Add – and sub­tract

Some of the most com­mon ad­di­tives in pro­cessed foods are found in es­pe­cially high con­cen­tra­tions in the food chil­dren eat.

Element - - Natural Parenting - NICKI MACK­IN­NON NU­TRI­TION

We live in an era where there is an abun­dance of food, yet it’s get­ting trick­ier than ever to feed our chil­dren healthy food where there is a bal­ance be­tween calo­rie in­take and nutrient den­sity. We are told to go against our bet­ter judg­ment and trust that be­cause a food ad­di­tive is ap­proved and deemed safe for hu­man con­sump­tion, then we can con­fi­dently feed these foods to our chil­dren.

In an ideal world we would avoid all food ad­di­tives. The re­al­ity is these sneaky lit­tle ad­di­tives find their way into the most in­no­cent foods.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests the ad­di­tives listed be­low are worth avoid­ing al­though re­search has mixed re­sults. These ad­di­tives are ap­proved in New Zealand and can be found in chil­dren’s food.


As­par­tame (951)

Ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­ener. Al­though there is mixed ev­i­dence to sup­port its safety, there are many re­ports of ef­fects on the ner­vous sys­tem, es­pe­cially at higher doses. Be­cause of the un­cer­tainty and the del­i­cate na­ture and devel­op­men­tal stages of a child’s ner­vous sys­tem, this is best avoided.

As­par­tame con­tains the amino acid phenyl­ala­nine. People with the in­her­ited dis­or­der phenylke­tonuria should not use as­par­tame, as there is po­ten­tial for this amino acid to ac­cu­mu­late to dan­ger­ous lev­els.

Found in: Low-calo­rie drinks and con­fec­tionary. Su­gar-free foods, some yo­ghurt and di­a­betic foods. Note: Can be found in chil­dren’s med­i­ca­tion, which in some cases can­not be avoided. Talk to your GP if con­cerned.

Re­place with: It’s best to avoid all ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. Other num­bers to look out for are–Sac­cha­rin (954), Neo­tame (961), As­par­tame Ac­sul­phane Salt (962). Ste­via is mak­ing its way into a lot of prod­ucts that you would of­ten find ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. Ste­via is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sweeter made from the leaves of the plant species Ste­via re­bau­di­ana. It is best used when mixed with other whole food sweet­en­ers for chil­dren.


Tar­trazine (102) and Sun­set Yel­low (110)

Both of these ad­di­tives are used to make food yel­low. Symp­toms of re­ac­tions can be im­me­di­ate, in rare cases ana­phy­lac­tic or, more com­monly, be­hav­ior prob­lems. Both are toxic sub­stances in large doses.

Found in: Some pro­cessed yel­low foods, bev­er­ages and in some med­i­ca­tions.

Re­place with: Look for nat­u­ral colour­ing like Cur­cumin (100) – ex­tracted from turmeric, or Lutein (161b), Kryp­tox­an­thin (161c), which are ex­tracted from but­ter or plant-based foods. Ideally eat­ing whole foods – and avoid­ing colour ad­di­tives – is best.

Ama­ranth (123)

Used as a red food colour­ing. Re­ported in some cases to cause hy­per­ac­tiv­ity in chil­dren, can cause acute re­ac­tions like hives and asthma.

Found in: Some red-coloured pro­cessed foods in­clud­ing some ice creams, lol­lies, jams and fruit juices.

Re­place with: Nat­u­ral food colour­ing Carotene (160a), Pa­prika Ole­o­resins (160 c), Ly­copene (160d). Look for foods free of added colours.

Bril­liant Blue (133)

Used to colour foods bright blue (think of that bright blue tongue chil­dren love to show off af­ter eat­ing cer­tain con­fec­tionary). Some re­ports say it causes hy­per­ac­tiv­ity, al­ler­gic re­ac­tions and, more se­ri­ously, is a car­cino­gen. Found in: Pro­cessed foods, mainly con­fec­tionary. Re­place with: There is no nat­u­ral blue food colour­ing ap­proved in New Zealand which would re­place what this is used for.

Flavours and flavour en­hancers

It can be re­ally tricky un­der­stand­ing flavours added to food. Here’s a quick break­down: Nat­u­ral Flavours: come from nat­u­ral sources like fruits, veg­eta­bles or an­i­mal ori­gins; Nat­u­ral Iden­ti­cal: these are chem­i­cally iden­ti­cal to flavours in na­ture. Ar­ti­fi­cial Flavours: are man-made, mostly of un-nat­u­ral ori­gin. Un­for­tu­nately we have de­vel­oped ad­dic­tions to highly flavoured foods like salty, sweet and umami. This is why flavour en­hancers are added to so many pro­cessed foods.

MSG (621)

Mono Sodium Glu­ta­mate is the most fa­mous flavour en­hancer. Orig­i­nally MSG was made by ex­tract­ing MSG from sea­weed, now it is made by a fer­men­ta­tion process us­ing starches/sug­ars. Some of the com­mon signs of a re­ac­tion to MSG are headaches, dizzi­ness, nau­sea and heart pal­pi­ta­tions. It is im­por­tant for chil­dren to avoid added MSG be­cause of the ad­dic­tion to over stim­u­lat­ing flavours. Of­ten foods with added MSG are of low nu­tri­tion.

Found in: In most savoury pro­cessed foods, some­times even found in plain salted chips or plain rice crack­ers. Noo­dles, ready made meals and sauces.

Re­place with: Watch out for foods that say ‘MSG-free’. Some­times it is re­placed with flavour en­hancer Dis­odium 5’ Ri­bonu­cleotides (635). Use foods nat­u­rally high in glu­ta­mate such as mush­rooms, miso, parme­san cheese and toma­toes to cre­ate a more in­tense flavour with­out teach­ing the taste buds to set the taste ex­plo­sion bench­mark too high.

In con­clu­sion, there are many other ad­di­tives to avoid both for chil­dren and adults alike. The great lit­tle hand­book The Chemical Maze by Bill Statham is very help­ful at ed­u­cat­ing on ad­di­tives and easy to pull out at the su­per­mar­ket, but be warned there will be a few very long su­per­mar­ket trips the first few times you bring it.

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