Food additives are used everywhere! They’re used to “enhance” the products we consume, but sometimes they replace nutritional value for a cheap and quick fix in flavor and shelf life at the expense of our health. The FDA has labeled these as safe, but not without backlash or concerns from many people, including the scientific community. Here at Nature’s Flavors, we realize this dilemma and Bill The Flavor Guy founded Nature’s Flavors for that very reason: to provide plenty of natural and organic options to ingredients that most people wouldn’t be able to readily find available. We offer both natural and organic because we want people to have options within their spending budgets while maintaining their standards of health.
Here are 9 reasons you should go natural and organic. And we’ll give some healthier alternatives when available, too:
1. Artificial Food Colors
We’ve talked before about Why You Should Avoid Artificial Food Colors. They’re in so many of our foods and 59mg per capita, per day, was certified safe for use by the FDA in 2007. That’s quite a bit of food colors we consume and their possible side effects should be brought into consideration when thinking about just how much we’re consuming. Red #4, Blue #1 and #2, Red #3, Yellow #5 and #6, and Green #3 are just some of the most commonly consumed food colors that are found in the majority of popular drinks and foods. Their effects may range from causing hypersensitivity, to kidney tumors, to adrenal tumors, and some have even been classified as carcinogens.
What can you do?
Avoid consuming too many brightly colored foods. They’re especially prevalent in kids’ drinks, sport drinks, sodas, and desserts.We’ve talked before about Why You Should Avoid Artificial Food Colors. They’re in so many of our foods and 59mg per capita, per day, was certified safe for use by the FDA in 2007. That’s quite a bit of food colors we consume and their possible side effects should be brought into consideration when thinking about just how much we’re consuming. Red #4, Blue #1 and #2, Red #3, Yellow #5 and #6, and Green #3 are just some of the most commonly consumed food colors that are found in the majority of popular drinks and foods. Their effects may range from causing hypersensitivity, to kidney tumors, to adrenal tumors, and some have even been classified as carcinogens.
Natural Food Colors and Organic Food Colors. These bundles of joy are created from real fruit and vegetable extracts, so there’s nothing to worry about. Ever!
2. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are commonly used artificial sweeteners that can be found in many “Sugar-Free” products. These sweeteners are used in place of sugar to make products low-calorie, but are artificially made and have some alarming possible effects. Aspartame is the most popular and used in almost all diet sodas. It’s 200 times sweeter than normal sugar, which is why you might see your cans of diet soda float in water or an ice chest and their non-diet counterparts won’t. Products with saccharin are 300-500 times sweeter than sugar and others with sucralose are about 600 times sweeter than sugar. One study of 6,814 individuals showed that the risk of type 2 diabetes was 67% higher for people who consumed diet soda daily versus those who did not, and were also associated with a 36% greater relative risk of incident Metabolic Syndrome. Like many other things, these things have to be researched more to get a more comprehensive understanding of their effects, but it’s a good choice to be mindful of how much we consume.
What can you do?
Make the switch to naturally occurring, low calorie sweeteners. Sometimes “sugar-free” isn’t the best option, and many people end up eating extra calories elsewhere because of the lower calorie count on those products. They’ve just added extra calories in their diet when they could have had some naturally sweetened drinks (Birdie And Bill’s, anyone?), preferably sweetened with stevia, which has been used for centuries, or just good ol’ cane sugar.
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
We see this everywhere! High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is chemically similar to table sugar: sugar is sucrose which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, whereas HFCS is 45% glucose and 55% fructose. There’s not much difference there, but as another artificial sweetener in a sea of sweetened products, it’s best to try to watch out for it. It makes foods taste better and last longer, which is probably why people can’t seem to put down their sodas or snacks. Consequently, it’s possibly the biggest contributor to obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.
What can you do?
Well, cutting back on sugar is one thing. Like all things, it is important to moderate your intake. Regardless of what type of sugars you consume, even if it’s organic sugar, it’s still not healthy to consume too much. All sugars are non-nutritive, but it’s a normal part of your daily diet. The American Heart Association says that women should take in no more than 100 calories per day and men no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars.
We carry Organic Corn Syrup Replacement made from tapioca. The best alternative for a sweetener that is low in calories and is naturally occurring is stevia, which we supply as Stevia Drops and also in a powdered form. If you can’t seem to put down those sugary drinks, we also have All Natural Flavor Drops For Water which are also made from stevia and are delicious! You can use them in still or sparkling water and we’ve blogged about it before here.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Glutamate is essentially the same compound as glutamic acid, and is the most common form of said acid in our bodies. It’s essential for life, so much so that it’s considered a non-essential amino acid, which means our body generates this acid without ingesting it in food. Bound glutamate refers to glutamate deriving from an unmodified protein source and therefore digested and absorbed slowly. Free glutamate, however, is not bound to those proteins and is absorbed much faster, causing a higher concentration of it in the blood. There have been many claims that it has several adverse reactions, ranging from headaches, migraines, and endocrine disruptions. It’s basically just another form of salt, although with 1/3 of the sodium, it’s still relatively new to us, so studies are up in the air about what real effects it may have.
What can you do?
Watch your sodium intake! Everything from canned vegetables, soups, processed meats, and some fast foods contain some amount of MSG. It makes stuff tastier, so just be wary of things perhaps tasting a little TOO good, you know? If you can’t seem to put something down, maybe it’s wise to take a closer look at what’s going on in the ingredients.
Well, there’s really no alternative to MSG, other than just watching out for the amount that you consume or add to your food. Remember, anything in large quantities can be harmful. However, since the primary function of MSG is to stimulate savory taste buds, you can use soy, meat, fish, poultry, tomatoes, mushrooms, or herbs to add that little extra boost to your products.
