About a year ago, I began doing a lot of research about foods and how they affect the health of my family and me. I have never been one to follow the leader when it comes to anything in my life, and what I eat wasn’t any different. One of the subjects I kept running across was about antioxidants and preservatives and how they impact the food we eat. I will admit, I was completely clueless and was eager to find out as much about them as I could. I recently participated in a briefing hosted by ConAgra Foods with The Motherhood to learn more about antioxidants and preservatives.
Here are some really interesting facts about antioxidants and preservatives you may not know:
1. An antioxidant helps prevent oxygen from damaging other molecules. In your body, they help protect cells, slows the aging process, boosts your body’s natural defense system fend off environmental toxins and stress, keeping us healthier. In foods, they protect oils from damage that can cause them to spoil.
2. Either man-made or natural, when you consume antioxidants as part of a balanced diet, they are totally safe for your food and for your body. Actually, antioxidants help you and your family enjoy the foods you love without compromising on taste or quality.
3. Preserving foods helps make them taste better, they are safer, they are fresher, their natural color is maintained and you reduce their food waste. You can preserve food by canning or freezing them or even putting them in the fridge. Packaged food you eat every day may have ingredients added to help preserve them.
4. Some antioxidants naturally found in food are Vitamin E, which is found in nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables and Vitamin C, which you can find in citrus fruits. Sometimes it is also called sodium ascorbate, which saves breads and packaged meat from spoiling. Citric Acid is found naturally in citrus fruits and is used to preserve sliced fruit.
5. Some antioxidants are man-made like BHT, which is a tasteless, colorless antioxidant which maintains freshness in grain-based foods like crackers and cookies. TBHQ is also tasteless and colorless and is commonly used to keep vegetable oils and other packaged foods fresh.
6. Food makers, like ConAgra Foods for example, chooses certain preservative ingredients based on what they know will deliver the best flavor, while keeping your foods safe and fresh.
7. A common misconception among consumers when it comes to preservatives in foods is that people think they are harmful or unnecessary. Actually, the opposite can be true. Preservatives such as antioxidants are necessary to reduce off-taste and odors in foods caused by breakdown of cells, fats and oils.
8. Some people are not sure why there is a need for man-made antioxidants if natural antioxidants are available. The reason for this is because natural antioxidants can add a flavor, taste or odor to our foods. To maintain a high quality in our foods, man-made antioxidants are used because they are tasteless, colorless and odorless.
9. Examples of packaged foods that use antioxidants as preservatives would be any food product that contains a fat or oil like microwaved popcorn, cookies, and cereal products. You may be surprised to know that there is actually no difference chemically in a naturally produced antioxidants.
10. These natural and man-made preservatives and antioxidants are completely safe. A great analogy from Kristi, an AgraCon employee is when thinking about the water in a puddle. Water causes drowning, but if you are standing in a puddle, you are not going to drown!
Simply said, whether man-made or natural, antioxidants are used to preserve the flavor, color, and improve the shelf-life of foods. Both are evaluated for their safe use in food by scientific experts trained to understand the impact on human health. Both function to reduce rancidity in food by preventing the breakdown of fats and oils (and other compounds). Both must be used at low levels in accordance with regulatory guidelines and safety thresholds. Both must be “food grade” so as not to introduce hazardous by-products or impurities in foods. Both benefit you and your family by providing food of high quality and flavor, so that you may enjoy the foods that you love!
Check out this video from mental_floss that helps explain 6 facts about antioxidants and preservatives!