Food Additives: What are You Eating?

Food Additives: What are You Eating?

Ever picked up a favorite item at the grocery store, only to flip it around, read the ingredients and realize you don’t know what half of them are? We have become accustomed to seeing long lists of ingredients in our foods, ingredients that are becoming increasingly more complex, prevalent and, yes, unnatural.

To help get you through your list of mystery ingredients, we have put together a list of common food additives, what they are and if they are, in fact, safe to ingest. Take a look!

Carrageenan

What is it?

  • Derived from red seaweed
  • Thickening agent, stabilizer and /or emulsifier

Uses

  • Commonly found in dairy, dairy alternatives (soy milk, almond milk) and deli meat
  • For a more in depth list, check out the Cornucopia Institute's website

Safety

  • Can induce acute inflammation in the colon, which has been shown to cause ulcerative colitis in lab animals
  • Has been used in labs to induce inflammation and test anti-inflammatory drugs

Glycerol/Glycerin

What is it?

  • A natural compound that forms the backbone of fat and oil molecules

Uses

  • The body uses it as a source of energy while also helping make more complex compounds
  • Maintains water content in products like candies, fudge and baked goods
  • Sometimes added as a sweetener to certain products

Safety

  • Typically obtained as a by-product from soap making, usually derived from animal sources
  • Reported side effects have been nausea, headaches and diuresis of doses more than 700mg

Xanthan Gum

What is it?

  • Made from bacteria that’s been fermented in corn syrup and then extracted

Uses

  • Used as emulsifier, good for texture of products
  • Salad dressings, sauces, found in many gluten free products

Safety

  • May increase bloating, flatulence and can even cause mild nausea
  • Can cause diarrhea when 10 grams or more is consumed

Maltodextrin

What is it?

  • Polysaccharide that is made from potato, corn, rice or wheat starch and consists of short-chain glucose molecules
  • Can also be made into a fiber if treated with enzymes, heat or acid

Uses

  • Texturizer in processed foods
  • Salad dressings, frozen yogurt, spice mixes, baked goods, fat-free and sugar-free products

Safety

  • Quickly absorbed in the body and can be a quick source of energy after a workout
  • May cause a reaction in those with a gluten sensitivity
  • Similar to sugar, absorbed quickly and can lead to increase fat storage if not used for energy

High Maltose Corn Syrup

What is it?

  • Maltose is a sugar made from two joined glucose molecules and is less sweet than fructose
  • Typically made from GMO corn

Uses

  • Used to sweeten products and increase shelf life
  • Provides texture and flavor to foods like granola bars, cereals, and ice-creams

Safety

  • There is not a lot of research around the effects of HMCS on the body
  • It is thought to have a different effect on the body than High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • HFCS is processed and stored in the liver; maltose can be processed and used by all cells of the body

Natural Flavors

What is it?

  • Man-made compound that is derived from a plant or animal source
  • Not very different from the term “artificial flavors”

Uses

  • Found in a variety of food products to enhance flavors

Safety

  • Here are just some examples of approved “natural flavors:"
    • Benzaldehyde, used for almond flavor, has been found to cause central nervous system damage
    • Vanillan, vanilla flavor, can cause allergic reactions
    • Amyl Acetate, pear and banana flavor, can cause depression, indegestion, chest pain and headaches

These are just a few of the common additives I've been seeing in products recently. While some of these additives may not have proven adverse health effects, why choose to ingest them if you don’t have to? Let's take back our health, get back in the kitchen and be more educated consumers. Post below if you have any questions or concerns about additives you have recently come across.

References:

http://www.cornucopia.org/CornucopiaAnalysisofCarrageenanHealthImpacts042612.pdf

http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#potassiumbromate

http://www.pgchemicals.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Metabolism-and-Toxicity-2012-Website.pdf

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics


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