Let’s talk about food preservatives. A preservative is a substance added to foods to make them last longer; to “preserve” them. Preservatives are added to foods that would otherwise go bad quickly and they fill our grocery store shelves.
Preservatives work to preserve food in a few different ways. Some prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Others prevent delicate fats from going rancid.
There are so many preservatives out there. While preservatives added to foods should be “approved,” this doesn’t mean they’re always guaranteed to be safe. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the food is healthy.
Foods with preservatives are more-processed, less-nutritious foods to begin with – not exactly health foods. So, even if you don’t cut them out completely, you might want to consider cutting back on these kinds of foods.
So, let’s learn more about a few common food preservatives.
That’s right – salt. We are all familiar with what it is.
In this day and age, with refrigerated trucks, fridges and freezers in every home and grocery store, salt is not needed for food preservation as much as it used to be. However, our taste buds still seem to crave it on an epic scale.
The average American eats over 3,400 mg of sodium per day, well over the recommended 2,300 mg/day. Much of that is because it’s over-abundance in processed foods.
According to Harvard Health:
“… reducing dietary salt (table salt that is only sodium chloride and iodine) will lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and save lives.”
So, salt is one of those all-too-common food preservatives that most of us will do better with less of. We do need some salt in our diet, but most of us are simply getting way too much.
Nitrites are preservatives added to processed meats. They’re not bad in and of themselves, but they do turn into harmful chemicals called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Nitrites form nitrosamines when they’re cooked at high heat, and sometimes even when exposed to the high acid environment of the stomach.
Nitrites are added to meats to keep the pink-red color and to prevent “browning.” They are found mostly in bacon, ham, sausages and lunch meats. Since nitrites can change into nitrosamines, nitrites are one-step away from being one of the “bad guys.” It is believed that nitrosamines may also be where cancer-causing cells occur.
Interestingly, processed meats have also been linked to colon cancer. Because of the nitrites? Perhaps, but either way, nitrosamines are a confirmed health-buster.
You may be wondering, so what are nitrates then?
Nitrates are naturally found in many healthy foods like vegetables. They’re especially high in beets, celery, and leafy greens. Sometimes our enzymes, or gut bacteria, change these healthy nitrates into nitrites. However, they rarely form nitrosamines.
Nitrate-rich plant foods are a valuable part of your diet. However, the nitrates in cured and processed meats are known to be carcinogenic.
BHA & BHT
BHA and BHT are often added to packaged foods to help maintain freshness. You have probably seen those letters on cereal boxes or on packages of gum. They are compounds that help maintain freshness.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants added to many processed foods. The main way BHA and BHT work is by preventing fats from going rancid. Are they safe? Well, they’re approved for use as a preservative at small doses. However, some studies show they can cause cancer in animals at high doses. It’s usually wise to avoid them.
There are a lot of preservatives in our food supply. These compounds work by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold, or by preventing fats from going rancid. They’re mostly found in processed foods. If you want to avoid them, simply eat more fresh foods and avoid pre-packaged convenience foods as much as possible.
1 bunch of kale, washed and dried
1 tbsp olive oil
2 dashes sea salt
2 dashes garlic powder
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Take the washed and dried kale and rip them into “chip” size pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Mix until the kale pieces are evenly covered.
Place kale onto prepared sheet in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes.
Flip over the kale to cook the other sides of the pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes until the edges just start turning brown. Be sure to keep an eye on them, or you’ll quickly have burnt kale chips.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use any spice, so try onion powder, paprika, or even turmeric.