Preservatives, or food additives, are used to prevent bacteria growth as well as spoilage. Some preservatives are chemically processed while others are natural substances. Many of these additives are used in the home on a daily basis, but why are preservatives so important? Are they good or bad for your health?

The Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of more than 3,000 ingredients to ensure foods are safe to eat and accurately labeled. The FDA states that additives are added to foods for three particular reasons: to maintain and/or improve freshness, maintain and/or improve nutrition and to improve the taste, texture and appearance.

Maintain or Improve Freshness

Preservatives not only protect you and your foods from mold, air, bacteria, fungi and yeast, but also they prevent food contamination. Food contamination is responsible for foodborne illnesses such as E. coli or salmonella. Antioxidants are substances that protect your skin from free radicals but they're also classified as an additive. Antioxidants, as an additive, help food maintain its freshness and prevent foods from developing an off-flavor.

Maintain or Improve Nutritional Value

Fibers, such as whole grains, vitamins and minerals are added to foods that may have chemically lost their nutrients due to processing. The FDA reported that enhancing food's nutritional quality has minimized rates of malnutrition in America.

Improve Taste, Texture and Appearance

Other additives such as spices, natural flavors and sweeteners are added to improve the taste of food. Food color additives enhance the appearance. Color additives are used in food such as salmon to create a more uniform color.

Harmful Health Effects

However, preservatives can cause potential harmful effects on an individual's health. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, reducing or eliminating preservatives from your diet you may decrease the severity of asthma. They also discovered preservatives such as, aspartame, sulfites, benzoates and yellow dye #5, can trigger one's asthma symptoms.

A following study published in the Archives of Disease in Children, demonstrated by removing preservatives from a child's diet, parents may be able to reduce behavioral changes such as hyperactive behavior.

Though preservatives has been used for many years, and generally enhance the freshness, nutritional value and appearance of many foods, one should still be conscious of its harmful effects. Consult with your healthcare provider to see if you or your loved ones should eliminate certain preservatives to live a healthier life.