“Clean Eating” dates to the natural health food movement of the 1960s. This lifestyle prides itself on avoiding processed foods for the sake of moral and societal values. Nowadays, clean eating is a normal part of healthy living. It gains momentum with body builders and fitness enthusiasts.
Once you get on track with a healthy lifestyle, there is no turning back. You can’t go home anymore. You see your life with a whole new perspective. Avoiding processed foods is your new normal. Look at the grand scheme of things. Living a wholesome, healthy lifestyle makes a lot of sense. Wean off all the processed foods and preservatives and watch your health become top priority.
What is a Preservative?
A preservative is a substance or chemical added to your food products, beverages, pharmaceuticals drugs, paints, biological samples, cosmetics, wood, and many other products. Preservatives are used in a wide variety of products that include foods, medicines, and personal care products. These compounds are either natural or synthetic.
Preservation techniques is nothing new. These methods have existed for centuries. Food preservation began in ancient times, using of salt on meats and fish. Later, sugar was used in canned foods. Early settlers also pickled their vegetables back in the day.
For example, people preserved Jam and Jelly in the early days. The Ancient Greeks and Romans discovered that their foodstuffs could maintain inside of honey jars. Honey was a preservative for thousands of years. They not only preserved fruit, they also preserved their meat covered with honey on special occasions.
Preservatives play an important role in many products we use every day. For example, it prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms and protect products from spoilage or contamination.
What are Preservatives Made of?
Preservatives are natural chemicals such as salt or alcohol. They are made from man-made, or synthetic chemicals. These “natural” or “organic” chemicals are not necessarily healthier the synthetic ones. In fact, artificial preservatives such as sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate, and propionate are often used in food preparation. These preservatives are more effective when used in smaller amounts.
What Happens in Preservation?
First of all, preservatives prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms. Second, you probably want to know more about a microorganism. A microorganism is an organism (single-celled life form) in microscopic size. As shown in the photo, the food is decomposing. Preservatives extend the life of food. Furthermore, there are five categories. However, some are not visible to the naked eye:
- Fungi (yeasts and molds)
Preservatives in Food – Safety Facts
Preservatives are added to food to fight spoilage. More often than not, bacteria, molds, fungus, and yeast cause spoilage. Preservatives keep food fresher for longer periods of time. They also extend your food’s shelf life. In addition, food preservatives slow or prevent changes in color, flavor or texture and delays rancidity.
Safety of Preservatives in Food
Preservatives in food products are regulated and monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, all preservatives in foods are subject to ongoing safety review by the FDA. Therefore, we can give credit to the FDA as it continues to keep our food and drinks safe.
Safety of Preservatives in Cosmetics
In contrast to foods, (excludes color additives), cosmetic products do not need FDA pre-market approval. FDA can recall products on the market if not in compliance with the law. For example, if the product contains a poisonous or harmful substance, FDA will recall a product at any given time.
Preservatives in Medicine
Preservatives commonly used in medicine are acetaminophen, insulin, and cough syrup. They help prevent microbial contamination. In addition, preservatives help prevent the growth of microorganisms; particularly, bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms cause disease and infection.
Common Candy Ingredients
Many candies are loaded with preservatives and other ingredients. For starters, sodium nitrate is classified as the most dangerous food preservative. It is highly toxic and stimulates the formation of nitrosamines. These are highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in nature. Other preservatives are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, Olestra, Saccharin and artificial coloring.
- Butylated (BHA)
- Gum base
- Potassium sorbate
- Caffeine, ascorbic acid and citric acid
Food Additives Banned in Europe
In case you didn’t know, many food additives that we use in America, are banned in Europe. For example, check the following list below: Titanium Dioxide, Potassium Bromate, Azodicarbonamide, Color Dyes, Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO). Also, avoid Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and High Fructose corn syrup.
Processed vs. Ulta-Processed Foods
Just in case you haven’t heard, not all processed foods are created equally. There is a difference between processed and ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods undergo significant processing and often include a long list of ingredients. This list includes the “bad processed foods” such as frozen meals, convenient foods, sodas, store-bought cakes and cookies, boxed desserts, chips, pretzels, crackers and more.
The Downside of Ultra-Processed Foods
According to a recent study, foods like soda, cereal, cookies, and frozen dinners are all considered “ultra-processed foods.” This medical study (BMF Open) found that 58% of the average American’s daily food intake comes from ultra-processed foods like cakes, white bread and sodas. These statistics scream Obesity loud and clear.
In addition, this same study found that 90% of America’s “added sugar intake” comes from ultra-processed foods. In fact, sugar makes up 21% of the calories in ultra-processed foods; compared to 2.4% in unprocessed foods. Hidden sugars are responsible for the proliferation of health conditions. The bottom line: there is a link between processed foods and unhealthy people.
The Verdict is In
The BMF study shows that people who consume more than 25% of daily calories from added sugar have a higher risk of heart disease. In summary, these statistics, confirm that the American obesity crisis stems from our poor food choices. In essence, an overload of sugars, hidden in processed food is the culprit. The Standard American Diet is killing us.
Processed foods, on the other hand, include pre-packaged ingredients such as pasta sauce, salad dressings, and bread. While these foods are okay in moderation, it is healthier to make your own if possible. At least you will know what ingredients you put in.
Minimally Proceeded Foods
Minimally processed foods are the best of both worlds. In fact, they the healthiest processed food you can get. These include extra virgin olive oil, ground meats, plain yogurt, natural nut butter, canned and frozen vegetables and fruits that have been processed at their peak to optimize freshness and nutrition.
Finally, unprocessed foods are unaltered ingredients that found in their natural state. Fresh fruit, wild-caught fish, veggies, nuts, seeds are non-processed foods. Whole food and plant-based foods are at the top of the list. Individuals who choose a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, depend on all things unprocessed. They are extremely healthy people. Processed foods are off limits to them,
Processed Foods to Avoid
As a good rule of thumb, know where to locate the fresh produce section of your local grocery store. The fresh produce is always on the outer aisles. The inside aisles are populated with processed items. So, avoid this area if you value your health and well- being. A recent study found that Oreo cookies are as addictive as Cocaine. Please avoid anything on the list below:
- Processed meats (bacon, salami, cold cuts)
- Instant noodles
- Convenient meals
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (sodas, sweet tea, juice, sports drinks)
- Microwave popcorn
- Refined vegetables
- Potato chips
- Store-bought cookies, cakes, pastries
- Artificial sweeteners
- Trans fats
Final Take Home
The green movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Its grew as a result of popular and scientific concerns about local and global degradation of our environment. Fast forward from the 1960s to today. People are returning back to love of nature. Many are already in the green and eating clean. People are more conscious of what they put into their bodies.
For example, celebrities are turning to whole food plant-based lifestyles in record numbers. This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, in terms of awareness of the obesity crisis in America. A change in lifestyle is key.
I invite you to join my blog forum with your comments and questions. Together we can find solutions to life’s most pressing questions. I look forward to hearing from you. Go green!