Today, food additives may be found in almost everything we consume, from spices, grains to fats & refined oils.
Food safety regulators have mandated that producers disclose the components in their goods so that we may all be informed of what we’re eating. However, when manufacturers do so using codes that we don’t comprehend, it becomes very meaningless and, in some cases, dangerous.
However, we should not generalize that all food additives are harmful. Some even include antioxidants, which are definitely helpful.
Understanding the E-numbers mentioned in the ingredients list is a fantastic method to determine if food additives are beneficial or detrimental.
E Numbers: What are they?
E-numbers are codes that indicate food additives that have been tested and found to be safe.
Different categories of additives are assigned specific E-number blocks:
E100s are food colorings (eg. E150 caramel)
E200s are preservatives
E300s are mostly antioxidants with a few acid regulators
E321-400s: Thickening agents and other compounds that offer food texture
E500s are Anti-caking agents, acid regulators, and salts
E600s are Flavour enhancers (eg. E621 – MSG)
E100s – E200s: Preservatives & Food colour
Naturally derived food colours, such as curcumin (E100) and lycopene (E160D), have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, & anti-aging effects, and can provide a variety of health advantages.
Preservatives, too, have antioxidant qualities and may combat germs, making them useful for extending the shelf life of food while also making it safer.
These specific food colours and preservatives, on the other hand, should be avoided:
E102 – tartrazine
E104 – quinoline yellow
E122 – carmoisine
E129 – allura red
E250-251- sodium nitrates/nitrites
Many nations have already prohibited some of these products due to concerns that they induce hyperactivity in youngsters and allergic responses in certain adults.
Avoid packaged foods with very bright colours, such as brightly coloured fizzy drinks, as a general rule.
E300s to E400s: Emulsifiers
Emulsifiers are used in a variety of items to give them a smooth texture and to extend their shelf life by establishing a moisture barrier on food.
These are the most frequent ones, along with their health implications:
It is found in nearly everything, including chocolates. It helps to keep cell structure and has been found to reduce cholesterol when consumed in the right quantity.
Those sensitive to soy products should avoid it, as it is predominantly produced from soy, although it may also be found in canola oil, sunflower kernels, eggs and milk.
It is mostly found in dairy products. Concerns have been raised regarding its post-digestion effects on the “good” bacteria in the gut, as well as its role as a diabetic risk factor.
– E471 – Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids
Biscuits and cakes are examples of baked foods where it is found. Although these fats are partially digested, they may include trans-fats, which are linked to heart disease.
When the amount of trans-fat in a food is less than 0.5g, the rule that requires it to be listed on the label does not apply. This may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly, especially for children.
E500s: Anti-caking agents, acid regulators, and salts
Compounds in this category are preservatives and can be found in a variety of packaged goods.
– Anti-caking agent: used to keep powdered ingredients from sticking together, for e.g. instant soups, cake mixes, table salt, and coffee/tea vending machine powders.
-Acid regulator: Preserve the quality of food, by maintaining the acidity of the meal.
These are typically healthy; however, eating too much salt might raise blood pressure. Salt consumption should be limited to 2300 mg per day.
E600s: Flavour enhancer
Flavour enhancers are used in a wide range of savoury and sweet meals. They might not be that terrible because they can help you cut down on your salt and sugar intake by providing flavour. MSG is the most prevalent.
E621 – MSG
MSG mimics the action of glutamate, an amino acid, in the human body. In fact, of all amino acids, breast milk has the most glutamate.
MSG is typically safe when consumed with meals since carbs and proteins delay its absorption. Only extremely high dosages of MSG can reach levels in our bloodstream that are harmful. We’re not likely to attain them in everyday situations since we’ll become sick before we get close to such quantities.
MSG causes complications when the body can’t transfer it or when there are other metabolic issues. Furthermore, many individuals may simply be irritated by it.
E900-E1520 Misc. Additives
Simple components such as oxygen (E948) and hydrogen (E949) are included, as well as more complicated compounds such as artificial sweeteners, bleachers, polishing agents, and water repellents. Because they’re “miscellaneous,” it’s impossible to categorise them all as safe or hazardous, but it’s better to be cautious.
In a perfect scenario, we would shun all processed meals. In fact, they should be avoided if you have any kind of discomfort after eating, especially if you have asthma and are more susceptible to food allergies.
The major issue is that when we consume significant amounts of processed foods on a regular basis, all of the fat, sugar, and salt tend to accumulate in our diet.
So keep a watch on the ingredients list and make healthy choices instead of depending on food label claims!
Through our blogs we are trying to raise awareness among our readers on this topic by covering various aspects. If you want to understand how to identify artificial sweeteners in food labels, continue reading here
Consult an expert nutritionist on my team at +91-9743430000 who can help you understand and identify foods that works best with your body and help you achieve your health goals.
Ryan Fernando is an Award-winning celebrity Sports Nutritionist with 2GUINNESS world record and 2 Olympic medals under his belt. His client list include Olympic wrestler Sushil Kumar, cricketer Shikhar Dhawan & bollywood superstars Aamir Khan & Abhishek Bachchan. He is Chief Nutritionist at QUA Nutrition Signature Clinics.