Additives and Preservatives

Additives and preservatives can be a minefield. While some are harmless, others are best avoided. Listed are some commonly used ones we’de like to stay clear of when following the Mediterranean Diet:

In the context of a healthy Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods, there are certain additives and preservatives that are best avoided. These substances are often found in highly processed foods and may have potential health concerns or simply don’t align with the principles of a natural, wholesome diet.

Here’s a list of common additives and preservatives to be wary of:

  1. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): A common sweetener in sodas, sweets, and processed foods, HFCS is linked to obesity, diabetes, and other health issues. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes natural sweetness from fruits and avoids added sugars like HFCS
  2. Trans Fats (Partially Hydrogenated Oils): Often found in processed foods, trans fats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. They can appear in margarine, snack foods, packaged baked goods, and some fried foods.
  3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Used to enhance flavor in a variety of processed foods, MSG can be found in snacks, canned soups, and frozen meals. Although it is recognized as safe by the FDA, many prefer to avoid it in a whole food-based diet.
  4. Artificial Sweeteners: Such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, often found in things labeled as “diet” like sodas and “low-calorie” processed foods. While they reduce calorie intake, they are not in line with the whole food focus of the Mediterranean diet.
  5. Sodium Nitrite/Nitrate: Commonly used in cured meats like bacon and hot dogs, these compounds can form nitrosamines in the body, which have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
  6. Artificial Colors and Dyes: Such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1, often found in candies, beverages, and baked goods. Some artificial colors have been linked to behavioral issues in children and other health concerns.
  7. Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate: These preservatives, used especially in acidic foods like salad dressings, carbonated drinks, and fruit juices, can form benzene, a known carcinogen, when combined with vitamin C.
  8. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): These are preservatives found in some cereals, snack foods, and preserved meats. They are suspected endocrine disruptors and may have other health effects.
  9. Sulfites: Used in wine and dried fruits, sulfites can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  10. Artificial Flavors: Chemical compounds designed to mimic natural flavors, found in processed snacks, confectionery, and ready-made meals.
  11. Phosphates: Often found in processed meats and colas, high phosphate levels can be harmful, especially for people with kidney issues and contribute to heart disease and osteoporosis.

When following a Mediterranean diet, the emphasis should be on fresh, whole foods and minimal reliance on heavily processed products that are more likely to contain these additives. Reading labels becomes crucial to avoid these substances and maintain a diet that’s in line with Mediterranean principles of natural, healthful eating.