We recently discovered that our daughter, Sophie, may sensitive to some preservatives. Of course, that means that we have become much more sensitive to have them in our foods and we have become avid label checkers. Still, there is a lot that I don’t know about this topic. A recent webinar with ConAgra shed a little bit of light on the subject and, hopefully, can start a broader dialogue on the pros and cons of preservatives in our foods.
Sophie regularly gets sick when eating certain foods and, while we haven’t traced it down to a particular preservative yet, we have eliminated many foods with preservatives from her diet and have helped her to maintain a food log to track what she eats. Fingers crossed, she hasn’t gotten sick like that since we started doing this. What this means now is that we are very careful about allowing preservatives into our home.
We also want to be careful, however, about throwing the baby out with the bath water. Not all preservatives are bad. They are just another way of keeping food fresh, tasty, and safe for a longer period of time. In fact, food preservatives are one way that we are able to feed such a large population and keep those grocery store shelves full. Just check out this video for more information:
One thing I did not know before this webinar is that all food preservatives are not created equal. Some preservatives reduce bacterial populations, some keep mold at bay, and some prevent oxygen from damaging cells. This last group is called antioxidants and we see them in many raw foods like carrots, kale, and blueberries. If you’ve ever brushed apple slices with lemon juice, you have used citric acid as an antioxidant preservative.
Two of the more common natural antioxidants are alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid, better known as Vitamin E and Vitamin C. There are two man-made antioxidants, BHT and TBHQ, that have been used for decades to do the same job as the natural antioxidants, but without affecting flavor or color. Let’s be honest, no one wants their chocolate cookie to have a faint taste of lemon in it, do they?
At the end of the day, food is preserved in all sorts of ways. As we have moved further from drying and canning our foods, preservatives, both natural and man-made have moved in to fill the gap. There is a ton of science out there about preservatives and about antioxidants, specifically. To me, the science is still out on some of those other preservatives and we need to be a little careful, but as far as antioxidants are concerned, the science suggests no dangers and a great societal benefit. Check out #AntioxidantFacts for more info.
Are you interested in starting a larger dialogue about preservatives? How do you feel about preservatives, in general? What about antioxidants? Leave a comment and join the discussion!