Eliminating preservatives from your diet can be difficult. They’re present in virtually every type of processed food. The purpose of preservatives is, obviously, to prevent food from spoiling and to reduce the risk of illness due to spoilage. As a secondary benefit, they allow food to retain its flavor for longer.
You may be thinking of following a preservatives free diet because you’ve developed a sensitivity to sulfites, or you could be concerned about recent studies that suggest that some preservatives, like sodium benzoate, may aggravate hyperactivity in children.
By law, preservatives have to be listed on food labels, so your best protection against preservatives is to become a good label reader. Phrases to watch out for are any that include the word “nitrate.” Also watch for sodium ascorbate, ascorbic acid, sorbates or sorbic acid, tocepherols, sulfites and sulfur dioxide. Acronyms are a red flag as well – BHT, BHA, EDTA, etc.
If you buy organic food, that’s one way to avoid preservatives. Also, anything that’s fresh will be preservative-free. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and meats that aren’t processed are all preservative-free. Virtually any convenience foods will contain preservatives, so if you’ve gotten out of the habit of making meals from scratch, think about starting again.
Not all ways of preserving foods require chemical preservatives. If you enjoy working with food, you can make preserved foods at home that don’t contain anything harmful. You can, for example, pickle almost any vegetable – it’s not just cucumbers. Some recipes require salt, but if you’re concerned about consuming too much sodium, there are other recipes that rely on just a solution of vinegar, water, and spices. You can find recipes in books or online.
If you love beef jerky, but you worry about preservatives in the store-bought kind, you can make your own. All you need is a food dehydrator. You’re not limited to beef, either – try turkey!
A food dehydrator can also be great for drying vegetables, and you’ll find that when you reconstitute them in a delicious stew, they’ll have the same flavor as fresh. Some veggies require blanching, but others, like tomatoes and mushrooms, can just be sliced up or even dried whole.
Following a preservative free diet offers many health benefits. If you’re willing to forego processed foods, you can easily eliminate preservatives from your diet.