Whats in the food we eat?
Diet and Exercise
The next installment in our series “what’s in the food we eat”… Food Additives.
Food additives have long been a subject of controversy. Some believe these make our food tastier and healthier, while others believe they are literally poisoning us. Technically speaking, food additives are substances that do not occur naturally in foods. Food additives are used to reduce spoilage, enhance flavor, color and texture.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, there are about 2,800 substances that fall into the category of “food additive”. Even though some of these are “natural” components of other foods, they sometimes have “chemical sounding” names like Potassium Chloride (a salt substitute, flavor enhancer and anti-caking agent), Maltodextrin (a carbohydrate from potato or corn starch, used to thicken puddings, gelatin, sauces and salad dressings) or Xanthan gum (adds texture, thickens and stabilizes to prevent food ingredients from separating).
This adds to the controversy. Sugar, salt and corn sweetener make up about 93 percent by weight of all food additives consumed in the United States each year. Another six percent is made up of 32 common ingredients like mustard, pepper, vegetable colors, yeast and baking soda. Many remaining substances are flavor enhancers. Here are a some food additives to avoid.
Used to strengthen the dough of bread and crackers. The Agency for Research on Cancer classifies this additive as a possible carcinogen.
Artificial food colors
Some food colors have been associated with cancer, including Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 3 and Yellow 6. Red 40 has been associated with allergic reactions, and Yellow 5 with hyperactivity in children.
This additive is used to extend shelf life in butter-flavored foods like popcorn, margarine, cooking sprays and oils. Employees in American factories became sick, after being exposed to diacetyl, with some even diagnosed with obstructive lung disease.
This metal is used as a stabilizer in many processed foods. One study reported an association between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study found that those who used antiperspirants and antacids containing aluminum were at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Used as an antioxidant preservative in sausage, lard, potato sticks, chicken soup base and chewing gum, propyl gallate has been associated with tumors in male rats, and brain tumors in female rats.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
This additive slows spoilage of oils and is typically used with (BHA), in products like cereals, chewing gum, potato chips and oils. Studies show that BHT can cause cancer in animals.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Together with BHT, butylated hydroxyanisole helps prevent the rancidity of oils. Several organizations have categorized BHA as a “possible human carcinogen”.
Found in energy drinks and teas, this tropical plant has seeds that contain caffeine; actually, three to five times more caffeine than other plants, and twice that of coffee. The Center for Science in the public Interest warns that mixing guarana and alcohol can be very dangerous. If one is revved up on caffeine, but intoxicated, they may falsely believe they are okay to drive.
Some ingredients added to foods to prevent spoilage and extend shelf life can be all natural like salt, sugar or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Other added substances may “not” be natural. These could include nitrites, and nitrates. Nitrites and nitrates are usually added to processed meats to prevent spoilage, and to preserve color. The problem is nitrites and nitrates, when in the body, turn into substances called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens. United States law requires that five parts “ascorbate” be added to each part nitrite or nitrate to help prevent the conversion of these substances into nitrosamines.
I recommend if you eat processed meats like ham, bacon, hot dogs, deli meats and such products, you first drink a glass of orange juice. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a type of “ascorbate”, and also inhibits the conversion of nitrites and nitrates into nitrosamines.
Remember too, that these preservatives are found even in “high quality” meats. You can get preservative (nitrite and nitrate) free meats from your local health food store, like Nature’s Storehouse, in Tryon. One misconception many still have is that food additives and even supplements that are “all natural” and “herbal” are always safe. This is not true.
For example, by definition arsenic is “all natural” but is poisonous. Also, technically, azalea, holly berries, and mistletoe are “herbal” but are also poisonous. My advice to consumers is to do research but keep an open mind. While it’s true in some cases, there is an overabundance of unnecessary food additives used in processing our food, it is equally true that food storage today is now safe than at any time in history.
Questions? Email David at dwcrocker77@gmail .com