Understanding Food Additives
Do Food Additives Really “add” Value to Food?
Food additives have been used for centuries to prolong shelf life and enhance the appearance and improve flavour of food. 20th century advances in chemical and food engineering brought endless innovations in additives, resulting in the products that we see now lining our supermarket shelves all around the globe. Additives are the reason for why that cereal that has been sitting in your cupboard still looks and tastes exactly the same as it did three months ago. While additives ease processing, packaging and storage, many experts argue that they come at a cost to the quality of our food–and our health.
We Spend 90% of Our Grocery Budget on Processed Food
The typical North American household spends about 90% of their food shopping budget on processed foods. Processed foods contain artificial additives that in large amounts can cause dire consequences to your overall health. Such additives include BPA’s, phthalates, artificial food colouring, and nitrates or nitrites and they can cause a terrifyingly huge range of health issues, such as immune and nervous system dysfunction, obesity, hormonal dysregulation, and even ADHD. Children are at an especially high risk of being affected by these chemicals as their body weight is lower (and they tend to put more stuff in their mouth–including plastic and other materials not meant to be digested).
What can you do to lower your exposure to food additives?
The Harvard Medical School website offers these helpful tips:
- Buy and serve more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and fewer processed meats, especially during pregnancy.
- Since heat can cause plastics to leak BPA and phthalates into food, avoid microwaving food or beverages in plastic containers. Also: wash plastics by hand rather than putting them in the dishwasher.
- Use more glass and stainless steel instead of plastic.
- Avoid plastics with the numbers 3, 6, and 7 on them.
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after touching food, and clean all fruits and vegetables well.
- Cut back on canned foods and beverages in general.
- Cut back on fast food and processed foods.
- Read labels. Get to know what is in the products you use.
- Look for lotions, soaps, and other products that are made naturally — and are fragrance-free.
- Consider making your own home cleaning products. You’d be amazed what a little baking soda or vinegar can do.
Processed food is delicious. Many of the synthetic ingredients and chemicals that processed food contain are added with the intention of making food highly palatable, often to the detriment of our long-term health. Of course, it is difficult to avoid all processed food forever. But even small changes in the right direction can do wonders for your health, and the health of your family, now and in the years to come.