In a world where fast food successfully rules the ball of our desires, saving ourselves from unconscious food consumption is very difficult. Firstly, there is often not enough time to control products - when you run into a store or a food court of a shopping center after an exhausting day, you are hardly up to asking the question: "Is my stomach worth this potato of unknown origin?" …
However, understanding two things will help to understand this whole cycle of snacks and other tasty "things": manufacturers rely on our receptors and conquer them with the help of flavor and aroma enhancers. Which of them are really harmful, and which can be allowed in your diet - we understand this material.
Where did they go
Even in ancient times, people learned to improve the taste of food with the help of dried and then crushed herbs and fruits. Along with this, our ancestors realized one interesting thing: with the help of certain substances, such as salt or pepper, you can also extend the shelf life of food.
The history of preservatives goes back more than one hundred years. But if earlier they were obtained from the gifts of nature with the help of pressing and extraction, today people have learned to do it artificially, which immediately supplanted the original methods according to the "precepts of the ancestors." Moreover, some of the preservatives obtained in this way simply have no analogues in nature, and for this they are called synthetic.
Despite their daunting name, these supplements make our lives easier and better. Diabetics can enjoy sweets without raising their blood sugar, and food stays in the refrigerator longer and saves them from frequent trips to the grocery stores. It seems, what are the disadvantages here? But they do exist and it is useful to know about them.
Taste enhancers under the plus sign
By no means all nutritional supplements are enemies of modern man. Take glycine (E640), which is successfully used both in the food industry and in pharmacology. Doctors have conducted more than one study and made sure that this representative of the frightening "Yeshek" is not only harmless to health, but also has a positive effect on the digestion process. Most often it occurs in the form of an odorless powdery substance.
There are other examples of "good" supplements, which definitely include the sodium nucleotide (E635), which perfectly replaces salt and its derivatives. Most often presented in the form of colorless crystals or white powder. It is remarkable in that it makes thermally processed foods taste better and does not have any particular harmful properties: except in cases of allergic reaction and excessive consumption, which, as studies have shown, can lead to exacerbation of chronic diseases.
E440 includes the so-called pectins. They are found in large quantities in apples and help cleanse the intestines of toxins. Groups under the numbers E916 and E917 are no less well-known, which enrich the body with iodine (with a deficiency of which urban residents so often face) and calcium. The dye E163 is obtained from the peel of grapes, so it boasts antioxidant properties.
And this is not the whole list of "useful" supplements about which you can stop sounding the alarm by reading their names on the label. So where is the danger lurking?
Additives under the minus sign
Medicine has long known a list of unsafe food additives that should be avoided and products tested for their presence. Among the main ones are: E641, E650 and E637. What is wrong with them?
The so-called L-Leucine has long been considered an extremely beneficial nutritional supplement. This component is especially valuable for athletes: it is a rich source of energy and building material for muscles (read also: "Strength training for women: myths about huge muscles and the truth about health"). It has many beneficial properties, including the activation of serotonin production, strengthening the immune system, and helping the proper development of muscles.
However, the fact is that our body receives a sufficient amount of this substance naturally - with products of plant and animal origin. L-Leucine as a supplement creates a situation of excess consumption, and this already entails a number of negative health consequences. Among them - liver dysfunction, increased risk of neurological diseases, hypoglycemia and much more. That is why you should be especially on the lookout for the E641.
There are still discussions about zinc acetate, but scientists agree that our body does not receive much benefit from this supplement. It is most often used in the production of sweets, chewing gum and similar confectionery. It is known that this substance has an unpleasant property to accumulate in the cells of the body and lead to toxic poisoning. That is why products containing E650 are undesirable during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Ethyl maltop, sweetish in taste, serves as an excellent food stabilizer and aroma enhancer. This additive often appears in the composition of mayonnaise and confectionery, and its harmful effects on the human body have not yet been fully understood. However, precautionary European manufacturers try to avoid it in branded formulations. Relying on the professional flair of the pros, we follow their example.
Monosodium glutamate (E621)
Perhaps one of the most famous and controversial supplements that deserves a separate item on our list. Monosodium glutamate is a sodium salt that looks like regular kitchen salt. The Japanese were the first to use it, obtaining a substance from sugar beets, cane and molasses. In principle, a person can get an adequate amount of monosodium glutamate from these foods. The danger is the abuse of this additive. Its side effects include headaches, palpitations, pain in the chest area, and symptoms of general malaise.
Excessive consumption of monosodium glutamate is associated with visual impairment: numerous laboratory studies in rodents have shown that this substance can accumulate in the vitreous and adversely affect our ability to see.
What to do?
It is definitely not worth giving up your favorite products completely and worrying about the composition of each purchase in the supermarket. But starting to learn more about their beneficial or harmful properties is not only possible, but also necessary. By expanding your knowledge in this area, you can effectively adjust your diet, change your eating habits and, quite possibly, join the rhythm of conscious consumption - systematically and step by step (read also: "Complete Zen: What are mindfulness practices and why do you need them").
Photo: Getty Images
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