What’s in my food?

Food additives, read the label before buying

Read the label before buying your meal because can contain food additives

In this modern days, food is not as simple as it was in the past. Most of the foods are processed and artificial chemicals (food additives) are being used that will enhance the taste of the product, its shelf life or its appearance. So, do you really know what is in the food you are eating only by looking at it?

There are many health promises on your food packaging (such as 0 grams saturated fat or 100% natural) that will make you believe you are eating  ‘’right’’. According to Joan Salge Blake (professor of nutrition at Boston University) – “There’s so much information on products that it can be challenging for the average consumer to figure out what it all means”.

Food additives

The products on the market contain ‘’hidden’’ ingredients. A perfect example is food additives. Most of us heard of them but do we actually know what they mean? Or how they might affect our health?

When we decide to leave a healthy lifestyle, we are making an effort to educate ourselves about different types of food additives (reading about risks and benefits), as we are seeking to minimize the daily exposure to pollutants or toxins.

Here are some of the “need to know” basics about food additives:

  • What are actually food additives?

These are substances that manufacturers add to foods for different reasons such as to preserve flavor, or to keep the food fresher for longer or to enhance taste, texture, and appearance of the food.

  • Not all food additives are bad because some are actually natural compounds (such as vinegar that is usually used for pickling; salt usually used to preserve meat). These additives are considered to be a natural method to preserve, enhance taste, texture and it has been used for centuries. Don’t get fool by the common misconception that processed foods automatically contain food additives! A good example is a long-life milk – it is processed but doesn’t have any added chemicals to prolong its shelf life.
  • On a negative note, nowadays, the majority of food additives used in the foods are synthetic or man-made.

Because of the modern lifestyle, we are not growing our own foods anymore

(home-grown and natural whole foods), and the type of processed or refined foods have increased. With this, the number of additives used in foods (natural and synthetic) increased. Inform yourself before buying any food as it will ensure your family’s vitality, wellbeing, and health. Check the label and avoid those ingredients that sound like a chemistry experiment and inform yourself about those ingredients that may contain food additives without them being specified (such as margarine).

Are you familiarized enough with food additives names? Are you ready to identify them?

Currently, there are over 3000 additives used in food across the world, most of which are synthetic!

  • The most notorious additives – E-numbers

Does the media portray the truth about this food additives, considering them ‘’food nasties’’?

Additives are being tested and approved for use in foods in Europe, then it is given a classification E – number (such as E100). The purpose of this regulation is to inform consumers. If you buying a product which was not made in Europe, then you will see only a number without E.

  • Are food additives safe?

We are still looking for a satisfactory answer, but filling our bodies with synthetic chemicals doesn’t sound too healthy and it can’t be as healthy as eating a diet high in whole foods. By eating products with additives we are loading our bodies with toxins and it may be detrimental to our health.

We still don’t have enough proof on the effects it has on the body on long-term and it appeared the need for regulation. It was discovered that some people were actually sensitive to food additives and they have suffered reactions to it, such as: allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock,  skin irritations (itching, rashes, hives and so on), respiratory problems, headaches, digestive disorders (like diarrhoea or abdominal pains) or behavioural changes (such as mood changes, anxiety and hyperactivity), based on a research undertaken in UK by Food Standards Agency in 2007 and the results were published in the British medical journal.

Remember, opt for natural ingredients and avoid synthetic ones and go for natural or organic products whenever possible.

  • Watch out for these Food Additives! (are most likely to cause reactions)
  1. Flavor enhancers: MSG E621 (monosodium glutamate) is the most know one and are commonly found in takeaway foods, crisps, instant noodles.
  2. Aspartame: an artificial sweetener made of phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol (a type of alcohol). It can be found in diet sugar-free items, drinks, yogurts.
  3. Sulfites: found in dried fruit, desiccated coconut, wine. ( it is believed to trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals).
  4. Propionates: common in bread and the effects are migraines, racing heart, memory loss, bed-wetting, nasal congestion, eczema, and stomach ache.
  5. Antioxidants: NOT THE ONES found in whole foods (like fruit and vegetables) as they support good health and strong   Antioxidants as food additives are synthetic chemicals which are added to food (Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). They stop food going off or changing color. These additives prevent fat spoilage. They have been linked to asthma, insomnia, tiredness and are commonly found in margarine, biscuits, crisps and muesli bars.
  6. Colors: tartrazine (E102) and annatto (E160b) which are synthetic colorings that have been linked to allergic reactions, behavioral problems in children.

Here are some categories of additives: acids, antifoaming agents, anti-caking agents, acidity regulators, bulking agents, color retention agents, antioxidants, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, glazing agents, flour treatment agents, humectants, thickeners, sweeteners, stabilizers, tracer gas.

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