We are beginning to understand how important it is to read the labels on our food and know exactly what we are eating. As you scan through the list of ingredients, what you’re not seeing is a lot of hidden ingredients. Hidden ingredients are things that remain undisclosed on the label. Most of the time they are harmless, but if a person has certain food sensitivities, these hidden ingredients could cause trouble. How do we know what we are reading really means what it says?
What does this mean? We see this listed on ingredients everywhere! Artificial colors are simply food dyes that are added to foods where the color is not appealing, healthy-looking, or when the product will change colors with age. Some colors are required by the FDA (Blue, 2 for example) to be listed by name on the label.
Other particular coloring aids are listed because of allergy concerns, as they contain ingredients from bugs that may cause a reaction in some people. Commonly used as a red food dye, cochineal extract is made from the cochineal bug. Cochineal was one of the many dyes under the umbrella term “natural color” on food labels up until 2009. It wasn’t until a connection was made between the use of cochineal extract and allergic reactions before it was mandated to be listed as a separate ingredient. Those who are kosher or are avoiding animal products should look for this on their food labels.
Red 2, Red 40 and many other synthetic red dyes have been gaining a lot of attention lately for their adverse health effects especially in children on the autism spectrum. These dyes have been shown to be made from coal or petroleum byproducts. This is one of the reasons the use of cochineal extract is so widespread.
How natural are “natural flavors?” Some natural flavors are spices or tamarind extract, there are other foods with added flavors that are artificially manufactured. While that doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad, it means it’s wise to know the effects of everything we put into our bodies. The problem many people are having is not knowing which one it is when the term “natural flavors” is used to describe all of them.
MSG has been a flavoring additive that many people choose to avoid. The problem is, MSG has so many different names and is many products, even organic. To spot MSG-containing ingredients, look for these on ingredients labels:
- Autolyzed yeast
- Textured protein
- Glutamic acid
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Yeast extract
- Monosodium glutamate
As with most ingredients, some things affect different people in different ways. If you think you may be having a reaction or are experiencing negative effects of a certain ingredient, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about making a dietary change.
Used mainly in juices like orange juice, flavor packs are used to replace any flavor that was lost during juice storage. Sometimes juice is stored for a long time in deaerated tanks and the flavor weakens with time. Flavor packs are usually made of synthesized peel and pulp and the juice label can still read 100% pure juice.
Everybody is different and every body has different needs and sensitivities (or no sensitivities at all!). Knowing what is in our food is the first step to eating well, sometimes the answers aren’t clear or the food label uses complicated terms. If you would like guidance and support on your journey to detox or change your diet, feel free to speak with one of our nutritional consultants to see if a dietary change is right for you.