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  • Tips on managing Stress
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  • Learn why "conventional" diets fail
  • How to target stubborn fat areas
  • Healthy and tasty recipes
  • What muscle soreness really means
  • Learn how exercise affects your mood
  • How to choose the right health club
  • Weight loss and diet myths revealed
  • Flexibility, how and when to stretch
  • How to build personal motivation
  • How to conquer procrastination
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Sign up to the get fit newsletter
Sign up for the ''Get Fit'' Newsletter
  • Tips on managing Stress
  • Ways to stay motivated
  • The benefits of resistance training
  • How to improve your metabolism
  • Learn why "conventional" diets fail
  • How to target stubborn fat areas
  • Healthy and tasty recipes
  • What muscle soreness really means
  • Learn how exercise affects your mood
  • How to choose the right health club
  • Weight loss and diet myths revealed
  • Flexibility, how and when to stretch
  • How to build personal motivation
  • How to conquer procrastination
Email:
Name:
This Month In Diet
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  • A Quick Fix or Failure?
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  • Your Nutrition No-No List
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  • The Cost of Freshness
    When you come across preservatives listed on the ingredient label, should you leave it on store shelves or is it safe for your family to consume? Can preservatives be trusted? Read >>
Health and Fitness News

The Cost of Freshness

Are preservatives safe for your health?

Preservatives are found in nearly every processed food in your kitchen and come with strange names and unknown purposes. You want to feed your family foods filled with nutrients to nourish, energize, and protect their long-term health.

When you come across preservatives listed on the ingredient label, should you leave it on store shelves or is it safe for your family to consume? Can preservatives be trusted?

Expert opinions about preservatives vary, so whether you eat preservatives is up to you to decide. Read on to learn the purpose of preservatives, what foods you’ll find them in, and how they may be affecting your health.

Their Purpose

The addition of preservatives to food has revolutionized the food industry. Before preservatives, food didn’t last long before going bad, forcing people to shop for their food much more often. Without preservatives, mold, bacteria, yeast, and fungi quickly grow and multiply, and food becomes easily contaminated, opening the door to infections from E. coli or salmonella. The presence of preservatives, however, prolongs the shelf life of food, making it possible to go weeks or even months without shopping.

Other types of preservatives help keep food looking and tasting its best. They help keep foods fresh for as long as possible by maintaining the “natural” color, texture, and taste of a food.

Their Names and Possible Risks

The most common food preservatives include sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, sulfites (sulfur dioxide), BHA, BHT, ascorbic acid, and nisin.
Sodium benzoate is added to acidic beverages like fruit juices and sodas. Great as it is, this preservative can be dangerous when mixed with vitamin C or ascorbic acid. This combination may produce benzene, a known carcinogen.

Sodium benzoate has also been associated with an increased risk of asthma and hyperactivity in children.

Nitrites and nitrates are typically found in deli meats, other processed meats, beer, and nonfat dry milk. Consumption of nitrite and nitrate preservatives has been linked to several types of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Sulfites, including sulphur dioxide, are types of salts used for preserving food and adding nutrients. You’ll find them in sodas, alcohol, and dried fruit. Sulfites may be a contributing factor to the development of asthma and allergies.

Two more questionable preservatives are BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene). These chemicals are used to preserve fats and oils and can be found in all kinds of processed foods. Research has linked them to a possible increased risk for cancer.

Ascorbic acid is a form of vitamin C that’s naturally found in fruits and vegetables. It’s also used as a natural preservative in a variety of foods, from drinks to cereals, and is considered safe.

Nisin is a species of bacteria that’s been used as a preservative in milk, cheese, liquid eggs, and salad dressing for decades. In small amounts, it, too, is considered safe for consumption.

Their Regulation

Government food agencies strictly regulate and monitor the use of preservatives in food. According to government studies, the preservatives used in the foods you eat are safe to consume, at least in small amounts. That said, while more studies are needed, your health may benefit from cutting back on the amount of preservatives you consume.

To do this, fresh produce, meats, and grains instead of pre-packaged, processed options. Look for products labeled “natural.” Read ingredient labels to avoid the potentially dangerous preservatives listed above.