Additives Free Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
About an additives free diet
We’ve heard about the bad rap on food additives, so why have them in the first place? If we didn’t have them, processed foods would look bland, taste unappetising and go stale quickly, possibly resulting in food poisoning. They are there for a reason – to keep products fresh for an extended time, look better, and taste more palatable.
But! Additives must be passed by various regulatory bodies, depending on the country. Like pharmaceutical drug safety testing, most additives are tested as individual units – whereas they are rarely used solely in a product and instead are mixed with other co-additives. This means that the resulting combination, or cocktail of additives, is only tested by us eating or drinking them.
In other words, we are the ‘guinea pigs’ for these additive blends. And, one country may call an additive toxic and ban it’s use, but it is still readily available in other countries.
Additives and processed food generally go hand in hand, so you rarely get one without the other.
The easiest way to avoid additives is to simply eat fresh produce and only lightly processed foods such as frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes (but check the labels).
Generally, because of a poor ‘western’ diet, children are the most easily affected by additives because of their little growing bodies. Yet there are various dietary regimes that avoid additives as part of a healthy diet plan which have been very successful for children with ADD, ADHD, ASD, food allergies and intolerances.
Many parents have claimed a complete cure of their children’s problems including behavioural issues, migraines, tummy aches, attention issues, and many other health complaints, simply by avoiding food additives.
There are so many additives that can have potentially damaging effects on the human body, which you can see on additives lists on the internet. Our delicate bodies were not designed to deal with these daily.
An Additives Free Diet should be rich in vital nutrients and devoid of harmful additives to help your body to heal and increase vitality. For this reason, apart from an additive free diet, I also recommend going gluten and dairy free. It’s worth it!
Types of Additives
Generally, additives fall into the following categories:
- Acids (to stabilise pH)
- Antioxidants (to help stop discolouring)
- Colours (to make it look better)
- Emulsifiers (to blend or mix substances together)
- Flavouring agents (to make it taste better)
- Gelling, thickening and stabilizing agents (so it sets)
- Preservatives (to make it last longer)
- Sweeteners (so it tastes sweet)
Dangers of additives
There have been many studies done on additives, mainly with animals like rats, mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs. Studies have also been done on groups of children and adults. Discoveries revealed:
- Asthma and allergic reactions associated with sulfites and nitrites which prevent discoloration in meat such as bacon and ham etc are considered one of the worst additives used in our food.
- Bowel cancer in humans (not just lab animals) is now implicated with additives such as nitrates and nitrites. Other bowel symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea are very common.
- Hyperactivity (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children has been linked to additives and studies show that when these additives are removed, symptoms often clear.
- Headaches and migraines are common side effects of the consumption of food containing the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG – 621).
- Neurologic problems, such as epilepsy have been linked to the additive aspartame.
….and the list goes on.
Food additives coding
You have probably noticed that many food additives have numbers allocated to them. The food coding system for additives was developed in Europe and many additives have the prefix ‘E’ such as E223, which indicate that these food additives were approved in Europe to use in food. Some countries may use the same additive, but not the prefix. In Australia, the same additive is called 223. Some additives have been approved for use in New Zealand and Australia, such as additive 103, but because it hasn’t been approved safe to use in Europe, it doesn’t have an ‘E’ number.
Safe food additives
There really is no additive that suits everyone because some people are sensitive to almost anything. But the following additives are generally recognised as safe alternatives, compared to those that are not safe. The safe list is much shorter than those that are not safe or best avoided (which would be many pages long and can be difficult to follow).
Having said that, it is preferable to make foods from scratch so you avoid any hidden food additives not listed (see the note below on the 5% loophole).
Here are acceptable additives…
- Betacarotene (vitamin) yellow colour – code 160a
- Riboflavin (B vitamin) yellow colour – code 101
- Calcium carbonate (mineral) white colour – code 170
- Iron oxides (minerals) yellow, red and black colours – code 172
- Saffron (spice) – code 164 (beware if you have a salicylate sensitivity)
- Beet/beetroot (vegetable) red colour – code 162
- Anthocyanins (from algae and fish) red, blue & violet colours – code 163
- Curcurmin (turmeric spice) yellow colour – code 100
- Chlorophyll (plant pigment) green colour – code 140
- Ascorbates (Vitamin C forms) – codes 300-304
- Calcium sulphate (mineral preservative) – code 516
- Salt has long been used as an effective preservative for generations
- Tocopherols (vitamin) – codes 306-309
- Best flavour enhancers considered safe are substances like salt and vanilla
The 5% loophole
Believe it or not, if an additive is less than 5% of a product and doesn’t have a ‘direct’ role in the product, then the company does not have to list the additive. That’s scary!
Additives can be found on liners of cardboard packets (e.g. cereal boxes). Some tin cans or ‘tetra’ packs use liners which contain chemicals to stop the product from leaking out or being discoloured. There are chemicals that leach from some plastic bottles and containers.
These substances can still leach into the food or drink we consume and harm our sensitive bodies. That’s why making your own healthy food from scratch is so important for good health.
Before you commence a new diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.