The processing that the majority of foods go through before taking their place on the shelf, is often speculated on. “You can’t wash away the coating on apples,” or “We eat sulphur when we eat dried fruit,” or “You’d better not touch the banana peel.” The internet is full of these warnings. On one hand, we don’t want to believe that a beautiful apple is a product of the chemical industry. But on the other hand, our fears sometimes prevent us from enjoying our favorite fruit and food.
At Enlighten, we compared the most common warnings about the ways food is processed with scientific opinion and realized that many of our fears have been caused by rumors and delusion.
The waxing of fruits
Many people are seriously concerned about the wax that fruits and vegetables are coated with, which helps to prevent their spoilage during transportation and storage. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed that this coating is safe and that there is a reason for it.
Freshly picked fruits and vegetables are coated with wax anyway that is formed in a natural way, andpreserves fruits from drying and softening. However, fruits are washed after they have been picked to remove dust and chemicals, so the part of their natural wax gets washed off too. Thus, waxing just restores the loss of the natural wax of fruits.
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This wax, by the way, is edible, and only a couple drops of it are used for each fruit. It can’t be digested by the human body and when leaving our system it doesn’t harm our health at all. Of course, you need to wash fruits anyway to remove dirt, bacteria, and part of the wax.
The artificial ripening of bananas
When we hear that gas is used for banana ripening, our imagination can create some scary scenarios. In reality, it’s not that terrible. The point is that bananas are picked when they are still green and they are transported around the world on special reefer ships and only afterward are they placed in special gas rooms for a day.
The ripening gas consists of nitrogen (95%) and ethylene (5%). By the way, nitrogen is a part of the air we breathe, and ethylene is released by apples. You can make an analog of this scenario at home. If you’ve bought green bananas, wet them, put them in a dark plastic bag together with ripe apples and then seal them. A couple of days later, your bananas will be ripe.
Also, some people say that bananas are soaked in formaldehyde at banana plantations. In reality, they are treated with thiabendazole against rot and fungus. The amount of this substance is so small it can’t be toxic to a human. Besides, thiabendazole can be easily removed by cold water, so if you want to make sure this substance doesn’t get into your body, just wash fruits before eating them.
Deep freezing fruits and vegetables
Many people think that fruits, vegetables, and berries lose most of their vitamins and all of their healthy properties during the process of freezing. But experts from the University of California have proven that this isn’t true.
The scientists studied the concentration of 4 vitamins — С, B2, E, and A in frozen fruit and concluded that it is even higher than in fresh fruits which are kept on a store shelf or at home for some time.
The only fruits which they don’t recommend freezing are tomatoes. Even the chilling of tomatoes to anything below 53°F results in their reduced flavor quality.
Ultra-pasteurization of milk
Consumers who don’t buy UHT milk are right about one thing: this method of processing kills almost all vitamins in milk. However, you should remember that milk contains more than just vitamins. It also contains proteins, fats, and carbs, and UHT milk still has them.
In general, the contents of pasteurized milk and UHT milk are identical except for the vitamins. If a person has a well-balanced diet, they get all the necessary vitamins from other foods, while UHT milk couldn’t put your health at risk if it was stored incorrectly.
Heating of buckwheat
Green buckwheat is currently trendy in the food industry and there is a reason for that. Regular (brown) buckwheat is heated during production, so the amount of nutrients in it is lower than in green buckwheat. However, the difference is insignificant.
On top of that, the majority of vitamins and microelements like B vitamins, iodine, iron, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus that buckwheat is so rich with, can’t be destroyed by heating. The majority of these elements remain intact even after cooking. Perhaps, green buckwheat will have more vitamins if it’s cooked by being soaked in cold water, but the difference will still be really small.
Many fruits and the majority of dried fruits are sulfited, meaning they are treated with sulfur dioxide (this preserving agent is usually called E220 on a product label). This substance helps fruits to keep their natural color and be resistant to blast. People are usually suspicious to such products, and in most cases their concerns are groundless.
If food processing is conducted in line with established requirements, there is nothing bad about it. Sulfur-containing compounds have been used in the food industry for a very long time, and the risks from eating them are no higher than the risks from eating foods affected by putrefying bacteria and vermin.
Bonus: Deep-fried foods
Everyone knows that deep fried foods are harmful to your health. But there is one exception. The latest studies published in Food Chemistry magazine showed that some foods can, on the contrary, benefit from this method of cooking.
For example, deep frying vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and pumpkin will increase the phenolics and the antioxidant capacity in them, which reduce the risks of many diseases. The only condition is that you should use extra virgin olive oil.
Long story short, it’s not as scary as we might think. The government regulations in the food industry are usually very strict, so that we are eating and buying the most fresh, delicious, and safe foods. At the same time, some foods even benefit from the processing, like a longer storage time (UHT milk and frozen fruits and vegetables) or a shorter cooking time (brown buckwheat).
Do you have a black list of foods of your own? What are the foods that you try to avoid? Let’s discuss in the comments below.