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Are all food additives bad for you?

If you grew up eating commercially-popular breakfast cereals with clever and cute highly-marketable mascots, chances are you ingested butylated hydroxytoluene. Better known as BHT, it’s a synthetic antioxidant designed to slow the spoilage of fats and oils.

While eating a diet rich in antioxidants is critical to good health, avoiding synthetic ingredients is equally important, even if the synthetic material is an antioxidant. Foods are meant to spoil; eating foods with synthetic additives are usually harmful.  In the case of BHT, several studies have concluded that it is carcinogenic.

Dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, and health coaches preach the cardinal rule of healthy eating: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

While this is usually good advice to follow, it might be a bit too simplistic. Could it be that some foods contain additives that are beneficial to health?

Food additives to avoid

Maybe a better rule to follow would be that a certain food should at most have a handful of ingredients. Chances are high that a packaged food that has a long list of ingredients contains potentially-harmful preservatives and additives. Some of the more ubiquitous additives to avoid include:

  • --MSG (monosodium glutamate)

  • --High fructose corn syrup

  • --Partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils or shortening

  • --Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate

  • --Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners

  • --Benzoates such as sodium benzoate

  • --Food colorings such as Red 40

Food additives to fear not

Vitamin D, better known as the sunshine vitamin, acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. We have vitamin D receptor cells throughout our body. In order for our cells to utilize the active form of D, we need to expose our bodies to direct sunlight and ideally eat foods that naturally contain D. 

There are two problems with getting enough D. First, even if you get plenty of sunshine by going for walks everyday, if you live in an area that receives relatively weak ultraviolet sunlight in the winter, your blood levels of D will likely fall in the cold months. In the U.S., if you live north of the 37th parallel--running from roughly Santa Cruz, CA to the Four Corners region through Kentucky and Newport News, Virginia--you’d be wise to eat foods rich in Vitamin D, which brings us to the second problem….

There are relatively few foods that are naturally rich in D (cold water fish such as salmon, shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks are the main natural sources) and even if you consume them regularly and in large quantities, you still may have low levels of D in your blood (get a blood test from your doctor to have your level tested) if you live north of the 37th.

In addition to being known as the sunshine vitamin, D is also known as the mood vitamin. Having adequate levels (consensus recommendations call for serum levels around 60) can ward off depression.  

Foods that contain Vitamin D additives, therefore, can be beneficial for your health.

Vitamin D also helps transport calcium throughout the body.

Speaking of calcium, your favorite noodle substitute contains it

Zero-calorie and zero-carbohydrate Miracle Noodle products contain calcium hydroxide. And though ‘hydroxide’ isn't all that difficult to pronounce, thus not going against the golden rule of nutrition, if you can't pronounce it don't eat it, some may question whether calcium hydroxide is safe.

If “limewater” sounds safe to you, that’s essentially what calcium hydroxide is. Miracle Noodle is 97% water and 3% fiber with a trace amount of calcium hydroxide to firm up Miracle Noodle. Food-grade calcium hydroxide is safe for human consumption and been used in traditional cultures for hundreds of years.  In Mexico, it was traditionally used to soak corn to make it more digestible.   It provides texture to Miracle Noodle so that you can eat as much as you want without the calories or heavy bloat that’s associated with regular noodles.

Vitamin E and C additives

Alpha- beta- delta- or gamma-tocopherol might be difficult to pronounce but it’s more commonly known as Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, playing a vital part in the health of our immune system, helping protect red blood cells. Beware of processed foods with tocopherols, though, as the vitamin E may be rancid.

Vitamin C is perhaps the most well-known antioxidant, abundant naturally in citrus fruits. Citric acid is sometimes added to certain foods. Though it’s much better to eat natural foods, citric acid is far safer and beneficial for your health than the dangerous additives mentioned earlier.

Dozens of additives in organic food

Though it’s best to eat organic food as much as possible, even organic food may contain additives. In fact, the European Union, which is generally regarded as more stringent than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines, allows almost four dozen additives in organic foods.

While that may sound like a lot, consider that there are thousands allowed in conventional foods. So don’t panic, even if it’s organic. Use common sense. If there are only a few ingredients at most in a packaged food, it’s probably healthy; if there is a paragraph-long list of ingredients, avoid it as if it were a bottle of poison.

Most Miracle Noodle products contain four ingredients: water, a Japanese flour called ‘konnyaku’, calcium hydroxide and beta carotene, another healthy additive, which is a precursor to Vitamin A, essential for healthy skin and immune system.

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