Food Preservatives - Ones to Avoid and Why They are Bad Skip to content
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Why Preservatives in Food Are Bad

Why Preservatives in Food Are Bad

Have you ever thought about why your favorite cereal doesn’t expire for two years? Odds are it’s because of preservatives. Preservatives are used in all sorts of food items that we consume on a daily basis without a second thought. However, you may want to think more about what’s in your food and what preservatives could be doing to your body. 

What Are Preservatives?

Preservatives are chemical compounds that are added to food items to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast that contribute to spoilage. Preservatives are used to extend the shelf life of food items so that they can be used for longer before going bad, thereby reducing waste. These chemicals are found in many of the food items that we eat on a daily basis, especially packaged foods. 

There are both natural preservatives and artificial preservatives. Some examples of naturally-occurring preservatives include salt and sugar. Some examples of man-made preservatives include sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, and butylated hydroxytoluene. 

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Why Are Preservatives Bad?

Preservatives are in all sorts of food items, so they must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Unfortunately, some types of artificial preservatives are associated with problematic health risks, including heart issues, breathing problems, and cancer. 

1. Heart Issues

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States — causing about one in four deaths. The increased use of preservatives in food items may be associated with this public health crisis. This is because preservatives can weaken the heart tissues, making them more susceptible to disease and degeneration. 

2. Breathing Problems

Asthma is another common health condition that affects 25 million Americans. Preservatives are known to cause breathing problems, specifically preservatives like aspartame, sulfites, and benzoates. These substances can also aggravate existing breathing problems and asthma. 

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3. Cancer Risk

Cancer in the United States has become an epidemic that causes nearly 600,000 deaths every year. This number is increasing due in part to the prevalence of carcinogens that are chemicals known to cause cancer. Unfortunately, carcinogens are found in many types of preservatives, including nitrosamines occurring in nitrites and nitrates. 

Which Preservatives to Avoid?

Not all preservatives are created equal, and there are some that are particularly problematic. So when doing your grocery shopping, be on the lookout for these preservatives and make sure to avoid them when possible: 

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): Used to extend shelf life in products like cereals, chips, candy, and cosmetics but have been deemed potentially carcinogenic to humans.
  • Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate: Used to preserve meat, including bacon, ham, hot dogs, and lunch meat but may come with an increased risk of cancer after converting to nitrosamine.
  • High fructose corn syrup: Used as a preservative and an artificial sweetener in sodas, breads, canned vegetables, soups, and condiments but can lead to diabetes, insulin resistance, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Trans fat or hydrogenated vegetable oil: Also known as shortening or partially hydrogenated soy, palm, or corn oil, it’s used to extend the shelf life of products like margarine, chips, crackers, and baked goods. However, it can increase your cholesterol levels — contributing to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and strokes. 

Are Preservatives Really Necessary?

Based on the aforementioned risks, you’re likely wondering if it’s even necessary to take these risks by using and consuming preservatives. When considering the necessity of preservatives, it’s important to weigh both the risks and benefits in addition to potential alternatives. 

Preservatives can help prevent food spoilage and sicknesses that are associated with food spoilage including food poisoning, norovirus, escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella poisoning, and botulism. At the same time, you are now aware that they can also contribute to heart issues, breathing problems, and even cancer. 

There has to be a better way to protect our food without potentially harming our health, and thankfully, there are healthier alternatives to preservatives to consider. 

What Are the Alternatives to Preservatives?

While preservatives are certainly useful when it comes to extending the shelf life of food items, there are alternatives that aren’t quite so problematic, including refrigeration, deep freezing, and drying. Here’s what you need to know about each of these methods to preserve your foods in a healthier way: 

1. Refrigeration

Refrigeration can help preserve food items so long as they are kept below a temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit. However, refrigeration might not be ideal for foods with high water content as it would not completely destroy microbes. 

2. Deep Freezing

Deep freezing can help preserve food items by keeping them below a temperature of -1 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a particularly effective preservation method in almost all food items except for uncooked fruits and vegetables due to enzyme activity. 

3. Drying

Drying food items in the sun and wind is another effective method of preservation that has been practiced for centuries. Proper drying can prevent the growth of microbes in food items that lead to spoilage. 

Bougie Bakes: Preservative-Free Desserts

Making the decision to ditch problematic and artificial preservatives in favor of natural and healthy versions might not be easy. After all, preservatives are likely found in some of your favorite foods! The good news is that you don’t have to go without your favorite foods and sweet treats thanks to brands like Bougie Bakes

Bougie Bakes doesn’t add any preservatives to our healthy desserts. Instead, we recommend refrigeration to extend the shelf life of our no-bake cookies, brownies, and muffins. Our bakes are also gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free — making them an overall healthier alternative to fatty and sugary desserts filled with preservatives. 

We even have vegan-friendly options that are totally free of animal-derived products. Speaking of animals, we also have healthy treats for (wo)man’s best friend that are, of course, free of the preservatives that can harm them too! 

So choose the best desserts for both you and your pooch with Bougie Bakes! 


What Are 'Preservatives'? | Healthy Food Guide

Harmful Effects of Preservatives on Your Health | Kent Health Care

Harmful Effects of Preservatives in Foods |

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