Beware! Artificial food seasonings could be harmful, says expert
The use of chemically produced food seasonings as flavour enhancers is accepted globally for different recipes. These enhancers have taken the place of many of the traditional and naturally produced seasonings, such as, Ogiri (sesame seeds) and Iru (African locust bean), among others, which are said to contain protein, minerals and vitamins, which are healthy. They also add spice, flavour and nutritional value to foods. Although still in use, but they are gradually giving way, due to lack of use and recognition. Many people now prefer to use artificial seasonings, which abound in the markets.
However, Peace .N. Ugbajah, a nutritionist with of Health and Healthy living, advises against excessive use of seasonings, as they often contain some questionable ingredients that can be harmful to the human health, when used over time. Also, they don’t have add nutritional value to foods.
She said: “There are four main ingredients used in the production of stock/bouillon cubes. They are salt, hydrogenated oil (trans fat), monosodium glutamate (MSG) and umami. With no translation, umami could not be described as salty, sweet, bitter or sour. This fourth ingredient is what gives the seasoning its long-lasting and meaty taste that leaves you wanting more. However, researches have found these items harmful to the health.
“While some people react to MSG immediately, others feel the effect over time. MSG has been linked to such diseases as, fibromyalgia, liver inflammation, memory problems or migraines. Daily usage of such seasonings is detrimental to the health. People have reported reactions after eating foods with MSG, but researchers have been unable to scientifically prove the allergy.
“Hydrogenated oil is semi solid at room temperature. The oil contains trans fat, which increases LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL (good cholesterol). Trans fats from hydrogenated oil are fat that should be eliminated.
“Another primary ingredient is salt, and it is widely known that excess salt in our diets can lead to high blood pressure and those with high blood pressure, people are at high risk of dying from stroke. Of course, it is not only the salt from these cubes that make it excessive, but the fact that many people add several of these cubes in their meals plus additional salt.
“So excess use of these products may be the cause of the high blood pressure in some particular cases. The extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. So, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease.”
Although people have been urged to use these seasonings in moderation to avoid health defects, but Ugbajah advises on total avoidance to maintain a good health. She recommends that people should rather stick to the natural seasonings or prepare their own seasoning, as that is the best alternative to these artificial ones.
“There are always alternatives to unhealthy things, which is why the best way to stay healthy is to avoid these seasonings and stick with healthy homemade stock,” she explained. “A recipe for home made seasoning can be made by slowly cooking chicken or cow bone or fish head (depending on the flavour you want) with such vegetables as spring onions, carrots and a pinch of salt. After properly cooking, remove the bone or fish head and blend with the vegetables and stock. Sieve and put in the fridge for your cooking. It can be used to cook any meal of your choice and is totally healthy.”