24 May 2012
Which would you rather eat – the dried apricot that has a slight tinge of brown, is a little dry and is showing signs of sugar crystals forming on the outside of the fruit… OR … the bright orange one – still vibrant despite the bag being opened months ago, plump and juicy with no signs of sugar crystalization? Most people would choose the latter, and dried fruit companies know this, which is why they add sulphur dioxide routinely to dried fruit.
And so what’s the big deal if they do, if it means a “fresh” prune, a year after it was packaged? Sulphur dioxide is a preservative that is only “safe” because the FDA has deemed that in very small quantities it IS safe (though they do note that for some people it may cause adverse reactions). Sulphur dioxide is actually a highly toxic, poisonous gas (in higher quantities) used as a preservative due to its antimicrobial properties.
If you want to avoid it in fruit either buy organic (which cannot contain it) or look for healthier brands and be sure it’s not listed in the ingredients. Whole Foods for example does not use it in their 365 Brands, even when the fruit is not organic.
It is also used in wine production (which is why you’ll read that wine contains sulphites), and this is where one has to decide which foods they’re willing to consume knowing it has chemicals and where you draw the line. Since it’s almost impossible to find a wine that does NOT contain sulphites (unless its organic) I personally put aside my desire for chemical-free cuisine and drink the wine (happily). With dried fruit, however my chemical sensors are more attuned, I find myself wary of the plump, vibrant orange spheres and now equate dry and discolored with good health.
Here are a few more chemicals often found in food that I try to avoid:
Aspartame, Stevia: Though no conclusive studies have shown they cause harm, they are 100% chemicals. Even Stevia that claims that it “Tastes like sugar because it is made from sugar” is misleading people into thinking people that it IS sugar when it’s not.)
Flavoring: Whether its artificial or “natural”, flavoring is pure chemicals and by definition means that it is NOT the actual food itself
Hydrogenated oils: This kind of oil creates trans fats, and are now largely being removed from most foods that once contained them.
MSG: This is one of the more controversial additives, with many people claiming it causes headaches. Nothing has been proven, but I personally find foods where this is added, to taste quite artificial, so health aside, I see no need for it in ANY food.
Sodium Nitrate: Used largely as a preservative in meats. Look for the nitrate-free brands which often use celery salt which naturally contains sodium nitrate.
Your experience with preservatives? Any you’ve started avoiding?
MichelleCheck out my latest posts here