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Food preservatives and chemicals

I'm a young cook and have been cooking for my husband and I for 3 years now. I enjoy it and see the advantages of home cooking in terms of saving money, healthy well being and food quality. I've started to make most of our food from scratch ( marinara, dressing, baked goods, etc) and am amazed by the benefits. As i step away from buying spaghetti sauce or bags of cookies, I also applaud myself on our decreased consumption of the sodium, HFCS, preservatives and chemicals found in processed items. But if someone asked me why I don't consume items with chemicals and preservatives, I wouldn't have an answer other than "Cause I know it's not natural and thus bad for me".

I'm looking for some concrete details and facts. I'm starting my own internet exploration but any knowledge you could share would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

P.S. My first post! Woohoo!

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  1. I encourage your exploration and research. Please share anything interesting that you find. Nevertheless, I do not think that you will come across much that constitutes "concrete detail and facts" - particularly if, by that, you mean any data showing a causal connection between preservatives and chemicals and adverse health consequences.* Frankly, there is no financial incentive to even engage in such projects from a research point of view.

    That being said, however, I am generally in accord with your philosophy and practices. I am an old cook and have been doing this for many years. For me, it's basically common sense. If something is not necessary to put into something I consume, then why ingest it? Even if it is only 1% likely to cause harm - it's just prudent and rational to approach it that way.**

    Anyway, welcome to Chowhound. I hope that you find participation useful, educational, and enjoyable.

    *Research on Corn syrup and obesity/diabetes may be an exception to this.

    **I generally feel the same way about many things. Say, global warming, for example. Maybe humans are not responsible, but doesn't it inherently make sense to reduce greenhouse gas emissions just in case?

    1. Welcome to CH! I hope you didn't step into a landmine w/ your first post since this can be a hot topic and generate heated responses. You'll find studies online that show they're bad for you, studies that show they're not. I've yet to find peer reviewed studies that have shown that sodium for healthy adults is bad for them or that HFCS is bad for you. Generally, I find that food that contains them are more processed than I like and don't taste good as a result. OTOH, I love Cheetos as much as the next person.

      Overall, I find it easiest to avoid the topic w/ friends altogether. "I like the way my food tastes. Thanks" without passing judgement, even if it's only perceived by them, on what they eat. People don't want or need to be told what they enjoy is bad for them.

      Hope to see you on the Home Cooking board. It's a great place to learn, share, discuss cooking.

      4 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        I hope this is not a landmine as well. While I'm interested in eating less processed foods, I love Starburst and Sour Patch Kids too much. My overall approach is moderation, don't go overboard but don't deny either. Of course, this is all my own opinion.

        1. re: klausgilrick

          Do people ask you why you "don't consume items with chemicals and preservatives?" I must admit no one has ever asked me that question, though I eat/cook very very little that contains them. If you just don't make a big deal about it, it usually doesn't come up--at least that's my experience.

          1. re: escondido123

            No they do not. But I like to have a basis for my opinions, just like I like to know the facts before I make a political or any other decision. Rather than making a big deal of the situation, I just wanted to satisfy my curiosity. I read Chowhound for fun, I don't read topics such as 'In-N-Out vs. 5 Guys" in case someone throws me an unexpected fast food question.

            1. re: klausgilrick

              Are you seeking a basis for making rational decisions about food, or seeking justification for opinions that you already have (or are in the process of forming)?

      2. I just say "I only eat food", and those chemicals ain't food. Just like I only use natural fibers and not polyxxxxxx anything for clothing, bed sheets, duvet filling or anything, because I don't wear plastic.

        2 Replies
          1. re: kerosundae

            LOL, this is me telling my mother-in-law that there is no evidence real cream is bad for her (we were discussing what's "bad" for you). she replied that her coffee mate non-dairy pumpkin creamer IS "real cream," as if I were insulting her and not referring to the fact that real cream comes from cows.

          2. I think this is an interesting question and I don't think it's a can of worms (although I de-lurked here only recently, myself). I do know that if you search the internet, you will find plenty of data to support your opinion. I share your opinion and have found plenty of information that shows that eating whole foods from scratch have all sort of health benefits, from better concentration when not consuming additives and preservatives, to maintaining a healthy weight when not consuming HFCS. Some are studies and some are just anecdotal stories, but there are concrete details out there. You WILL find them as you do your own internet exploration.

            Like you, we are conscientious about not eating these things and I HAVE been asked why we don't. The easiest and absolutely truthful answer that I give is my own anecdotal evidence. I just say, "Since we stopped eating processed food, we've all felt so much healthier. I haven't had to go to the doctor for 4 years, my husband has been able to stop taking all of his medications for diabetes and cholesterol, and my daughter, who also rarely gets sick anymore, has been doing better than ever in school. For us, it's worth it."

            6 Replies
            1. re: gardencook

              "I do know that if you search the internet, you will find plenty of data to support your opinion."

              Sadly, that is probably be true of any opinion.

              1. re: MGZ

                "I do know that if you search the internet, you will find plenty of data to support your opinion."
                _______
                And on this particular topic, you'll find an astonishing amount of misinformation.

                Finding and asking a registered dietician isn't a bad idea though.

              2. re: gardencook

                Gardencook, you said,

                "Since we stopped eating processed food, we've all felt so much healthier. I haven't had to go to the doctor for 4 years, my husband has been able to stop taking all of his medications for diabetes and cholesterol, and my daughter, who also rarely gets sick anymore, has been doing better than ever in school. For us, it's worth it."

                That's our story in a nutshell, as well. In our experience, the better and more chemical-free the food, the better the health. The better the health, the fewer trips to the doctor. The fewer trips to the doctor, the fewer prescriptions get written (unfortunately, drugs seem to be practically the only tool in their toolbox). The fewer prescriptions taken, the healthier we are. It all works.

                1. re: sandylc

                  I think that you and gardencook suggest solid explanations to offer to people, but what about the fact that there is no control to compare to? In other words, if others suggest that you are merely experiencing a placebo effect and their family is perfectly healthy eating "normal" foods, how do you respond? In thirty years of avoiding refined sugars, I have seen some serious defensiveness from others when I merely explain that simple element of my diet

                  1. re: MGZ

                    The response to the placebo effect argument is easy for me - if the placebo effect does exist, it is the safest and cheapest way to become healthier. If it does not exist, then the things I am doing for my health do indeed work.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      It doesn't matter if it's a placebo effect or not. Our result is still the same and there is solid proof (my husband no long "diabetic" nor does he have high cholesterol).

                      How I would respond is, "How do you know you will not feel even better if you eat a non-processed diet?" They cannot prove a negative. Unless they try it, they cannot say it won't make them even healthier than they currently are. The old, "don't knock it 'til you tried it" argument.

                2. Just like the old commercial said, "If you can't PRONOUNCE it, don't EAT it". Of course, there are plenty of additives that are easily pronounceable that you shouldn't eat either, but you get the point.