Why is staying away from preservatives so important? Wouldn't they keep us from looking older?

Preservatives are substances added to foods to help improve the food’s appearance, reduce spoiling, or to assist in maintaining the food’s nutritional quality. Some preservatives come from natural sources like vinegar, salt, sugar, and citrus juice. Other preservatives are synthetic or human made. Many processed or packaged foods contain preservatives. Examples include: crackers, cereals, breads, ready-to-eat meals, snacks, deli meats, sauces, yogurt, cheese, and soup.

It’s true. Preservatives may help extend a food’s shelf life, but as a dietitian, I don’t necessarily want my patients consuming too many preservatives. People that eat high amounts of processed foods may be consuming way too much sugar and salt. Added sugar can increase the calorie amount of many foods and both may increase risk of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Synthetic or human made preservatives (like natural preservatives) may be safe in small quantities but some studies suggest that certain preservatives like benzoic acid may increase hyperactivity in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

As a general rule of thumb, try to reduce the amount of preservatives you consume. Try to choose foods with only a few ingredients. Begin baking your own bread and muffins at home and be sure to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store when you are shopping. There you will find healthier food choices such as lean chicken, low fat dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. Eat at home often, too! Challenge your family to find a few healthy recipes and prepare them together. You will not only make great memories but you will also prepare healthy and delicious food together!

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