When buying food of your children, make it a habit to always read the labels. Be wary of certain ingredients and additives that are known to be harmful to health.
Food additives are natural or artificial chemicals that are added to food to maintain or improve freshness and quality and enhance appearance, texture, smell, and taste.
For instance, food colors are added to make food more appealing. Flavors, sweeteners, and acid improve the taste. Thick viscous gums are used to modulate the texture and consistency of water-based foods. Emulsifiers give food like ice cream and mayonnaise that smooth texture.[pq]There are over 3,000 known (food) additives that have different effects on different people.[/pq]
One individual can react to just a few milligrams, while another may take in twice the amount and not experience anything at all.
Also, they tend to accumulate in the body. The body’s reactions to them build over time, sometimes making it almost impossible to link them with the onset of adverse symptoms. In many cases, symptoms include headaches, irritability, or difficulty in sleeping.
Here are some additives you need to pay attention to:
Potassium nitrate, also known as saltpeter. It provides a vibrant red color to meat. Excess potassium nitrate can cause cyanosis, a disease where the normal red blood cells are oxidized and deprived of oxygen. Nitrates are also believed to cause cancer. Once they combine with amines or amides found in the body or in protein-rich foods, they form nitrosamines, chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Potassium bromate. It is used in baking to increase the volume of bread. Bromates may cause cancer, although most usually break down into harmless bromide. That’s why in many countries, potassium bromate is banned. Having too much bromate in the system can also lead to poisoning of the kidneys, abnormally low blood pressure, and lack of potassium in the blood. When buying bread, look for one that’s bromate-free.
Tortrazine. It is used to give powdered juices, ice cream, and snacks a yellow color. Tartrazine can induce asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
Monosodium glutamate. It enhances flavors in food and condiments. MSG has been known to cause palpitations, headaches, and migraines in some people. In commercially prepared food, MSG may be hidden under “flavorings” in the label.
Sudan I, Sudan ll, Sudan 111, and Scarlet Red (Sudan IV). They give chillis and curry powders a more intense red. These are classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization.
Blue 1, blue 2, green 3, red 3 and other food colorings. Laboratory tests suggest that some food colorings may be carcinogenic. While the studies are not conclusive, it is best to practice avoidance or moderation.
Acesulfome potassium and saccharin. They are artificial sweeteners used mostly in drinks. Both have been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Although saccharin and acesulfame are not banned, minimizing or avoiding their intake is strongly advised.
What can you do to protect your child?
– Be critical when buying processed or packaged food, as many of them contain lots of additives. Always read food labels.
– Instead of buying canned goods and commercially prepared food, do some home cooking. Make sure your child drinks lots of water to help the body flush out toxins and chemicals.
– If your child craves for foods loaded with preservatives, offer him a healthier alternative.