Food preservation is one of the oldest techniques used by humans, in order to prevent the food products from spoilage. All food items, except for those that grow in one's own vegetable garden, contain preservatives in them. Their main purpose is to keep the foods from getting spoiled during transportation or while storing. Hence, they prevent bacteria, mold, and yeast growth and thus, preserves the color and flavor of the foods, and thereby help in keeping it fresh. In fact, every manufacturer adds them during the processing of foods to avoid food spoilage.
Food preservation is done using different techniques like boiling, freezing or refrigeration, pasteurizing, dehydrating, pickling, etc. Moreover, some natural food preservatives, like salt, sugar, vinegar, and other spices are also used in order to preserve foods. Hence, they benefit by preserving the natural characteristic and appearance of the food, as well as, by increasing the shelf life of the food for storage.
Although they benefit us in many ways, there are some types that are harmful and may end up causing different health ailments. Some of them are toxic and carcinogenic in nature and so can affect the central nervous system, reproductive health, behavior, and overall immune system. Hence, in order to overcome all these adverse effects, one has to avoid purchasing and eating foods containing such types. Here is a list of the ones to avoid, as these may cause serious health concerns.
Common Food Preservatives to Avoid
Propyl Gallate: It is used in vegetable oil, meat products, potato sticks, chicken soup base, and chewing gum. It prevents fat and oils from getting spoiled but has been quite often linked to different types of cancers.
Nitrates: Nitrates, especially, sodium nitrate is commonly used in meats, canned foods, and cheese. Although it is known to add flavor, maintain color, and prevent botulism in many processed foods, they are carcinogenic in nature and may cause adverse reactions like headache, vomiting, etc. in people, especially children.
Sulfur Dioxide and Sulfites: Sulfur Dioxide and sulfites are antioxidants, commonly found in alcohols, especially, wines, fruits and dried fruits, soft drinks, and some vegetables. They are known to destroy vitamin B1 in the body and can cause adverse reactions in the people having asthma.
Benzoic Acid and Sodium Benzoate: These are found in sauces, fruit juices, margarine, salads, baked food products, cheeses, jams, pickled products, etc. Both of these are known to cause skin disorders like dermatitis (pseudoallergy) and eczema, and eye irritation, especially in people having asthma or urticaria (rash). Furthermore, these two chemical compounds are also used in many oral medications and ointments.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Hydroxytoluene (BHA and BHT): These are another type that should be avoided, as they are carcinogenic in nature and can lead to hyperactivity, allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, asthma attacks, etc., when consumed in higher concentrations. These are commonly found in fat and oil-rich foods like snacks, cereals, soft drinks, etc.
Sodium Citrate: These are toxic, and which when consumed in large amounts can cause bladder tumors. These are often found in meats and baby foods.
Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ): It is usually added to foods high in fat and oils. It is a petroleum-based type which can lead to nausea and delirium (a state of violent mental agitation) in people.
Before the purchase any food products, one should take a close look at the ingredients listed on the label and after evaluating their pros and cons, one should decide.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.