Processed foods contain various types of additives. Are food additives safe to eat? Many times, you cannot resist the temptation of your favorite dish. Harmful elements in the food can affect your health seriously. Leaf through the following article to know which food additives are safe and which are harmful…
There exist numerous types of food additives and the harmfulness or usefulness of the additives depends upon their characteristic properties. So the question ‘are food additives safe’ cannot be answered in just one word ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Take a look at the following section which provides information on some of the commonly used food additives and at the end, you will get an answer to the question lurking in your mind.
Common Food Additives
Food additives are usually added to enhance the taste and color of the food. Some are used to bind the ingredients. Food preservatives are also a type of food additives which help preserve the food. Some additives help retain the taste, color and flavor of the food and make it more presentable. Some additives enhance the nutritional value of the food. You might be perhaps surprised to know that there exist more than 14000 synthetically manufactured chemicals which are named as food additives or preservatives.
FDA approval is essential for every food additive. But it is a fact that excessive use of FDA approved artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame K and sucralose results in hypoglycemia, tumors, cancers, headache, eczema, nausea, diarrhea, and various other disorders. If you are doubtful about the safety of an additive, you should first find out the chemical formula of that additive. Then, you should find out ‘ingestion of how much quantity of the particular additive is considered as safe’.
Acid brilliant green, allura red AC, amaranth, azorubine, brilliant black, brilliant blue, brilliant scarlet, carmines are some of the commonly used synthetic food colors. Potassium benzoate, potassium nitrate, benzoic acid, calcium sulfite, formic acid, calcium hydrogen sulfite, etc. are commonly used as food preservatives. Disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate 5, disodium ribonucleotides 5, glutamic acid and all glutamates and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are some of the most common synthetic flavor-enhancers.
Octyl gallate, propyl gallate, stannous chloride, tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) are some of the synthetic antioxidants which are added to foodstuff. You should avoid all these additives. Use of harmful food additives can result in:
- Birth defects in infants
- Various types of cancers
- Skin allergies
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Dysfunction of liver and kidneys
- Vitamins and mineral deficiencies
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
Natural Food Additives
Salt, sugar, curry leaves, vinegar, rosemary extract, are examples of natural food preservatives. These are safe food additives. Since thousands of years, food has been preserved with the help of simple methods like drying under the sunlight, filling with salt or coating with sugar. Salted meat, fish can be kept for several years. Through the process of osmosis, microbes are dehydrated, when salt is added to the food.
Sugar sweetens the food and it also prevents the growth of microbes. You can preserve the food in either sugar syrup or sugar crystals. This is the best way of storing fruits. But being high in sugar, food preserved in sugar should be consumed in small quantity. While preparing fruit jams, fruit pieces are cooked with sugar till the point of crystallization. Instead of sugar, you can use jaggery if you like.
Vinegar is the best medium for preserving vegetables. You can even use homemade vinegar if you want 100% safe food preservative. The acetic acid in vinegar kills harmful microbes and prevents spoiling of the food. These days, various types of vinegar are available in the market. Rosemary leaf extract, also known as rosemary oleoresin is another safe traditional food preservative. Rosemary leaves extract carries antioxidant properties which help prevent food-spoiling. The elements phenolic diterpenes, carnosol, carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid help preserve food and they also help retain the original color and aroma of the food. Rosemary extract itself comes with a pleasant aroma and flavor.
For nice color and flavor you can always use natural herbs like mint, basil, lemon grass, etc. and various nuts and seeds along with honey. Cardamom and saffron can be used in both spicy and sweet dishes. There exist innumerable natural spices which can be used to enhance the tastes and flavors. For example, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, clove, all carry medicinal properties.
Whatever is offered by nature is safe and healthy. Use of chemicals in food should be avoided. They can prove to be harmful for health in several ways. Side effects of these chemicals may not be seen instantly but in the long run, they can be life-threatening.