What’s In Your Food?

Preservatives are Preserving Food, What about You?

Is the food you eat fit for consumption? No matter how high quality food you consume, chemicals are an integral part of it. Preservatives are added to food and beverages to prevent decomposition and retard or arrest the process of fermentation.

Food Preservation in Ancient Times

In ancient times, the sunlight and wind were used to dry foods naturally. Evidence shows that some cultures dried foods in the hot sun as early as 12,000 B.C. Food items were also preserved using honey or sugar. In ancient Greece, quince was mixed with honey, dried and packed into jars. Pickling, i.e., preserving food in vinegar or any other acid was a common practice. Foods were placed in jars or cans and heated to a specific temperature to destroy microorganisms and make enzymes inactive.

Modern Food Preservatives are classified as:

Class I preservatives are natural preservatives, such as salt, sugar, vinegar, syrup, spices, honey and edible oil.

Class II preservatives are chemical preservatives such as benzoates, sorbates, nitrites and nitrates of sodium or potassium, sulfites, glutamates, glycerides.

Both natural and synthetic preservatives can be classified into these three types.

  1. Anti-microbials: to stop the growth of harmful microbes and bacteria in the food
  2. Anti-oxidants: to prevent oil and fat present in food from oxidation
  3. Anti-enzymatic preservatives: to stop or restrict the enzymatic process such as ripeningYes, they do their job quite well, but the only question that hits me is, are they safe? Let’s find out.

Harmful Effects of Preservatives

Breathing Difficulties

One of the adverse effects of preservatives in foods is aggravation of breathing difficulties. According to MayoClinic.com, eliminating foods with preservatives from the diet can reduce the symptoms and severity of asthma. MayoClinic.com identifies aspartame, sulfites, benzoates and yellow dye No. 5 as preservatives that could intensify breathing problems in asthmatics and others.

Behavioural Changes

Another noxious effect of preservatives in foods is behavioural changes, especially in young children. According to the Archives of Disease in Children, in a 2003 double-blind study of 1,873 children, the consumption of food preservatives led to serious increase in hyperactive behaviour.

Heart Damage

Studies of heart tissue reviewed by InChem have shown evidence that food preservatives can weaken heart tissues. According to a laboratory research, rats that consumed the highest levels of food preservatives showed the highest levels of heart damage over a specific period of time.


One of the most harmful effects of preservatives in foods is their ability to transform into carcinogens when digested. According to InChem, nitrosamines, which include nitrites and nitrates, interact with stomach and gastric acids to form cancer-causing agents.

Tips to Save yourself from Harmful Preservatives

1) Eat fresh food that is cooked by you.

2) Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods as much as you can.

3) Read the ingredients on the packaging carefully and avoid foods that have harmful preservatives.

4) Choose foods that contain natural preservatives such as ascorbic acid, citric acid, vinegar, salt and sugar.

5)  Go organic, One of the safest and easiest ways to avoid preservatives is by eating organic food products.

“Go green Go clean”

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