If you haven’t noticed, simple foods are in. These are foods that stick to their roots, aren’t too tampered with, and fuel us with the healthiest hardiest stuff mother nature has to offer. However, many processed foods are loaded with additives — some that aren’t harmful and others that are. So what can you do to eliminate the additives in your diet? The easiest thing to do is to make commonly tampered with foods in your own home, so that you know exactly what’s going into your food. While we don’t have time to cook from dusk until dawn, cooking simple food recipes when you have the chance could greatly reduce the number of additives you and your family are ingesting on a daily basis. Here are some additives to watch out for, and meals you could make that will cut them from your diet:
- Sodium Nitrate: Also known as sodium nitrite, this preservative is commonly found in lunch meats, hot dogs, and bacon and can cause the formation of nitrosamines, or cancer-causing chemicals. This reaction is especially prevalent in bacon. While we don’t expect you to find a hog, wrestle it down, and make some bacon out of it, you can easily make salami, bologna, ham, and roast beef at home for fresher-than-ever deli meat slices. Roast beef is particularly easy to make from home. Buy top sirloin to you don’t have to cook it for long and ask the butcher to tie it for you, recommends Saveur magazine. A low, temperature and slow cooking give the roast beef a uniform pink color. After cooking, just cut and serve!
- Artificial coloring: Condiments, beverages, and many processed foods typically have artificial coloring and these colorful additives are suspected of causing increased hyperactivity in children. The FDA also banned Red Dye number 2 after studies showed that large doses could cause cancer in rats. Avoid blue no. 1, blue no. 2, green no. 3, red no. 40, red no. 3 yellow no. 5, yellow no. 6, orange B. One way you can avoid this additive is by making your own ketchup. All you need is tomato paste, white vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, molasses, and agave nectar to make ketchup with no additives and lower sodium!
- Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Trans Fat): Vegetable oil can be made into a semi-solid shortening when it’s combined with hydrogen. Unfortunately, this process turns fats into trans fats, which promote heart disease. “Harvard School of Public Health researchers estimate that trans fat had been causing about 50,000 premature heart attack deaths annually, making partially hydrogenated oil one of the most harmful ingredients in the food supply,” according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Avoid trans fats by making your own snack foods, like potato chips and cookies. While we all know how to make chocolate chip cookies, you may think that potato chips are a bit trickier. They’re surprisingly easy to make! All you need is a good handheld slicer and you can slice potatoes and toss with oil, then bake until golden brown for about 15 minutes. Salt, pepper, chili powder, or minced herbs can all be added to the mix to make your own, special treat.
- Saccharin: Saccharin (Sweet ’N Low) is about 350 times sweeter than sugar and its used in diet foods as a sugar substitute. Many studies on animals have shown that saccharin can cause cancer of the urinary bladder, according to the CSPI. Saccharin has also caused cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels, and other organs in rodents. Other studies have shown that saccharin increases the potency of other cancer-causing chemicals. All in all: avoid this chemical! While we can’t make sugar at home to avoid products with sweet and low, you should use Stevia if you’re a fan of artificial sweetener.
- Propyl Gallate: Propyl gallate retards the spoilage of fats and oils and is often used with BHA and BHT, because of the combined effects of these preservatives. “The best studies on rats and mice were peppered with suggestions (but not proof) that this preservative might cause cancer,” according to CSPI. To avoid propyl gallate, make your own chicken stock at home. It’s extremely easy and all it takes is a chicken carcass (after you serve a chicken for dinner, keep the bones), onions, celery, bay leaves, and garlic.
Avoid products with these names on the label or make the substitutes at home – your food will be a lot healthier and it’ll probably even taste much better.