Avoiding Food Additives

The food industry uses about 3,000 different food additives in a wide variety of packaged and preserved foods. These range from added vitamins and minerals to emulsifiers, buffers, natural and artificial flavouring and colouring, and large amounts of sugar and salt.

The average person consumes nearly 150 pounds of these food additives per year including about 130 pounds of sugar and sweeteners, along with 10 – 15 pounds of “enriched” vitamins, flavours, preservatives and coloured dyes.

There are people on our planet who don’t consume this much regular food in one year. As if this weren’t enough there are also about 12,000 other chemicals including sprays and pesticides used during the various stages of propagation, growth, harvesting, shipping, packing and preparation. Even the plastic wrap used to seal many foods contains polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can be released as a gas when the wrap is not fully removed during heating such as in a microwave. And PVC is potentially carcinogenic chemical.

So why then are so many chemicals being used in our food supply? Originally, food was grown and eaten directly from a relatively unpolluted Earth; however, as the world’s population began to swell to its present proportions, techniques for preparation and preservation, such as pickling, salting and smoking were developed to deal with the new problems of storage, waste, and food-borne illnesses. As technology advanced new chemicals were developed to manipulate, preserve, and transform foods. The subtle balance of nature shifted with each new assault on our body’s unique biochemical balance.

Scientists are now able to mimic natural flavours and to colour foods to make them look more natural. There are even foods made entirely from chemicals such as coffee creamers, sugar substitues and candies made completely of processed ingredients. The latest is a fat substitute which is suppose to give food the palatability of fat without the calories of real fat – the list of possible adverse reactions to this product is very long.

So, given our dependency on store bought food, where does all of this leave us? It is in our personal interest to avoid chemical additives and processed foods and to eat as naturally as possible.

Although it is impossible to avoid all of these chemicals in our society, there are certain things we can do to minimize our exposure. Avoid packaged, prepared foods designed to give you the “instant meal.”

Most of these foods are high in salt, fat, sweeteners and are devoid of any nutrient value due to the high degree of processing involved. Wash all fruits and vegetables with a fruit wash soap and steam vegetables to retain as much nutrient value as possible if not eating them raw.

We should definitely avoid the nitrates and nitrites found in prepared meats and hotdogs as they form carcinogenic nitrousamines in the food and in our body. The sulfites, such as sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, bisulfite and metabisulfite, which are used to prevent spoilage or discoloration, are best avoided, especially for people with allergies, BHA and BHT, as well as EDTA, should be consumed minimally as should the flavour enhancer MSG.

Red labels to make sure the product doesn’t contain any of these chemicals and consume more foods which have very little processing involved. Eat fruits in season because these will require less transportation time and presumably, less chemical residues. The rule of thumb when it comes to label reading is, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient then you shouldn’t eat it.

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