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It’s a common belief that eating preservative-free foods will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as prevent potential diseases. While it may seem easy to grab fast food whenever possible, such choices can have a negative impact on your overall health. Food preservatives were initially designed to keep mass-produced foods fresh, but over time it has been determined that some of them are actually more harmful than good.

The Food Industry

It’s important to understand just how the food industry operates. Companies that produce and market food make their products appear desirable, even if that means presenting the product in a dishonest light. Be aware of these marketing tricks and don’t rely on advertisements alone to make your food choices. Knowing exactly what’s in a specific product goes beyond believing the packaging’s large text!

Good Preservatives vs. Bad Preservatives

In order to make healthy food choices, learn how to differentiate between good and bad preservatives. Not every preservative is created equal! Some are important and necessary to both your health and the health of the food. For example, if bread didn’t contain preservatives, it would get mold very quickly. Even some healthy organic foods are packaged with preservatives.

On the other hand, artificial food coloring, nitrites, nitrates and sulfites are often used as preservatives. Not only can these additions cause severe allergic reactions, but they can also increase your risk of cancer. Certain “bad” preservatives can increase your risk for problems with your kidneys, liver or digestive tract; cardiovascular disease; and even behavioral changes.

Choosing Foods with Safe Preservatives

Good-for-you preservatives aren’t known to cause allergic reactions or bad health consequences. Look for foods that contain Vitamin C, citric acid, sodium benzoate, benzoic acid and sorbates. Not only will these preservatives not pose a risk, but they can also make you healthier.

Get Rid of Bad Preservatives

Rid your diet of foods that contain “bad” food preservatives. These include BHA, BHT, sulfites and sodium Nitrate. Sulfites are found in juice concentrates and wine. They can also be sprayed onto meats, salads and dried fruit. Parabens, benzoic acid and synthetic antioxidants are used to keep certain foods from spoiling, but they can lead to asthma and other health issues. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, has negative physical effects such as headaches or tightening of the chest or face. Food colorings are another type of preservative and they serve no purpose other than improving the aesthetic of foods. Coloring can result in hives or other allergic reactions, particularly in kids. Always read food labels before making a purchase.

Shopping Tips

Shop at farmer’s markets whenever you can. If the seller is present, ask him or her what additives were used on the food, if any. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often preservative-free. At the supermarket, purchase the freshest foods available. If a food has been packaged or shipped, odds are it may contain preservatives so it’s important to read the labels to determine the true ingredients. Shopping at local markets where food is truly fresh can help you steer clear of preservatives. Fresh milk, meat and seafood is often preservative-free.

“Jennifer Fox is a nutrition consultant. She enjoys writing about her insights on various health and lifestyle topics. Learn more about a Skinny Limits 3 day juice cleanse.”