Top Five Food Preservatives to Avoid

These are the most common Additives and Food Preservatives to avoid, that are found in foods we consume frequently. I have developed a comprehensive “Nasty List” of unnatural ingredients to avoid but have developed this short list as a starting point as you begin your journey to wholesome eating and a long life.

  1. Sodium Nitrite
    • Where found: In cured and canned meats and used to extend the shelf life of meat. Often found in the deli. Assume that deli meats are cured.
    • Problem: Has been linked to cancer of the stomach, esophagus, pancreas and large bowel. In addition it has been shown to increase rates of Type 2 diabetes.
    • Better Choices: Fresh fish and fresh meat. These are meats that will spoil in 7-10 days in the refrigerator if you don’t freeze them. Freezing is an option that does not add unhealthy chemicals.
    • Bottom Line: Eat fresh foods and avoid all processed meats when possible.
    • Blog Posts:Are Hot Dogs healthy?” “The Nasty List

  3. Sodium Metabisulfite
    • Where found: In wine and dried fruit used primarily to extend the shelf life of these products.
    • Problem: Has been linked to brain damage in rats. We share a very similar genetic makeup with rats. We want to keep as many brain cells as possible healthy. Wine sales people will tell you that sulfites occur naturally in wine and not to be concerned about sodium metabisulfite. Sodium metabisulfite does not occur naturally in wine. Avoid sulfites especially for you children.
    • Better Choices: Fresh fruit and organic wines that do not have sulfites added. Wash your fresh fruits well and enjoy! When consuming wine, drink in moderation.
    • Bottom Line: Enjoy wine and fresh fruit without the potential added risks of sodium metabisulfite.
      Blog Post:Like Sriracha sauce? Think again!

  5. Sodium Benzoate
    • Where found: In salad dressings, soy sauce and soda.
    • Problem: Has been linked to DNA damage in white blood cells.
    • Better Choices: Many sodas and salad dressings are now available that do not contain sodium benzoate. Newman’s Own Salad dressings are one choice that includes only natural ingredients. If you are going to have soda pick one without sodium benzoate.
    • Bottom Line: Avoid sodium benzoate. There are lots of healthy choices, just need to look for them.
    • Blog Post:Is my diet soda making me fat?

  7. Potassium Sorbate
    • Where found: Has been added to dairy products such as yogurt and margarine spreads.
    • Problem: Has been linked to DNA damage in white blood cells.
    • Better Choices: Many dairy products are made all natural or organic. Chobani Yogurt is natural and does not use this preservative.
    • Bottom Line: Yogurt doesn’t need potassium sorbate and neither do we. Read labels carefully.
    • Blog Post:What’s in your Yogurt?

  9. BHA, BHT and TBHQ
    • Where found: BHA and BHT are primarily used in cereals as a preservative. TBHQ has been added to vegetable oils, chocolate bars and also used as a corrosion inhibitor in biodiesel.
    • Problem: These preservatives are grouped together because they are all manufactured from coal tar and natural gas, fuels for automobiles and not our bodies. They have been linked to cell damage in human cells and has been shown to enhance tumor growth.
    • Better Choices: Many cereals and chocolates are available without these preservatives. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry products that do not include these preservatives. Many conventional grocery stores are also carrying cereal products without these preservatives as the demand for more natural products continues to increase.
    • Bottom Line: Read labels and pick the most natural cereal and chocolates.
    • Blog Post:What’s in my chocolate bar?” “The fuel you didn’t know you were eating!

This group of five preservatives are the most common offenders in our daily diets and avoiding them is a good place to start on your road to health.

If you have any suggestions or comments please post them here.

Brian Goertz MD