Yes! Calories decide if you gain weight or lose weight. But does that mean you can eat processed/packaged food all the time and manage the calories (i.e calorie intake not more than the calories spent) and expect to stay healthy? Well Not really!! Let us explain to you something called – “Food Additives”
Food additives are substances that are added to food for preserving taste, flavor, add colour, texture, increase shelf life etc. Salt, spices etc are in fact additives!
There are also additives such as Mono-Sodium Glutamate (Ajinomoto), Sodium Nitrite, Carrageenan, Sodium Benzoate, Transfat etc that are used more commonly used in packaged food items. Most of the time, they are added to increase the shelf-life, improve taste and texture etc. Most of the additives are generally regards as safe to consume. However, an excessive amount of such chemicals can cause adverse health issues. These additives are assigned a unique number called, E-Number as per the EU Food regulations, to monitor its usage and regulate it.
One of the most common additives, Ajinomoto (E621) is added to packaged soups, processed meat, frozen meat etc to add umami flavour. An excessive amount of this worsens hypertension, heart ailments etc. Sodium nitrite (E251) is yet another common additive seen in processed meats and is added to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and also to give the reddish-pink colour to the meat. This, when exposed to high heat in the presence of protein (amino acids), can convert into a harmful compound called nitrosamine. This compound is linked to a higher risk of several types of cancer
Sodium Benzoate (E211), yet another common additive to inhibit micro-organism growth is added to condiments, pickle, juices, carbonated drinks etc. E221, if combined with vitamin C, may convert to benzene, a compound that may be associated with cancer development
In a nutshell, there are a plethora of food additives used – many of them we have not even listed them down. Most of these food additives are generally regarded as safe in small quantities. However, continuous intake of such additives can cause grave health issues. It is always best to reduce the amount of packaged and processed food. Also, lets start reading the ingredient labels of our favorite foods to understand what kind of stuff is added to them and its health implications