Food additives are used in order to prolong the shelf life of food products, enhance their flavor or preserve their color. Some additives are natural while others are obtained after modifying natural ingredients, synthetic reproductions of natural ingredients or completely artificial.
In Canada, more than 500 food additives are currently authorized for use, many of which are considered harmful to our health and get conflicting results in studies by researchers. For a complete list of authorized food additives and their regulations in Canada, visit the dictionary of food additives by Health Canada. Therefore, it is advisable to limit our consumption of food additives and to favor fresh ingredients to help reduce the risk of developing health problems associated with these additives.
As their name suggests, artificial colors are used to give vibrant colors to food products. These artificial colors, which are often used in food products for children because of the bright colors that attract them, are, in fact, derived from coal tar, which can have detrimental effects on our health in the long term. Previous studies already established a link between artificial colors and cancer, making some of them banned from consumption. However, new research is now focusing on the effects of artificial colors on children, and the studies reveal a potential link between artificial colors and disruptive behavior disorders, attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and even learning disabilities. If you can, avoid buying foods that contain artificial colors and try to substitute them in your recipes by using natural color, like beets, to obtain a nice red.
Mercury can be found in many forms and too much exposure to mercury can affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, and the kidneys. A baby or a child who consumes mercury in excessive quantities can even develop neurological problems in the long run.
For this reason, it’s better to limit the consumption of mercury to avoid mercury poisoning. This means that you must limit the consumption of certain types of fish that contain high levels of mercury due to the contamination of your environment.
Fish with higher levels of mercury
- Tuna, fresh or frozen
- Orange Roughy
- Escolier/Snake mackerel
Health Canada recommends limiting our consumption of these fish to a maximum of 150 g per week for the general population, 150 g per month for pregnant women, 125 g per month for children aged 5 to 11 and 75 g a month for children aged 1 to 4.
Iron is a significant component of our diet since it helps our body produce energy and perform its essential metabolic functions. As anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in North America, it’s important to make sure that your diet contains enough iron to help your body function properly and to avoid the unpleasant symptoms of anemia such as energy loss, fatigue, and poor concentration.
Foods rich in iron
- Red meats
- Grains and whole or enriched breads
- Vegetables (especially the leafy greens) and fruits
- Nuts and seeds
Sodium is often cited as the main culprit behind hypertension, but did you know that studies have now established a link between the consumption of large amounts of foods preserved in salt or marinades and an increased risk of developing stomach cancers? According to Health Canada, we should reduce our sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day. It goes without saying that prepared meals, snacks, commercial canned foods and meats, which all contain large amounts of sodium, should be avoided as much as possible.