Many individuals attempting to survive 2020’s insanity are looking to food storage as a way to weather the grocery rationing and food shortages. While toilet paper needs little in the way of preservatives to keep fresh, foods don’t sit on shelfs for weeks and months without a little help in the preserving department. This year we took the time to can some organic peaches and pears, which employs old-fashioned time-tested methods. While this approach offers months of fruit, the world of processed and grocery store food looks to other means of preventing food spoilage while it sits on the shelves of stores.
The heat of canning fruits uses heat to destroy any microbes and any enzymes which might degrade food before sealing it off from the outside world. Food processing on the other hand uses chemicals to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and the progress of ripening. These chemicals include sulfites, propionates, benzoates, nitrates, antioxidants, and acids. These fall into 3 general groups: microbial growth blockers, antioxidants, and enzymatic blockers.
Microbial growth blockers include sulfites, propionates, benzoates, and nitrates. Sulfur dioxide as a sulfite, blocks the normal functioning of the microbial cells so they can’t grow in the food. Dried fruits often contain sulfites as do some vinegars and fruit juices. Some individuals have to avoid these foods however due to allergies or sensitivities to this preservative.
Propionates are often added to bakery products but are naturally found in grains, cheese, strawberries, and apples. They can prevent the growth of mold as do another short chain fatty acid, benzoate. Benzoates are found naturally in a number of foods like cranberries and often show up elevated in organic acid tests due to these dietary intakes.
Nitrates are another additive best known in meats to block botulism from occurring. They are effective in carrying out this function, yet when they chemically bond amino acids in the meat, they form nitrosamines. These nitrosamines are associated with cancer, but the food industry claims these are not high enough in processed meats to be a concern.
While we encourage our patients to focus on antioxidants in their bodies, the food industry adds antioxidants to fatty foods. Fats with unsaturated chains like omega 3’s, omega 9’s, and omega 6’s will oxidize over time and develop that rancid smell and taste. Antioxidants aim to prevent that rancidity.
The last group of preservatives block enzymes found naturally in fruits and veggies which are leading to natural ripening. When you see your apples turning brown, you are seeing this process. Natural acids like citric and ascorbic prevent this browning by lowering the pH (more acidic) and blocking the enzymes.
While the food industry searches for more ways to lengthen shelf life, we can keep sealing up sterilized fruit in jars as well as running some through the dehydrator to make dried fruit. During the seasons of different fruits we can also just enjoy a whole food diet by eating fresh fruit and veggies. If we must resort to additives, we at least need to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies, saying yes to some additives and no to others. Just because a chemist working for the food industry says it is safe does not mean we should fill our shelves or our stomach with it. Living a healthier more abundant life in 2020 and beyond requires discernment.
Thanks to Science Daily
American Chemical Society. “Focusing On Preservatives: How They Keep Food Fresh.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021113070827.htm
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.