Since many industrially processed foods contain questionable synthetic additives such as certain preservatives etc., do-it-yourself is the better alternative, also in terms of preservation. The shelf life can be extended by using some herbs, spices and essential oils. In the case of organic food, genetic engineering and synthetics, as well as most colorings, sweeteners, stabilizers and flavor enhancers, are prohibited. However, they often do not get by entirely without additives.
For each additive, there are specific E numbers on finished products. This declaration is the same throughout Europe, with the "E" standing for "EU / Europe". When shopping, you should therefore always take a look at the list of ingredients. According to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), the additives listed therein do not pose a health risk in the permitted quantities. From an official point of view, their use is strictly regulated and they are regularly reassessed by international committees of experts. The ordinance on the approval of additives in food for technological purposes of January 29, 1998 was last changed on March 28, 2011 (additive approval ordinance). A detailed list of all additives (including preservatives) can be found on the FSVO website (1).
Incidentally, the imprint "Without preservatives" only means that no preservatives have been added in the legal sense. However, this does not mean that it does not contain any substances with a preservative effect. Some antioxidants are also used for preservation. They protect food from spoilage due to atmospheric oxygen (oxidation), light or other substances. Oxidation can be seen when the food turns brown.
Acidifiers also extend the shelf life of food because many undesirable microorganisms are sensitive to acids. Citric acid (E 330), for example, serves both as an antioxidant and as an acidulant. It is produced biotechnologically with the help of microorganisms, in particular the Aspergillus niger mold, and can cause allergic symptoms in people who are allergic to mold. Acidity regulators also support the effect of preservatives, as these often only work optimally at certain pH values.
The E numbers with a preservative effect therefore primarily include (2):
from No. 200: preservatives;
from No. 300: antioxidants (including phosphoric acid, phosphate compounds, antioxidants such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E);
from No. 500: acidulants (including acetic acid), acid regulators
Abandonment of preservatives and substances with a preservative effect:
Preservatives (benzoic and sorbic acid, sulfites, etc.) and substances with a preservative effect (antioxidants and acidulants) are intended to extend the shelf life of food by preventing the growth of microorganisms such as mold, putrefactive agents and fermentation agents. In fact, toxins produced by mushrooms can cause serious health risks. Molds in particular are carcinogenic and toxic to nerves, kidneys and liver, can cause deformities and weaken the immune system.
In addition to the use of preservatives, the following methods are also suitable for preserving food:
• heat (pasteurizing, boiling, sterilizing)
• Cold (cooling, freezing, deep freezing)
• Irradiation (It has only been allowed to irradiate food with ionizing radiation in Germany since December 2000. It is restricted to dried aromatic herbs and spices. All food that is irradiated or contains irradiated components must be labeled.)
• Dehydration (drying, freeze drying)
• Reduction of the water activity (salting with table salt and additionally with nitrate and nitrite, i.e. curing)
• Soaking in honey or vinegar
Sugar also has a preservative effect. But lactic acid bacteria also produce anti-fungal substances. Lactic acid fermentation is even a preservation method that can increase the positive effects of food on health (such as sauerkraut). Taste and texture are also positively influenced (3).
Possible side effects and risks of certain synthetic preservatives or preserving substances:
For example, while antioxidants such as vitamins C and E are harmless, sensitive people can react to certain E numbers with intolerance or, more rarely, allergic. This can manifest itself in the form of rashes or mucosal reactions such as runny nose or diarrhea.
Nitrates are salts of nitric acid which, after reduction to nitrite, may form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds.
The preservatives Sodium and potassium benzoate produced chromosome breaks in test tube experiments with human lymphocytes (certain white blood cells), changed the genetic material and damaged the cells (4). Presumably, not only artificial colors but also sodium benzoate promote hyperactive behavior in children (5).
Sulfites are sulfur compounds that are v. a. found in wine, balsamic vinegar, dumplings and dried fruits. They can make the intestinal wall more permeable to pathogens, pollutants and allergens and therefore mainly cause allergic reactions.
Garlic, onions and cabbage, on the other hand, naturally contain sulfites, which have a positive effect on health.
Phosphate compoundsthat act as antioxidants are e.g. B. Meat and sausage products added (6). Phosphates are said to promote the calcification of the vessels, including the heart (7, 8).
Emulsifiers are also added to many finished products to improve consistency or extend shelf life. Emulsifiers (including phosphate and glyceride compounds) enable the mixing and stabilization of two normally immiscible substances such as fat and water. A natural, harmless emulsifier is lecithin, which z. B. is contained in egg yolk or soy. Synthetic emulsifiers, on the other hand, can cause weight gain, minor inflammation and metabolic disorders because they impair the intestinal flora and the intestinal barrier (9).
