What it’s in your food? What you might not know may be killing you

Preservatives and additive

In this day and age our food supply is becoming more and more compromised as the years roll by. The skyrocketing growth of our population means that we require food to grow faster, bigger and to be protected against the elements and pests. Our soils are becoming depleted and are foods are becoming more contaminated. If that’s not it, there are increased chemicals that are being put into foods on a huger scale then never before. These chemicals are used to preserve these foods so that shelf life is increased – which means larger bottom lines for corporations.


Preservatives keep our food fresh, and preserves the integrity of our food for so called “safe consumption”. These preservatives do their job, however there are some hidden truths that you will find out in this post.

Why are preservatives bad for you?

Not all preservatives are bad for you, some preservatives are from natural sources and are completely safe to consume, however there is huge prevalence preservatives which has become more cause for concern in recent times – something which Vani Hari from Food Babe is doing such a great job in uncovering these hidden death traps. Preservatives have been designed to keep food fresh and extend shelf life. However, preservatives that have been chemically engineered to do this task are incredibly toxic for the human body, and have a huge range of side effects that sometimes do not become apparent until years on down the track. Most preservatives have been known to have carcinogenic effects on animals, creating tumours within lab rats – who’s to say that this does not happen within healthy humans? Below is a list of preservatives that are being used to date:

Sodium Benzoate –are common in soft drinks and juices, they are known to cause hyper activity. When sodium benzoate is combined with vitamin C, the molecules shift to become benzene which is a known carcinogen. Which products contain Sodium Benzoate?

  • Soft drinks
  • Commercially made juices
  • Shampoos
  • Body scrubs
  • Shaving cream
  • Kids bubble bath
  • Lip Balm
  • Baby soap and baby lotion

How to avoid sodium benzoate

This is an obvious one: avoid all soft drinks and commercially made juices. As an alternative buy a juicer and start juicing! It will be one of the best investments you have made on your health. Try and go for natural products that have little or no preservatives there are a wide range of natural alternatives to regular skin care products and shampoos.

Sodium Nitrates and Nitrites – cause severe allergic reactions these are most common in the preservation of processed meats such as luncheon meats. Sodium nitrates are harmless in its full form, but when nitrates are converted into nitrites only then this chemical has the ability to combine with different compounds to become a carcinogen. This chemical reaction happens during the cooking process, for example cooking sausages on a grill or boiling hot dogs which contain sodium nitrate.

Which foods contain Sodium Nitrates and Nitrites?

  • Luncheon meats
  • Hams
  • Canned meats
  • Frankfurters and hotdog meats
  • Salami

How to avoid Sodium Nitrates and Nitrites

Stop consuming processed meats! Easy right, if you are a ravenous meat eater who can’t get enough of their meat, go for fresh grass fed beef, grass pastured free range chicken or wild caught salmon!

BHA and BHT – common in cereals, accumulates in body tissue and can be carcinogenic and contribute to longer term problems with the liver. This is preservative is regarded as being safe to consume, however as they are a chemically produced preservatives it is best to stay as far away from these as you can. BHA and BHT are most commonly added to anything that contains oil to keep the oil from going rancid.

Which foods contain BHA and BHT?

  • Alcoholic beverages such as beer
  • Meats
  • Butters
  • Cereals
  • Chewing gum
  • Snack foods

How to avoid BHA and BHT

Go organic, organic meats pastured on grass as well butters that are from grass fed animals. Replace your cereal with a green smoothie or green juice in the mornings.

Sulfites – Sulfites are used to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. Which occur naturally within alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine, however these additives have been added to most processed foods such as soups to reduce coloration. Sulfites are a known trigger for asthma and migraines. There is growing concern about sulfites causing severe allergic reactions when consumed  these reactions stretch between skin conditions, from hives to eczema in some cases can prove to be fatal.

Which foods contain sulfites? Sulfites in the US were banned from being sprayed on raw fruits and vegetables.

  • Dried fruits
  • Maraschino Cherries
  • Beer and Wine
  • Processed vegetable juices
  • Condiments
  • Teas
  • Trail Mix
  • Canned Vegetables

How to avoid foods that contain sulfites

Eating less processed foods and consuming less beer and wine is probably the easiest way to go. Try and buy as much organic fruits and vegetables as possible, avoid unnecessary condiments – if you love condiments make your own from fresh organic ingredients. If you love fruit and vegetable juices check out our post on detoxification.

Potassium Bromide – used commonly to keep bread fluffy and light. This chemical has been banned throughout the world and still has not been banned from the United States.

How to avoid Potassium Bromide: Stop eating breads! Check out why you should stay away from bread all together. There are many substitutes to breads that are gluten free and contain no chemicals.

