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5 Harmful Food Preservatives to Avoid For Better Health

With so many preservatives in food products these days, it can be difficult to avoid harmful additives and chemicals unless you know what to look out for.

It is estimated that over 90% of packaged products you'll find on your supermarket shelf have been processed or chemically altered in some way.

This is done for three main reasons:

  1. To preserve shelf life
  2. To make them more visually appealing and
  3. To make them more addictive and profitable for big industrial food companies.

The problem with preservatives added into our everyday foods is that it does nothing to enhance our health - in fact quite the opposite.

The over consumption of foods laced with chemical additives and preservatives is one of the major causes of sickness, inflammation and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

However the good news is that by being more consciousness when you shop, and by adopting a "whole food" mindset, you'll go a long way to avoiding these problems and you'll have more energy and better health as a result.

Here we reveal five of the most harmful food preservatives commonly found in supermarket foods and how to avoid them by making better, smarter food choices. 

1. MSG

MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate, is a very common and toxic food preservative you definitely should avoid.

You’ve probably heard of MSG before or know of it as an ingredient used in certain cuisine and takeaway foods, but you may not realise just how many everyday foods also contain this harmful chemical. 

MSG is regularly added to packaged savoury foods to enhance the flavour and texture.  Foods that commonly contain MSG include:

  • Fast Food, particularly Chinese cuisine
  • Flavoured chips and crackers
  • Frozen dinners
  • Canned soups
  • Condiments
  • Asian sauces and;
  • Instant noodle products (to name a few).

You will see MSG in the ingredient listing on the packet or it can be identified as additive code #621.

One of the biggest problems with MSG is that it's highly addictive and commercial food companies know it.  Once you're hooked on foods that contain MSG, they basically have you as a customer for life!

Some people are naturally sensitive to MSG and can experience nausea, sweating, irritability, headaches and more.  Whilst others may not be sensitive to this food preservative, it’s still important to avoid because of the potential health issues it can cause.

MSG adds an overdose of chemical sodium to food, which can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and more.  But don't mistake chemical sodium used in these foods for natural salt such as pure unrefined sea salt - the two are poles apart in how they impact your health.

By avoiding foods with MSG, you can ensure you don’t experience an adverse reaction while also protecting yourself from the dangerous health effects of this food additive. 

Learn more in Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Supermarket Foods. 

2. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are incredibly common in foods these days and they’re definitely one of the top food preservatives to avoid.

Chemicals like aspartame and saccharin make food and drinks taste sweeter without increasing the calorie or sugar content of the food.

Now whilst this might sound appealing to those on a "low calorie diet", they can actually wreak havoc with the health of your body and brain.

Foods and drinks that commonly contain artificial sweeteners include:

  • Diet Sodas 
  • Canned Foods
  • Candy, Jams and Jellies
  • Puddings
  • Baked Packaged Foods

Artificial sweeteners are known neurotoxins which create an addictive chemical response in the brain. 

Not only that, they can be a predominate cause of headaches and can lead to weight gain, because it can skew the natural insulin response and cause a yo-yo effect to your blood sugar levels. Artificial sweeteners also negatively affect the diversity of bacteria in your microbiome, which can impact everything from immunity to digestion.

Learn more in How to Improve Gut Health: 5 Easy Tweaks for Everyday Life. 

When it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth, the trick is to choose natural sweeteners such as; raw organic honey, organic maple syrup, raw dates and the natural sugars in fresh seasonal fruits.

This will help you avoid a ton of chemical additives in your food and retrain your body and cells to appreciate the subtle sweetness in whole foods that it naturally is designed to thrive on.  

3. Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrite is an industrial salt preservative used to help prevent bacteria from growing on processed and cured meats like ham, salami, sausages, bacon and corned beef.

It not only adds to the saltiness of the food, but is also responsible for preserving the pink/red colour in the meats.

When these meats are heated at high temperatures, the sodium nitrate turns into nitrosamine. This dangerous compound can damage the cells and greatly increase the risk of stomach, pancreatic, colon, breast and bladder cancers.

It can also affect the thyroid and lead to type-1 diabetes. 

The simplest and most effective way to avoid consuming this dangerous food preservative is to avoid processed meat completely.

Either opt for a plant-based diet or if you're going to eat meat, be sure to only choose pasture-raised, organic and hormone-free varieties.

4. Artificial Food Colouring

You might think adding colour to a food is an innocent endeavour, but chemical food colourings are some of the most harmful preservatives to avoid.

Artificial food colouring is used in many food products, including:

  • Sweets, lollies and candy
  • Snack bars
  • Soft Drinks and Cordial
  • Energy and Sports Drinks
  • Frozen Treats
  • Salad dressings, sauces and condiments.

Foods laced with colouring are commonly targeted toward children, which can unfortunately lead to chemical addictions at an early age.

Artificial food colouring can eventually cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, ADHD, depression and more.

Unfortunately, it’s become harder and harder to avoid artificial food colouring due to their mass usage in processed food products.  This is why the solution is to gear your diet towards whole foods as much as possible to protect your health and that of your children.

Food consciousness also means that if you are going to buy packaged foods, reading labels should become a habit.

Avoid foods with chemicals and additives you can't pronounce or recognise and choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. 

5. Trans Fats

Whilst your body needs a certain amount of fat in the form of "good fats" to function optimally, trans fats definitely do not fall into this category.

Trans Fats are considered the worst type of fat to eat, because they dramatically increase risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Trans fats are made when food makers turn liquid oils into solid fats, like shortening or margarine. Trans fats can be found in many fried, "fast" packaged, or processed foods, including:

  • Shortening and stick margarine
  • Cakes, cake mixes and cookies
  • Pizza dough
  • Pies, Pie crust and doughnuts
  • Frozen dinners 
  • Anything fried and battered e.g. Takeaway foods.

It’s important to learn to read food labels thoroughly to ensure there are no trans fats added to what you’re eating, but if in doubt, your best bet is to simply cut out heavily processed packaged foods altogether.

Instead, choose "good fats" such as, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil and grass-fed butter.

Learn more in our blog 6 Reasons Why Processed Foods Cause Weight Gain.  

The Main Takeaway

To avoid sickness and dis-ease and to experience ongoing health and vitality, it's so important to avoid chemical preservatives in the foods you eat.

Whilst so many of the foods on today's supermarket shelves are laced with unwanted additives, designed to increase shelf life and to make them more profitable and appealing, you owe it to your health to steer clear of these foods.

By being more conscious of the labels on the foods you buy and developing a whole food mindset when you shop, your health, body and taste buds will love you for it - and you will go a long way to avoiding some of the most common discomforts and diseases that are directly linked to the overconsumption of chemicals in foods.

Tolman Self Care.


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