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What You Need to Know About Food Preservatives

Food preservatives are added to foods to make them last longer, so when you dip that cracker into a container of hummus you don’t come out with a fuzzy friend instead.

Preservatives definitely have their purpose. Some prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Others prevent delicate fats from going rancid.

There are so many preservatives out there. While preservatives added to foods should be approved by Health Canada to be “safe”, this doesn’t always mean that they are good for your health.

Foods with preservatives are more-processed, less-nutritious foods to begin with - not exactly health foods. So, even if you don’t mind preservatives, you probably should cut down on these kinds of foods, anyway.

Here are some of the more common food preservatives.


That’s right - salt.

FUN FACT: The term “salary” is from the Latin word for salt. It’s thought that it came from the ancient Romans who would pay employees, allowing them to buy salt. Either that or it was for their work conquering and guarding salt mines. Either way, salt was sought because of its ability to preserve food before the advent of refrigeration.

In today’s day and age, with fridges and freezers in every home and grocery store, and refrigerated trucks, salt is not needed for food preservation as much.

But our taste buds still seem to crave it on an epic scale. The average Canadian eats over 2760 mg of sodium per day, well over the recommended 2,300 mg/day. Hey, at least we are doing better than our Southern Friends (who rack it up to 3400 mg a day!!! YIKES!) Much of that is because it’s found in processed foods.

According to Harvard Health:

"... reducing dietary salt (table salt that is only sodium, chloride and iodine) will lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and save lives."

So, salt is one of those all-too-common food preservatives that most of us will do better with less of.


Nitrites are added to processed meats. They're not bad in and of themselves, but they do turn into harmful chemicals called nitrosamines - a carcinogens found in cigarette smoke… Awesome.

Nitrites form nitrosamines when they're cooked at high heat, and sometimes even when exposed to the high acid environment of the stomach.

Nitrites are added to meats to keep the pink-red colour and prevent “browning.” Mostly in bacon, ham, sausages and lunch meats. Since nitrites can change into nitrosamines, nitrites are one-step away from being the “bad guys.”

Another interesting thing is that processed meats have been linked with colon cancer. Because of the nitrites? Perhaps, but either way, nitrosamines are a confirmed health-buster.

Nitrates are naturally found in many healthy foods like vegetables. They’re especially high in beets. Sometimes our enzymes or gut bacteria change these healthy nitrates into nitrites. However, they rarely form nitrosamines because they’re two-steps away from becoming these “bad guys.”


Have you seen on packages “BHA/BHT has been added to the package to help maintain freshness?” Perhaps on cereal packages or in gum?

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants added to many processed foods. The main way BHA and BHT work is by preventing fats from going rancid. Are they safe? Antioxidants are good for you right?

Well – maybe not all of them.

They're approved for use as a preservative at small doses. However, some studies show they can cause cancer in animals at high doses. So maybe give up that dream of becoming the bubble gum blowing champion of Wisconsin.


There are a lot of preservatives in our food supply. These compounds protect us by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold, or by preventing fats from going rancid. However over-consuming them has major impact on our toxin levels and overall health. They're mostly found in processed foods so if you want to avoid them – FRESH IS BEST BUT DON’T OVER-STRESS. #killerrhymes

Preservative Free Kale Chips

Serves 4


1 bunch of kale, washed and dried 1 tbsp olive oil 2 dashes salt 2 dashes garlic powder Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

  2. Take the washed and dried kale and rip them into "chip" size pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Mix until the kale pieces are evenly covered.

  3. Place kale onto prepared sheet in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes.

  4. Flip over the kale to cook the other sides of the pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes until the edges just start turning brown. Monitor them well, or you'll have burnt kale chips.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use any spice, so try onion powder, paprika, or even turmeric.


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