Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Interesting Facts About Antioxidants and Food Preservation!

This post is brought to you by ConAgra Foods & The Motherhood. The honest opinions are my own.

Last week, ConAgra Foods held a virtual briefing sharing great information about antioxidants and food preservation.  I will be completely honest and tell you that I didn't pay much attention to the foods I bought and consumed until I became a mother.  Once I began feeding my children "people food," my entire thought process changed.

Suddenly it mattered what foods I was purchasing and feeding my children.  After all, a mom wants only the best for their children!


When I was invited to attend the virtual briefing, I was intrigued and very interested to see just how much - or little - I knew about antioxidants and food preservation.  

The most common misconception regarding preservatives in food is that they are not necessary.  The virtual briefing was extremely helpful and informative.  I learned  some very interesting things, and will be passing the information along to you.

Here are some interesting facts about antioxidants and food preservation that you might not have known.  I surely didn't know them all!

  • Why should we preserve our food?  

It is important to preserve our food for 5 main reasons.  Taste, freshness, safety, natural color preservation, and food waste production. Be sure to watch this informative Mental Floss video for more information: 6 Facts About Preservatives!

  • How can we preserve our food?  
Food can be preserved through a variety of different methods like canning and freezing – even putting foods in the fridge helps preserve foods. Ingredients can also be added to every day packaged foods to help preserve them.


  • What is an antioxidant?
Antioxidants help prevent oxygen from damaging other molecules. Antioxidants function in the body to help protect cells, and they function in foods to protect oils from damage that leads to rancidity.   

  • What about antioxidants in the body? 
We have many antioxidants that are naturally produced in our body every day, such as after exercise; these antioxidants help fend off environmental toxins and stress on the body.  Our bodies carefully control the amount of antioxidants in our cells; we can get very sick if the normal level of antioxidants in our body becomes too low

Some of our most important vitamins, such as vitamin E and vitamin C, are used in our body as antioxidants

Body benefits of antioxidants: 

                * Slow the aging process
                * Boost your body’s natural defense system
                * Help combat heart disease, cancer and other diseases 

  • Why Are Antioxidants Used In Food?
Like the vitamins in your body, certain foods contain natural antioxidants, such as polyphenols; some foods may also contain man made antioxidants. When you open a box of food, the exposure to air can cause certain ingredients that are common in our food, like fats and oils, to spoil; the unpleasant odors and flavors that follow are sometimes called “rancidity.

Food benefits of antioxidants: 

            * Prevent food from becoming rancid (spoiling), and therefore wasted
            * Preserve food’s flavors
            * Help preserve natural color in food

  • Which antioxidants are naturally found in food? 

            *Alpha-tocopherol (aka Vitamin E) – Found in nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables – helps to protect fats and oils in food from spoiling.
            *Ascorbic Acid (aka Vitamin C) – Found in citrus fruits, sometimes also called sodium ascorbate –saves breads and packaged meat from spoiling.
            *Citric Acid – Found naturally in citrus fruits – used to preserve sliced fruit.
  • Which man-made antioxidants are found in food? 

            *BHT: A tasteless, colorless man made antioxidant is used to help maintain freshness in grain-based foods like crackers and cookies.
            *TBHQ: A tasteless, colorless man made antioxidant used commonly to keep vegetable oils and other packaged foods fresh.

  • What is the difference between natural and man-made antioxidants?
Man made antioxidants, like BHT and TBHQ, are used because sometimes natural antioxidants throw off flavors of foods we know and love, or because a certain antioxidant might perform best with a certain food. One type is used over another based on performance – for example TBHQ is often used in fryer oils as it is more stable at higher temperatures than BHT, thus preserving these foods more effectively.

Natural and man made antioxidants are sometimes used together in our favorite foods.  Food makers, like ConAgra Foods, choose certain preservative ingredients based on what they know will deliver the best flavor, while keeping your foods safe and fresh. 

  • What are some examples of packaged foods that use antioxidants as preservatives?  

Any food product that contains a fat or oil will typically have an antioxidant added either to the starting batter oil or to the end food product. Things like microwaved popcorn, cookies, and cereal products all would contain antioxidants.  

  • Are natural antioxidants modified to use in foods they don’t come naturally in? 

Natural antioxidants are often extracted from the food products, but they’re also synthetically produced. There is actually no difference chemically in a naturally produced antioxidant and one that’s developed by man-made techniques. They’re often developed in man-made ways because it’s a more cost-effective way and actually protects our food supply. So although humans may make an antioxidant from a natural compound, they can also synthesize them, but they’re exactly the same. There is no difference. 

  • What is the difference between antioxidants and preservatives? 

Is it because antioxidants sound more consumer-friendly? Is there an actual difference or are they the same thing?

There is actually a difference. The difference is that preservatives identify all compounds used to preserve food with different functions. So some preservatives are used to reduce bacterial populations in food. Antioxidants are specific to oxidized damage. An antioxidant is actually a type of preservative. 

Simply said, whether man-made or natural, antioxidants are used to preserve the flavor, color, and improve the shelf-life of foods.  Both are evaluated for their safe use in food by scientific experts trained to understand the impact on human health.  Both function to reduce rancidity in food by preventing the breakdown of fats and oils (and other compounds).  Both must be used at low levels in accordance with regulatory guidelines and safety thresholds.  Both must be “food grade” so as not to introduce hazardous by-products or impurities in foods.  Both benefit you and your family by providing food of high quality and flavor, so that you may enjoy the foods that you love!

1 comment:

slehan said...

That was fascinating. Thanks for the info.

slehan at juno dot com