Last week many of you saw my tweets tagged #AntioxidantFacts. This was during a webinar I attend (disclosure: I was compensated as well) with The Motherhood and ConAgra Foods. When they asked if I would like to participate I jumped on the chance because honestly, all of the talk of preservatives and what is and is not good in food still confuses me. I wanted to learn more about the foods I eat and you know I always love to share what I learn with all of you here on my blog.
Antioxidants are a type of preservative
Not all preservatives and antioxidants though. The focus on the webinar I attended, and this blog post, is strictly on antioxidants and how they preserve our foods. There are many other types of preservatives out there but we will talk about that another day.
- Antioxidants help prevent oxygen from damaging other molecules
Our bodies produce antioxidants to help protect our cells, slow the aging process, boost our natural defense system, and help combat heart disease, cancers, and other diseases. Antioxidants are also found naturally in food. Common naturally occurring antioxidants are Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and Citric Acid.
- Antioxidants as preservatives are used in our food to maintain taste, freshness, safety, color preservation, and to reduce food wastes
In a perfect world we would all grow all of our own food and harvest it instantly and cook and prepare it right away. That is not the world we live in though. While I always try to get fresh products for my family, I definitely do use packaged items also. Packaged items are convenient and have a longer shelf life.
- Food companies use both naturally occurring and synthetic antioxidants to preserve food
Sometimes natural antioxidants will impart a taste or odor to foods we are trying to preserve. In these cases companies may use man-made antioxidants like BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and TBHQ (tertiary-butylhydroquinone) instead. The man-made versions are tasteless, colorless and odorless.
- Antioxidants are safe
Both natural and man-made antioxidants are safe. They have been using man-made antioxidants in foods for over 60 years. There are actually studies and continual monitoring on antioxidants to make sure they are safe. One study showed lower cancer rates in people eating food preserved with BHT even because they do have some anti-carcinogenic properties. One thing we also discussed is that science does change and evolve, but currently the food-grade, man-made antioxidants are deemed safe for us.
The webinar was really very interesting and informative. Now for naysayers, I know some of you will say this information was slanted because it was presented by ConAgra Foods. My take on this is that they are providing me information and it is my job to take in that info, look at other resources, and make an informed opinion. This is the way most things in life should be. I know I will not stop buying prepackaged foods for my family and so I like to know what is being done to keep the food safe and tasty. We can find pros and cons about everything in life, it is up to each individual to decide which side of that list is most important to them. Here are some more resources for you to take a look at to help in your own personal decision about this topic.
- US FDA Food Ingredients, Colors, and Additives overview
- Epidemiology study BHA/BHT:
- Antioxidants: Regulatory Status
- JECFA- TBHQ:
- EFSA TBHQ opinion 2004:
- EFSA BHT opinion 2012:
I hope that I was able to share some useful information with you and that you take the time to find out more as needed. Do you have any thoughts about antioxidants, natural or man-made, being used in foods as a preservative?[signoff]
© 2015, Robyn Wright. All rights reserved.