People’s eating habits are changing and evolving, so more and more consumers are looking for new, healthier and higher-quality formulas. This means that society is increasingly taking into account the ingredients of the food they eat and they are more familiar with concepts such as preservatives, additives and antioxidants. They strive to improve their health through their daily eating habits.
In this context, and within the field of food additives, natural antioxidants have gained ground against synthetics as a result of society’s demand for higher quality in their daily food intake. In addition, more and more problems have arisen for synthetic antioxidants, increasing the advantages to start consuming natural antioxidants.
But even still, why choose natural antioxidants to stabilise fats found in food? What are the characteristics that make them a better alternative to synthetic ones? Although the concept of natural antioxidants is intrinsically a differentiating factor, we will list some of the reasons why these additives add value to food production.
Reasons to use natural antioxidants in the manufacturing of food for human consumption
- The first reason is its high effectiveness as an antioxidant. There are different types of natural antioxidants that are able to delay the oxidation of fats by different methods, such as oxygen extinction, free radical reduction or regeneration of antioxidants, achieving in many cases better results than synthetics.
- Due to the composition and chemical characteristics of natural antioxidants, they are less volatile and more stable at high temperatures, which means that they better support food production processes such as frying, cooking or baking, making them more effective in the protection of the final product. This property of “surviving” the thermal process and remaining in the final product is known as “Carry Through”.
- Another benefit of natural antioxidants is that they are often more soluble than synthetics. Because an antioxidant cannot reverse the autoxidation process, but only prevent it, it is important to ensure that its distribution in the lipid medium is as homogeneous as possible.
- On the other hand, there are natural antioxidants that are soluble in oil and soluble in water, so depending on the production process and the product to which they will be added, there are different solutions. In addition, in the market it is easy to find prepared solutions with components which, for example, make it possible to convert a liposoluble antioxidant into a water-dispersible ingredient.
- Another advantage of natural antioxidants is that they are allowed for use in food in any country of the world, without facing the limitation or prohibition of use as established by health authorities such as FDA or EFSA for synthetics.
- It is worth noting that there are natural antioxidants such as Tocopherols or Ascorbic Acid, and due to the low doses in which they are used, they have no effect on the colour, taste or odour of the final product.
- Another factor that differentiates natural antioxidants is that some of them, such as Tocopherols, are allowed for use in organic foods. This is due to the low doses in which they are used, making is to they do not exceed the limits of this type of allowed product in other natural ingredients.
- Additionally, within the market it is common to find various mixtures of natural antioxidants. The combination of two or more antioxidants in many cases works better than the quantitative equivalent of any one of them separately, which is known as synergism. An example of this is the use of Tocopherols with Rosemary Extract.
- Finally, there is an increase in demand from consumers. Society is moving towards healthier habits and increasingly seeks a balanced and natural diet. That is why the use of these antioxidants in food production brings added value, unlike synthetic antioxidants.
Uses for natural antioxidants in food
Some of the main uses of natural antioxidants in food are: vegetable oils, animal fats, meat products, lecithin, cereals, dried fruits, dehydrated potatoes, mineral oils, fish oils, industrial pastry items, margarine, powdered milk, dehydrated broth, sauces and soups, vegetable preserves, juices, drinks, colouration, vitamins, baby foods, etc.
Other uses of natural antioxidants
In addition to its use in human food, natural antioxidants are also utilised by companies in other industries, such as: cosmetics and personal care, nutraceutical, animal nutrition or pharmaceutical. In all these markets compounds susceptible to oxidation are used, so the inclusion of natural antioxidants has also been growing, due to its advantages and its ability to increase the shelf life of products.
The future of natural antioxidants
In recent years, the use of natural antioxidants has experienced an increase in the food market due to its technological benefits and the consumers’ greater demand for more natural products which are less harmful to the human body. This has led more and more companies to choose these types of additives in order to protect their products against oxidation and increase their shelf life.
Nowadays, the manufacturing of products at the industrial level is only possible thanks to the use of additives, and in that regard, we must strive to use ingredients that, together with fulfilling their technological role in the product, are not harmful to human health, are regulated and approved by food authorities, and their use is justified in order to give consumers the highest possible quality food with as well as keeping the consumers highly informed.
Tocopherols, as one of the main natural antioxidants in the food industry, are opening up new paths and consolidating their place within the field of additives, since, in addition to all its benefits as an antioxidant, they meet all the legal and ethical requirements that the industry requires.