We consume a wide variety of foods containing food additives without even being aware of them in our daily lives. However, food is the primary source of our body’s health, and it is essential to know how what we consume acts on our bodies.
Food additives are substances that are added to food for different purposes. The most common is to improve their appearance, taste and texture or make them more resistant to micro-organisms. However, some additives are harmful to our health, so it is good to be aware of them and learn how to avoid them.
Depending on the properties of each of the complementary additives, they can be classified into 27 types. There are, for example, complementary additives that are used to restore the colour of foods. In contrast, others are used to maintain the shelf life of nutrition for a more extended period.
All food additives used must have previously passed an EU control to ensure that they are not harmful to health.
Processed foods and harmful food additives
There is a direct link between processed foods and harmful food additives. The more processed the product, the more additives it contains and, therefore, the more dangerous it is to health.
According to a report by VSF Global Food Justice, processed foods make up 70% of the average family’s shopping basket. Moreover, they may be responsible for increasing diseases such as cancer, as published in the British Medical Journal.
Here are the 8 most harmful and toxic foods, preservatives and additives for your health:
1. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
This type of vegetable oil is made by creating a mixture that reacts with vegetable oil with hydrogen. In this way, what happens is that the level of polyunsaturated oils (good fats) is reduced, generating instead trans fats or the so-called trans fatty acids. These are the cause of the increase of “bad” cholesterol in our body, increasing the risk of heart disease.
2. Sodium nitrate and nitrite
Both of these names are very unfamiliar to the general public. However, they are found in everyday foods such as crackers, crisps and processed meat.
Without being aware of it, most Spanish families consume these harmful preservatives almost every day.
3. Monosodium glutamate or MSG
MSG or monosodium glutamate hides under 50 different names (E 621, MSG, hydrolysed protein…) and is found in various foods, including some specifically created for children.
MSG can be found in sweets, jelly beans, chewing gum and fruit yoghurts. These seemingly harmless products contain many food additives that are harmful to health.
4. Refined white sugar
We are so used to sweetening our drinks with white sugar, but it does not provide any nutrients. Excessive consumption can cause significant health problems and diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular problems, obesity and cancer.
5. Fried foods
Another of the cooking formulas that we have normalised is frying food. This type of food is not only an unhealthy habit, but it also destroys all the nutrients inside your food, giving way to free radicals and cancer-causing agents.
6. Refined white flour
As with sugar, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, the chances of getting cancer increase with the consumption of refined carbohydrates.
Foods such as white bread, white pasta or wheat contain a high gluten content and are considered unhealthy. As a result of their preservatives, they have a higher glycaemic index and increase the likelihood of cardiovascular problems or cancer.
7. Farmed fish
Farmed fish contain more pesticides and have very high levels of toxic contamination. They are fed processed food and receive a high percentage of antibiotics, and can cause diabetes and obesity.
8. Hormones in meat, poultry and dairy products
Since 1993 the use of growth hormone in livestock has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However, milk from animals treated with this hormone and their meat may be responsible for the development of breast, prostate, and other cancers in their consumers.
Real food to avoid harmful food additives
To make our diet healthier and avoid the intake of harmful food additives, the best thing we can do is choose to eat real food. In other words, load our shopping basket with food that comes directly from nature and has not been treated.
So that you have no doubts when shopping about which foods are most beneficial to your health, you should bear three factors in mind:
1. Do not include those foods that contain ingredients of dubious origin or that you do not know what they mean in your shopping basket. In this way, you will leave out practically most foods found on the supermarket shelves.
2. Reject foods that contain more than five ingredients.
3. Record the words “corn syrup” in your head to immediately set off alarm bells before adding corn syrup to your shopping basket. This additive increases blood sugar levels, triglycerides and bad cholesterol.
The truth is that by following these recommendations to the letter, you will give up virtually all processed foods and head straight to the area of fresh produce that is free of harmful food additives.
However, keep in mind that not all additives in your food are harmful. Some are simply harmless or consist of natural ingredients. Thanks to them, it is possible to protect food from bacteria that, in some cases, are deadly.
Nitrates and nitrites are essential additives that ensure and prevent the proliferation of the dangerous bacterium Clostridium Botulinum. This bacterium is very harmful and causes botulism, a rare disease that attacks the body’s nerves and can lead to breathing difficulties, paralysis of the muscles or even death.