Olestra – is a synthetic fat substitute, long term consumption has been linked to fatal lung and prostate cancer and heart disease and also has been noted to be a cause of macular degeneration. Olestra is a substitute used in “fat free” or “light” options of different potato chip manufacturers. This substitute fat binds to nutrients from foods in the body then flushes these nutrients out of the body, causing people to become nutrient deficient. Olestra also causes diarrhoea and gastro intestinal problems, cramps and bloating. Which foods contain olestra?

  • Potato chips – fat free Pringles, Doritos light nacho cheese, Ruffles light original and Lay’s light original.
  • French Fries
  • Corn Chips

How to avoid Olestra

If you need to satisfy your chip cravings go for an organic chip brand which has been cooked in coconut oil, rather than industrialized vegetable oils.

Food Dyes Food dyes are so prevalent in many junk foods and processed foods now that it almost seems normal for manufacturers to add them in. There are however safe dyes which are made from fruits and vegetables and others which are synthetically produced, the below are synthetically produced:

Red Dye Number 2 and 3 – causes cancer in animals, created from coal tar, changes brain chemistry in animals found on oranges and cherries.

Blue dye number 1 and 2 – causes tumours in animals

Green dye – causes tumours in animals

What foods contain Colorings and Dyes? Basically every brightly colored food known to man contains some form of the dyes mentioned above. Synthetically produced potentially harmful dyes are found in:

  • Ice creams
  • Sorbets
  • Snacks
  • Soft drinks
  • Lipstick
  • Candies
  • Baked goods
  • Cereals
  • Sausage casings
  • Drugs

How to avoid food dye Stop eating processed foods, period. We all know how harmful they are but still people consume them. Weaning yourself off processed foods is crucial for vibrant health.

Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG) – comes from a natural protein called glutamic acid in its natural form is perfectly safe however, this glutamic acid is used as a precursor to create MSG which is a mass produced, chemically altered and manufactured substance. Once the molecules of glutamic acid have been changed or compromised this acid becomes unstable and when consumed causes serious reactions. This is an un-natural form of glutamic acid which can cause migraines, headaches, seizures, allergic reactions and heart disease.

What foods contain MSG?

  • Chinese takeout food
  • Various chips varieties
  • Chicken and sausage products
  • Doritos
  • Cheetos
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Soups
  • Most junk foods

See our post on the 12 most toxic foods to avoid.

Aspartame and Saccharin Aspartame: Commonly known as Nutrasweet, Sucralose and Splenda. This form of artificial sweetener is found in most of the diet soft drinks such as diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Saccharin: Commonly known as Equal, Sweet‘N Low and Sugar Twin. These sweeteners are found at many cafes mostly in a sachet form as an alternative to sugar.

How to avoid artificial sweeteners Avoid these completely as you do not need artificial sweeteners in your diet. Use other naturally forming sweeteners such as Stevia, Xylitol or raw honey.

BVO Brominated Vegetable Oil – Brominated vegetable oil is created either from corn or soy, the purpose of BVO is used as an emulsifier which literally binds together flavourings so that the flavourings and the soda do not separate when they are in the bottle. BVO was first developed as a flame retardant to be used with plastics. Side effects from consuming bromine include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Fatigue
  • Head aches
  • Weight gain

Which foods contain BVO’s? BVO’s are mostly found in soft drinks, in America they make up 10% of the soft drink market. The following soft drinks contain BVO:

  • Mountain Dew
  • Sunkist Pineapple
  • Squirt
  • Orange Fanta
  • Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange
  • Powerade Strawberry Lemon
  • Fresca Original Citrus

How to avoid BVO’s  

BVO’s can be avoided by not consuming the above mentioned soft drinks. Instead make your own drinks, smoothies and juices from naturally occurring products such as oranges, lemons, limes and apples (if you love the citrus flavour). 

How do you know you are being poisoned by preservatives?

You may be experiencing a number of different symptoms without even knowing that you are allergic to preservatives. These symptoms may be migraines, fatigue, nausea, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, asthma and a number of other symptoms.   The easiest way to test if you have any reactions to preservatives is to go preservative free for a month and see how you feel. Then begin introducing the foods that you were consuming prior to this month and then realise what effects there are on your body. Then slowly remove the foods that are giving you grief. Another crucial point to make is: read the labels on everything you purchase, and if there is something fishy on the back that you cannot pronounce, it is often a harmful food additive that you really do not need to have in your diet.  

Highly Recommended books on food additives

  Preservatives and additives have a cumulative effect, not everyone gets a reaction from preservatives straight away, and this might happen further down the track and manifest itself in many different ways. Hope this posts shed’s some light into what we are consuming, and what you should be aware of.

To your health and wellness!

– Merwin



Photo Credit: Brothers Le


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