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Food Additives During Pregnancy

Just what are food additives during pregnancy and does it affect you or your baby during pregnancy is a concern with many pregnant women. Additives are substances added to food because of processing, packaging and storage. Additives are also added to flavor, enhance flavors, color and preserve food's freshness. Most food additives are safe during pregnancy unless you are allergic to them. From what is known so far, there is a very remote chance for the developing fetus to suffer from any side effects owing to chemical additives in food.

Food authorities like the FDA use stringent standards to approve additives before its use. Decisions on safety, quantity and food labeling are undertaken before additives are approved for use in foods. If food additives is an issue with you, eat a wide variety of fresh foods and limit your intake of processed foods.

Some of the main categories of food additives which you may be familiar with are outlined below.

  • Preservatives - helps prolong the shelf life of food
  • Curing agents - sodium nitrate used in smoked meats is an example
  • Flavoring enhancers - MSG is an example. It can either occur naturally or it can be added to food to bring out its natural flavor
  • Sweeteners - includes both natural and artificial
  • Coloring agents - color is added to a product to appeal to consumers. Example cheddar cheese has added coloring
  • Stabilizers/thickeners - fat-free salad dressings often have thickeners or gums to simulate regular dressings
  • Fat substitutes - olestra is a new fat replacer approved by the FDA and is used for frying snack foods
  • Nutrients - vitamins and minerals are often used to replace lost nutrients or to fortify foods

The vast majority of food additives used to treat, preserve or improve foods is safe, especially if taken in moderation. Because of media attention additives may have earned a bad name. In truth some additives serve to protect our food against spoilage. Pregnant ladies should make a habit of reading food labels carefully to become aware of what foods contain additives and limit their intake where necessary. Since there is no nutritional benefit from additives, it makes sense to remove them from your diet. On the flipside food shopping will become more time-consuming and tedious.

A special Mention on the common Food Additives

  • MSG MSG or monosodium glutamate is composed of sodium and glutamic acid. MSG is added mostly to oriental palate to enhance the flavors. It does not add a flavor of its own but serves to intensify the natural salty taste of numerous processed foods as well. Glutamic acid is a naturally forming amino acid in the body and in high protein foods. It is too high in salt so should be consumed in moderation. People sensitive to this additive (pregnant or not) tend to develop headaches, nausea, dizziness, sleep disturbances. Food authorities require that MSG be listed as an ingredient. Avoid it wherever possible although it is not known to harm the mother and baby.
  • Sulfites Sulfites are concentrations of additives added to maintain freshness and are among the most widely used additives in prepared foods. When checking food labels look for sulphur dioxide, sodium sulfite or potassium sulfite, which are the alternative names used. Foods with this additive include dried fruits, jams, processed seafood, jellies, fruit juices, frozen vegetables and soup mixes. It is a requirement for this additive to be mentioned on food labels as asthmatic women tend to in particular be sensitive to this additive.
  • Nitrates Also known as sodium nitrates, nitrates are used as a preservative in processed meat i.e. they are used to keep the bacteria down. Smoked and cured meats e.g. bacon, cured pork, sausage, luncheon meats, salami often contain nitrates. Though it is safe to eat foods treated with nitrates, it is a good idea to look out for meats that do not contain them or eat them on rare occasions or if possible eliminate them from your diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
  • Sweeteners Artificial sweeteners are added to all types of foods such as candy, soft drinks and even some OTC medications. Artificial sweeteners rob you of the chance of drinking and eating more nutritious beverages and foods and relying more on low-cal foods and drinks. For example instead of drinking juice which is healthier you may drink diet soft drinks. However artificial sweeteners may become useful to pregnant women with diabetes. Nutritious foods sweetened with aspartame such as low fat yogurt is relatively safe. Aspartame if eaten in moderation is safe as it doesn’t cross the placenta. Saccharin does cross the placenta so should be avoided. Sucralose is made from sugar and is marketed as splenda. This sweetener is not digested or metabolized for energy so does not affect blood sugar or insulin. It is safe for consumption during pregnancy.

Concerned about Food Additives..

  • Eat a wide variety of foods
  • Choose fresh meat over cured or smoked meat
  • Eat whole foods and limit convenience foods
  • Eat fresh fruits, vegetables for snack instead of snacking on packaged snack foods

Related Article of Food Additives During Pregnancy

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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