
You can be sure that pretty much every food you buy in the store (other than fresh produce and meat), has some type of preservative.
Some preservatives are natural, like the antioxidants Vitamin C and E. While other preservatives are chemical, like sodium benzoate and BHT.
The health benefits vs. detriments of preservatives depends on how your body handles them. Some foods like sauerkraut and kim chi and naturally fermented, this creates a type of preservation that your body typically responds well to.
On the other hand, when your body doesn’t recognize chemicals added to your food for preservation, it may result in health issues.
To be clear, completely avoiding preservatives is not necessary, and frankly, would be incredibly difficult in this day and age. But to avoid the downfalls of potentially harmful preservatives you just need to know what to look out for.
1. High fructose corn sugar
One of the most important preservatives to avoid is high fructose corn sugar. This type of sweetener is in a ton of processed foods, and Hungry for Change says when frequently consumed can lead to serious health conditions.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly-refined artificial sweetener which has become the number one source of calories in America. It is found in almost all processed foods. HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects. Found in: most processed foods, breads, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, cereals.
2. Artificial sweeteners
What about artificial sweeteners? Food Matters discusses how artificial sweeteners can do more harm than good. In fact, some sweeteners such as aspartame can cause your body a lot of harm.
Aspartame, (E951) more popularly known as Nutrasweet and Equal, is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar-free”. Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Aspartame is not your friend. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory, the components of this toxic sweetener may lead to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumor, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures. Acesulfame-K, a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baking goods, gum and gelatin, has not been thoroughly tested and has been linked to kidney tumors. Read more about the dangers of Aspartame here.
Found in diet or sugar-free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breath mints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste.
3. Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Eat This, Not That discusses partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and why it’s so bad. This oil is especially bad when it’s in pastries, cakes, cookies, and other types of unhealthy foods and snacks.
What It Is: A manufactured fat created by forcing hydrogen gas into vegetable fats under extremely high pressure, an unintended effect of which is the creation of trans fatty acids. Food processors like this fat because of its low cost and long shelf life.
Found In: A large portion of margarines, pastries, frozen foods, cakes, cookies, crackers, soups, fast food items and nondairy creamers
What You Need to Know: Though trans fat has been shown to contribute to heart disease more so than saturated fat (it’s in a number of these 30 Worst Foods For Your Heart), its artery-clogging effects extend beyond your heart. Reduced blood flow can impact everything from brain function to sexual function. While most health organizations recommend keeping trans fat consumption as low as possible, a loophole in the FDA’s labeling requirements allows processors to add as much as 0.49 gram per serving and still claim zero in their nutrition facts. Sneaky!
There is some good news, though. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally banned partially hydrogenated oils from packaged food products. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll never see a trans fat ever again. Restaurants can still use artificial trans fats in their food as of now, but the World Health Organization has a plan to eliminate these fats from the global food supply.
4. Common food dyes
Hungry for Change talks about common food dyes and why you should avoid eating them. If you’re not certain what foods contain this preservative read some of the examples below and find out why several countries have banned them.
Studies show that artificial colorings which are found in soda, fruit juices and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked other food colorings to cancer. Watch out for these ones: Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133) – Banned in Norway, Finland and France. May cause chromosomal damage Found in: candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods. Red dye # 3 (also Red #40) (E124) – Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission. Found in: fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more! Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102) – Banned in Norway and Sweden. Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage. Found in: American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more!
5. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG / E621)
You may have heard of MSG, and Food Matters does, and an excellent job explaining why it’s a horrible food additive. It’s scary to think that eating foods with this flavor enhancer can lead to health conditions such as depression and eye damage down the line.
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. Studies show that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side effects which include depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG affects the neurological pathways of the brain and disengages the “I'm full” function which explains the effects of weight gain.
Found in Chinese food (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome ) many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, frozen dinners and lunch meats.
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Sources: Perfect Keto, Hungry for Change, Foot Matters, Eat This, Not That
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