The frequency of autoimmune diseases increases with the simultaneous expansion of industrial food processing and the consumption of food additives (including emulsifiers). Due to the impaired barrier function of the intestine, foreign proteins can enter the body, which leads to an activation of the autoimmune cascade (10).
Food additives such as emulsifiers, for example, are associated with inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, which is also an autoimmune disease (11). British scientists recommend that patients with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis avoid processed foods that contain emulsifiers (12).
Natural alternatives to synthetic preservatives:
According to American scientists, spices such as oregano, sage, cloves, thyme, cinnamon and garlic have an antimicrobial effect mainly because of the essential oils they contain and can therefore extend the shelf life of foods. This also applies to mustard seeds and fruit extracts. Clove oil, for example, can be used to preserve jam. Oregano or marjoram can protect sausage and meat dishes from germs. It is important that the flavor of the respective spice harmonizes with the food to be preserved. Sugar can be used in desserts such as ice cream, as this also has a preservative effect (13).
Allspice, onions and savory as well as mugwort, juniper and bay leaf also have a very strong antimicrobial effect. Antioxidant effects have been demonstrated for rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme, cloves, allspice and mace (14).
The herbs used should come from controlled organic cultivation or controlled wild collection in order to avoid pesticide residues.
However, the use of spices for preservation is limited by the sometimes high seasoning power. They can therefore only contribute to extending the shelf life in addition to other preservation methods. The shelf life of home-baked bread can be increased, for example, by the use of spices such as B. coriander, fennel and anise can be extended.
An example of the sole use of a vegetable food for preservation is the soaking of grapes in barley bran, practiced by the Romans. Grapes keep fresh for at least 3 months, which is due to the fat and vitamin E content of the bran.
The grapes and the barley bran are carefully poured into a beaker (500 ml) as follows:
First, the bottom is covered with barley bran. The grapes are then distributed in such a way that they neither touch the wall of the cup nor each other. Then you cover them completely with barley bran and again lay grapes on top. This is done until the glass is filled. A layer of barley bran forms the end. The filled vessel is kept at temperatures between 5 ° C and 10 ° C (15).
According to studies, the following natural substances have preservative properties:
• Red raspberry extract has an antioxidant effect (16).
• Medicinal plants are rich in terpenes and phenols and can therefore presumably also be used as antimicrobial and antioxidant additives (17).
• Essential oils are a good source of several bioactive ingredients that have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. These natural additives can extend the shelf life of foods (18). Essential oils prevent the spread of microorganisms because they are able to penetrate their cell membrane and influence the metabolism of the microorganisms.
• Essential citrus oils have an antimicrobial and antioxidant effect mainly due to the terpenes they contain (19).
• Green pepper essential oil has a stronger effect on bacteria and fungi than black pepper essential oil (20).
• Lemongrass essential oil (21).
• Thyme essential oil (Thymus vulgaris) contains antimicrobial phenols (22).
• Essential oils from parsley and purslane have an antioxidant and antibacterial effect due to the phenols they contain (23).
In addition to health reasons, there are other good arguments for preserving food yourself:
Your own harvest can be processed. Food that is currently in season can be used all year round.
You are creative and always have great, homemade gifts on hand.
Not only hobby gardeners can use excess vegetables such as cucumbers, courgettes, onions or tomatoes without heating them. The vegetables are washed, cut into small pieces and salted. The whole thing is left to stand for a few hours so that the water escapes. Then everything is put in a glass with a good olive oil and spices (depending on your preference e.g. dill, mustard seeds, chilli, parsley) and screwed tight. It is important that the vegetables are completely covered with oil. The shelf life of feta cheese can also be extended with herbs and olive oil (24).
Peppers, aubergines or mushrooms can also be soaked in olive oil, similar to Italian antipasti, and flavored with garlic, herbs and spices. The oil does not preserve the vegetables in the strict sense, but seals them airtight against germs and has an antioxidant effect due to the vitamin E content.
Those who have the time and the interest to do it themselves have a small building block for a healthy diet with naturally preserved foods for themselves, their own family or friends.
Alternative practitioner / medical journalist
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• Cani PD, Everard A. Keeping well lining at bay: impact of emulsifiers. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jun; 26 (6): 273-4.
• Lerner A, Matthias T. Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune Rev. 2015 Jun; 14 (6): 479-89.
• Pfeffer-Gik T, Levine A. Dietary clues to the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. Dig Dis. 2014; 32 (4): 389-94.
• Merga Y, Campbell BJ., Rhodes JM. Mucosal barrier, bacteria and inflammatory bowel disease: possibilities for therapy. Dig Dis. 2014; 32 (4): 475-83.
• Of course, preserve with oregano, cloves & Co., Drogistenstern (3/15).
• Korczak, J; Flaczyk, E, Pazola, Z; Influence of some natural spices on the fat stability of pre-cooked meatballs during cold and deep-freeze storage, Fleischwirtschaft 68, (1988) 20/22.
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