5. Potassium Bromate
Potassium bromate is mixed with flour to improve the elasticity and strength of dough. It speeds the process of making bread and gives baked products a white color. Potassium bromate is banned in several countries, except the US. It’s generally agreed that it’s not very good for you. Many studies have concluded that it’s a carcinogen, causing cancer on tested subjects. And it’s also a nephrotoxic to people, which means it causes toxicity in the kidneys.
What can you do?
Cut back on bread whenever you can–it’s a ton of carbs anyways! Read labels and research what ingredients your favorite bakery uses. Many places are happy to provide information on what you might want to know about the ingredients in your food. A smart consumer is a healthy one.
It’s possible to experiment with natural alternatives such as gums, in order to strengthen dough and improve elasticity. Seems like a good experiment for The Flavor Guy to try out if people really want it enough!
6. Sulfur Dioxide (E220)
We know the name doesn’t exactly sound appetizing to begin with, but it’s actually found in plenty of dried foods, vegetables, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages. It’s used as a preservative to make food appear fresher for longer. This one is not entirely bad, unless a person has a sulfite allergy or is asthmatic, as mentioned in this study. A large amount of foods contain this, but only foods that contain 10 ppm (parts per million) are required to have it on the label. Only 1% of Americans have sulfite sensitivity and somewhere between 5%-10% of asthmatics might react to it, but prefer to play it safe and watch out for everyone.
What can you do?
Buying organic brands helps a ton! It’s kind of impossible to avoid this compound, but it’s a good thing to look out for if you or anyone you know is asthmatic or possibly sensitive to it. Dried fruits and other products without this compound won’t last as long, but you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing it’s as fresh as possible, without any additives.
7. Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite
Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are preservatives that can be found in many processed meats. Lunch meats, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, and many other favorites contain these preservatives. They keep meats fresh, preserve their color, and prevent bacterial growth. These compounds are found naturally in (fresh?) vegetables, however, the amount that people ingest has grown through the meats that they eat. High intake of these compounds have been correlated with colorectal cancer because of these chemicals commonly forming nitrosamines.
What can you do?
Eat organic foods! Synthetic nitrates/nitrites are not allowed as preservatives in organic foods and meats. Vitamin C and other vitamins, as well as eating a diet high in antioxidants, can reduce the conversion of these compounds into nitrosamines.
8. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) & Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene (try saying that fast), are preservatives and antioxidants. Most commonly used in products to maintain its fat and oil contents from oxidizing, it preserves the flavor, color, and odors of products. Some animal studies showed a correlation between the use of these chemicals leading to decreased sleeping, slower learning, and decreased orientation reflex in offspring. BHA and BHT are also in the listing of chemicals you should avoid (‘unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk”) and be cautious of (May pose a risk and needs to be better tested) in the Center For Science In The Public Interest’s chemical cuisine guide.
What can you do?
Organic farms don’t use any artificial preservatives, so buying from your local organic provider can be helpful in minimizing the amount of these ingredients that you’d ingest. Watch out for labels that contain BHA and BHT.
9. Trans Fat
Trans fat is considered to be the worst type of fat by most doctors. Some meats and dairy products naturally contain some small amounts of trans fat, but due to industrial processes that add hydrogen to vegetable oils, the majority of trans fats now come from these oils called “partially hydrogenated oil”. Foods that contain less than 0.5mg of trans fat per serving can indicate a “0mg trans fat” on its label, but that may be misleading people to underestimate just how much of it they’re consuming, an issue that the CDC has studied on its affects on consumers. Trans fats have an unhealthy effect on your cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart attacks, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
What can you do?
Many oils are fairly thick, so be wary of how thick an oil is when you’re cooking with it because if it’s thick in your food, it may be even thicker in your arteries. Be wary of how thick an oil may be at your average body temperature of 98.6° F. Partially hydrogenated oils are mostly found in baked goods, snacks, and treats. Cut down on consumption of fried foods and ready-made frosting, doughs, and non-dairy creamers.
Coconut oil is slightly healthier than partially hydrogenated oil because although it still increases the “bad” cholesterol, it also does a good job of raising “good” cholesterol. However, we do have a nice range of natural and organic cooking oils that can fit any need, including: Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Canola Oil, and Avocado Oil.
The Bottom Line
Our current food processing methods and ingredients leave many people in constant uncertainty of what to consume. Don’t be afraid of what’s out there, just be mindful that your body requires nutrients. A lot of products use “fillers” to compensate for what they lack in taste or texture, and preservatives to make them last longer for travel. It’s the current predicament of what is required in order to sustain our food necessities, but with natural and organic ingredients at home by Nature’s Flavors, there’s always something healthy to fall back on.
So… what can we do with all these ingredients in our daily diet?
When foods out there contain stuff like MSG that make it tastier, added sugars that enhance the product even more, and then preservatives and food colors are added, it’s hard to tell just how healthy anything is when there’s just SO many artificial ingredients! That’s why Nature’s Flavors exists–that’s why we’re informing you on all these products. Not to be fearful of what’s out there, but to make better informed decisions on what you consume on a daily basis. Read the your labels carefully, and take note of what ingredients are in your food. You are what you eat, and we don’t always have time to make a home cooked meal, but when you do, you’ll be certain of everything that’s going in it is natural and healthy for your family. It doesn’t stop at just your kitchen either. We supply to chefs and bakers who want to guarantee natural and organic products to their customers, so be sure to keep an eye out for places near you that offer tasty treats and meals that are free of artificial ingredients.
Tag us on your flavor related adventures! #naturesflavors
Oh, and read your labels!
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