Prior to attending a blogger Q&A educational session with ConAgra Foods, I assumed preservatives added to food were not healthy, unnecessary and only used to prolong shelf life. I wanted to present some of the information ConAgra Foods scientists and nutritionalists shared about preservatives such as antioxidants and why they are necessary.
Why Do We Preserve Food?
- Natural color preservation
- Food waste reduction
Food can be preserved by canning, freezing and sometimes even putting it inside the refrigerator. Ingredients can also be added to every day packaged foods to help preserve them.
We have all used our refrigerators and/or freezers to preserve the life of our foods. I am also familiar with the canning method since my mom always canned vegetables and fruits as well as homemade sauces and jellies.
What types of foods contain preservatives?
Any food product that contains a fat or oil will typically have an antioxidant added either to the starting batter oil or to the end food product. Things like microwaved popcorn, cookies, and cereal products all would contain antioxidants.
What is an antioxidant?
Antioxidants help prevent oxygen from damaging other molecules. Antioxidants function in the body to help protect cells, and they function in foods to protect oils from damage that leads to rancidity.
Antioxidants in Food
Like the vitamins in your body, certain foods contain natural antioxidants, such as polyphenols; some foods may also contain man made antioxidants
When you open a box of food, the exposure to air can cause certain ingredients that are common in our food, like fats and oils, to spoil; the unpleasant odors and flavors that follow are sometimes called “rancidity”
Food benefits of antioxidants:
- Prevent food from becoming rancid (spoiling), and therefore wasted
- Preserve food’s flavors
- Help preserve natural color in food
Natural Versus Man Made Antioxidants
- Man made antioxidants, like BHT and TBHQ, are used because sometimes natural antioxidants throw off flavors of foods we know and love, or because a certain antioxidant might perform best with a certain food
- One type is used over another based on performance – for example TBHQ is often used in fryer oils as it is more stable at higher temperatures than BHT, thus preserving these foods more effectively
- Natural and man made antioxidants are sometimes used together in our favorite foods
- Food makers, like ConAgra Foods, choose certain preservative ingredients based on what they know will deliver the best flavor, while keeping your foods safe and fresh
If there are natural antioxidants available, what is the need for man-made antioxidants?
Natural antioxidants often times impart a flavor, a taste or even an odor to foods, so they are not always the best choice for us if we want to maintain the high quality of flavors that our consumers love. So we look to man-made antioxidants that are tasteless and colorless and odorless at the low levels used in food to maintain those flavors.
I encourage you to watch this video and learn more, Mental Floss, “6 Facts About Preservatives”.
In summary, ConAgra left us with the following information. “Whether man-made or natural, all antioxidants, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, are safe for your food and for your body. Ultimately, these antioxidants help you and your family enjoy the foods that you love without having to compromise on taste or quality.”
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for ConAgra Foods and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.