Nutrition Basics

Foods High in Sulfites



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Sulfites are common preservatives used in processed and restaurant foods medications and in some wines.  They include: sulfite, sulphur dioxide, calcium sulfite, calcium and bisulfate, sodium bisulfite, sodium sulfite, sodium potassium bisulfate, metabisulfite, and potassium metabisulfite.  To those who are allergic, they can be a serious problem.  While some people with allergies can ingest sulfites, others may endure an allergy attack, worsening of allergies, even asthma attacks.

It’s very important to know what you are ingesting; either in your food or medications. As a rule of thumb, anything processed or pre-packaged should be avoided if you are allergic to sulfites.  You can ask what is in your food at a restaurant, but unless you read everything on every packaged product and medication, you could end up sick.

Sulfites can destroy many nutrients and vitamins in your system, especially B1 (Thiamine) and folic acid.

Foods normally high in sulfites, include:  beer, wines, cocktail mixes, cookies, crackers, dried fruits and vegetables, dressings, fruit beverages, mixes, pickles, olives, horseradish and other condiments, anything containing raw sugar derived from sugar beets,  canned foods, frozen foods, pre-packaged foods, packaged fish and seafood, fruit fillings, jams and jellies, coconut, canned or bottles juices and fruit drinks, vegetable juices, trail mixes and snacks, cereals, canned and dried soup mixes, corn syrup and fruit toppings, anything containing fruit pectin, instant tea mixes and concentrates, pickled or dried vegetables, instant potatoes, high fructose corn syrups, modified food starch, corn starch, pastas, noodles, rice and these mixes, breadings, batters and mixes, processed cheese foods, gravies and gravy mixes, frozen foods and seafood,  baked goods, junk foods like chips and fruity candy, wine vinegar, puddings, frostings, cake and pie mixes, skim milk and products made with it, dairy product substitutes, plant protein products like soy substitutes for meat and tofu, nuts and grapes (sulphur dioxide is a fungicide used on grapes), infant formulas, maraschino cherries, pretzels, tortillias, waffles, frozen fruits and smoothie mixes, glazed fruits, some herbs and spices (especially pre-packaged dried ones), baby foods, vegetable oils, animal fats, pet foods.

Foods at salad bars and especially fast food or drive up restaurants will often have these sulfites in their ingredients and products.

Medications that can contain sulfites are: antiemetics for nausea, adrenaline or epinephrine, Adair, amino glycoside antibiotics and other antibiotics, tranquilizers, cardiovascular drugs, muscle relaxants, analgesics or painkillers, anesthetics, dental anesthetics that contain adrenaline, dexamethasone, dopamine, steroids, isoprenaline, local anesthetics, nebulized bronchodilators used for asthma, injectable corticosteroids, phenylephrine,  anesthetic agents like propofol, some creams and eye drops, and in some intravenous medications.

Australian researchers in 1984 discovered that up to 65% of children with asthma were sensitive to sulphites.  In 1999, the World Health Organization or WHO, noted that up to 30% of the recorded asthmatic children were sulphite-sensitive.  They recommended that food regulators reduce the use of sulfites and preservatives allowed in foods.

Still, for those already suffering from sulphite-sensitivities, it may be too late and unless the public demands a removal of these toxic sulphites in foods, not much else may be done.

More about this author: M. L. Kiser

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