Health & Lifestyle

How much do you know about what you eat everyday?

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]Easy to cook, ready to eat natural foods are the first and foremost preferred foods these days as they are less time-consuming and tasty to eat. But how much do we care about the nutrition those foods provides to our body?  Have we ever thought how can a food product stay so fresh for so many days without changing its taste, quality and even color? For example; can we store a fresh fruit juice for more than a few hours?  Not at all. But how can the canned fruit juices remain fresh for 180 days? Added Preservatives make it happen.

We are eating our favorite packed snacks/foods without even knowing what do they actually contain and are they good or bad for our body? If we even look at the nutrition label on the back of the packet, we are not in a position to even pronounce half of the ingredients listed! From aspartame yo sulfur dioxide, it’s good to know what preservatives we are ingesting and what they mean for our bodies.

What are preservatives?

Preservatives are the substances that are added to the food to prolong shelf life and keep the products from spoilage (that is breaking from the action of microorganisms). All the preservatives are not bad. Preservatives have been used since ancient times.

There are both natural and artificial preservatives. Vinegar, salt, sugar, glycerine, honey, and heat are commonly used natural ways to preserve foods for longer durations. Knowing about few commonly used preservatives helps us all to keep ourselves away and safe from their side effects.

There are safe to use preservatives and not so safe or questionable ones

Safe means, the Federal government approved products which have been tested and given a certificate as safe; GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and questionable preservatives are those which are not so safe to be used as they contain products causing health hazards.

Safe considered preservatives are

Ascorbic acid:

A form of vit.C and generally found in citrus fruits and vegetables. Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals. It is one of the natural preservatives and FDA approved. It is typically used to help prevent food spoilage in a wide range of products from cereal to beverages.

 

Aspartame:

It is a  very common artificial sweetener. Aspartame tastes up to 220 times sweeter than natural sugar!

It sometimes goes by the names Naturasweets and Equal. This is also FDA approved preservative and considered safe

Taurine :

Taurine is a substance which helps maintain water and electrolyte balance in blood. Commonly found additive in energy drinks. Taurine is found naturally in meat, fish and breast milk. Up to 3000-4000mg taurine is considered safe.

Nisin:

This preservative is primarily used for its antimicrobial properties and is used in meat and poultry products; cheese and salad dressing. It is also natural and considered safe to eat

 

Not so safe preservatives

Sulfites:

These preservatives are used to stop browning and discoloration of food but have been linked to asthma-related sensitivity and allergy in some cases

 

Sodium benzoate:

This is used to stop the fermentation or acidification of foods, and can be found in sodas and canned fruit juices. It is said that when sodium benzoate is mixed with ascorbic acid, it produces a carcinogenic chemical named benzene

 

Nitrite:

This preservative is used in meat to keep the red color. Nitrites are also found with carcinogenic effect and processed meats like hot dog, smoke fish, bacon, sausages are found with nitrites

 

Your action plan:

Now your role is to opt good and safe foods. But how?? Here are a few tips to buy smart and safe

  1. Always read the nutrition label given at the back of the packet. Cultivate that habit right from today itself.
  2. Try and buy organic food products or look for the GRAS label where preservatives are used. If both are not your choice then look for packs which say preservative-free
  3. Go fresh. It is the best way to be away from the preservatives. Fresh foods are likely to be preservative free as they are not stored. Opting fresh meat, grains, vegetables, fruits and juices are the best way to be safe and side effect free
  4. Choose natural products. They are additive free and they are best in their taste. They also provide you the best nutrients required for your body and helps nourish your body well.
  5. Adopt good eating habits; when you know what does your body need and what do you provide, there is less risk of health hazards from them.

Carefully opting the foods you consume every day can add a few more years to your lifespan. So think before you buy!!

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About the author

Dr Priyanka Marakini

Dr Priyanka Marakini

Naturopathy and Yoga Specialist. Currently working as nutritionist in FRESHMENU Bangalore. Love for fitness and travel has kept her fit and healthy.

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