Processed foods are everywhere, and most of us have no idea what’s in them. Many of the ingredients in processed foods are toxic and can have negative effects on our health. The food lobby is powerful in America, and they have been successful in preventing the government from getting rid of these harmful chemicals. But there are things we can do to protect ourselves. We can read ingredient labels carefully and avoid anything with a long list of unpronounceable chemicals. We can choose whole, natural foods as often as possible. And we can support organizations like The Environmental Working Group, which is fighting to get these toxic chemicals out of our food supply.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the dangers of processed foods and dyes, and learn how to avoid the harmful chemicals they contain. We’ll also discuss the benefits of choosing whole, natural foods over processed foods.
What Are Food Dyes?
Food dyes are additives that are used to change the color of food. They are typically made from synthetic chemicals and come in a variety of colors. Food dyes are used in a wide variety of processed foods, including candy, snacks, soft drinks, and desserts.
Food dyes can have a number of negative consequences on our health. For example, they have been linked to:
– Allergies and asthma
– Skin rashes and eczema
– Behavioral problems in children
– Negative effects on the nervous system
– Damage to the brain
The Dangers of Processed Foods and Dyes
Ultra-processed foods are packed with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, but that’s not all. They also contain a variety of chemicals to provide taste, long-term shelf stability, texture, and colors. The majority of these “additives” are not found in natural foods and thus our bodies see them as foreign. The reactions to these chemicals range from general inflammation to eczema, negative effects on our nervous system, brain, cancers, and worse. Most countries in Europe have outlawed many of the chemicals placed in our processed foods everyday, but the food lobby is powerful in America and they remain.
Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods now account for more than 67% of total calories consumed by our children, and that number continues to rise. We are a society of convenience and have been seduced by the food companies to buy their cartons of chemicals. Not only have our obesity rates skyrocketed, but our intake of these dangerous chemicals have as well.
Sulphur dioxide and other sulphites are used as preservatives in a wide range of foods, especially soft drinks, sausages, burgers, and dried fruits and vegetables. They have been implicated in asthma and eczema from both ingestion and contact from fruit that has been treated.
Preservatives Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): In studying rats given the preservative BHT, researchers found an increase in immediate skin allergies, linking it to an allergic response that caused a type of white blood cells, known as mast cells, to release the chemicals histamine and leukotrienes. These chemicals caused an allergic response in the skin and an eczema like reaction. Both BHT and BHA have been banned in Europe over concerns of cancer risk.
Benzoic acid and other benzoates are used as food preservatives to prevent yeasts and molds growing, most commonly in soft drinks. They occur naturally in fruit and honey.
Benzoates could make the symptoms of asthma and eczema worse in children who already have these conditions. Additionally their use in cosmetics may cause contact dermatitis.
Tartrazine (yellow food dye) and Other Azo Dyes: In low chronic doses, food colorings can aggravate the skin. It may not always cause an acute or life-threatening allergic reaction, but will constantly aggravate eczema and make it harder to treat. How can eating a yellow lollipop cause such problems? Tartrazine stimulates the production of pro-inflammatory leukotrienes. A randomized study in England also found children who ingested food dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate had significant increase in hyperactivity.
The Influence of the Food Lobby
The food lobby is a powerful group of people that represents the interests of the food industry. They have been successful in preventing the government from getting rid of harmful chemicals in our food supply. Some of these chemicals include:
-Processed food dyes
These chemicals have been linked to a variety of negative health effects, including general inflammation, eczema, negative effects on our nervous system and brain, cancers, and more. But the food lobby is a powerful force and they remain in our food supply.
How to Avoid Harmful Chemicals in Processed Foods
The best way to avoid food dyes is to eat whole, unprocessed foods. However, if you do eat processed foods, be sure to read the ingredients list carefully. Avoid foods that contain food dyes, artificial colors, or color additives. Skin patch testing has been used to evaluate for allergies to many additives with high rates of response in people with eczema. However, skin patch testing is highly unreliable for subtle sensitivities to these chemicals—avoiding them remains the best option. There are several things we can do to avoid harmful chemicals in processed foods:
Read ingredient labels carefully and avoid anything with a long list of unpronounceable chemicals.
Choose whole, natural foods as often as possible.
Support organizations like The Environmental Working Group, who are fighting to get these toxic chemicals out of our food supply.
By following these simple steps, we can reduce our exposure to harmful chemicals in processed foods. There are many benefits to choosing organic, whole, natural foods over processed foods:
-They are lower in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
-They contain no chemicals or artificial flavors.
-They are rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
-They are gentle on our digestive system.
Remember, buying organic also helps you avoid dangerous pesticides and chemicals commonly used in commercial farming. By choosing organic, whole, natural foods over processed foods, we can improve our health and well-being.
I could write an entire novel on food additives alone. As I attempted to navigate this complicated food world to heal my daughter’s skin I was overwhelmed. It took years of fighting with my husband, in-laws, and even my colleagues to elicit a change in our thinking about food. Fast forward 12 years, my daughter now has beautiful, eczema-free skin, but it’s literally taken years off my life getting us there. This is why I created the Eczema Transformation Program, to help families on their eczema healing journey. Also, if you want to learn more about food additives and dyes, and other ways to protect your family from toxins, check out my book, Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World.