Decoding Ingredients: Different Names for Unhealthy Items

   By divinecaroline  Aug 30, 2010

Food manufacturers sure don’t make it easy for consumers to shop conscientiously. We have to do homework just to decipher the nutrition labels on the backs of boxes and cans, otherwise they’re just a mess of percentages and multi-syllabic words. Even just trying to avoid certain ingredients is hard enough; manufacturers want you to buy their stuff, so they don’t want to make questionable content too obvious. As a result, ingredient lists on processed foods are long, jumbled, and full of words you’d need a science background to understand. Fortunately, figuring out whether foods have ingredients we don’t want?like MSG, sugar, or trans fat?isn’t as intimidating once we know what to look out for. Unfortunately, considering that something as simple as sugar has over twenty names, we clearly have our work cut out for us.

Monosodium glutamate by any other name is still MSG, an additive that gives food a salty, savory flavor (also known as
umami, the fifth taste). You can find it in any number of packaged goods, canned items, and snacks, but you won’t always find it listed as “monosodium glutamate” in the ingredients. If you suffer from MSG symptom complex ?having physical reactions, like headaches, nausea, and heart palpitations?or you just want to avoid suspicious additives altogether, look out for these other names for MSG:
Autolyzed yeast
Hydrolyzed flours or proteins
Textured protein
Sodium/calcium caseinate
Glutamic acid
Vegetable protein extract
Some ingredients aren’t MSG per se, but contain some amount of glutamate, which can cause similar health problems if you have MSG symptom complex:
Malted barely
Protein powders (whey, soy, etc.)
Soy sauce
Rice syrup
Guar gum
Modified corn starch
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men and women eat no more than nine and six teaspoons of sugar per day, respectively. However, the AHA also reports that Americans consume about twenty-two teaspoons of sugar a day on average. A good amount of that comes from hidden sugars; that is, sugars in processed foods like crackers and condiments. Sugar falls under many different labels, so it’s all too easy to get your daily sugar quota and then some by not reading ingredient lists carefully:
Sucrose, fructose, dextrose, etc. (anything ending in “ose”)
Corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Maple syrup
Evaporated cane juice
Chicory/carob/inulin/tapioca syrup
Cane juice crystals
Trans Fat
As of 2008, the FDA requires every food manufacturer to list the amount of trans fats in their products if it exceeds more than .5 grams. While that’s a laudable effort on the FDA’s part, it still means that products can boast “No trans fat!” even when there are trace amounts. Since trans fat consumption is linked to increased risk of heart and cholesterol problems, any amount should be considered unsafe. And since producers can fudge the truth about whether it’s even in food or not, we should be even more vigilant about checking the ingredients:
Hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils (if it says “fully” or “completely” hydrogenated, that means it’s not a trans fat source)
There are small amounts of trans fat that occur naturally in animal products like meat and dairy, but it’s the kind that occur in processed goods that we need to worry about more.
The only way to recognize every item in an ingredient list is to eliminate all processed foods from our diets, but that also means cutting out a lot more than even the most health-conscious might realize. How many of us can go the rest of our lives without eating chips, cereal, or even bread? At the very least, we can avoid the products that have particularly bad ingredients in their labels. Processed foods without trans fat, excess sugar, and MSG do exist; it just takes some detective work to find them, but on the plus side, we won’t get headaches, endure sugar crashes, or raise our bad cholesterol levels in the process.

Do you think you have been unknowingly eating ingredients you’re trying to keep out of your diet?


Originally written by Vicki Santillano for

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Ahyden by Ahyden | LOVELAND, OH
Dec 03, 2010

Thanks for the info!

dfhdhtyi5i5i685 by dfhdhtyi5i5i685 | yhye, OU
Nov 08, 2010

according to what I hear always, MSG is dangerous to someone's health. but the company manufacturing it in my country still insists that it is baseless

NoBrainer by NoBrainer | Henderson, NV
Oct 30, 2010

No matter how hard you try to avoid these 'additives' you're still going to end up ingesting some. All in moderation. Too much of a good thing IS bad for your bodies future. Nice info.

AnnaJane by AnnaJane | Lake Charles, LA
Oct 16, 2010

If you can't pronounce an ingredient, it's probably not good for you. :) I love umami, but i do suffer from the MSG symptom complex, so it's all in moderation. Thanks to the author for providing the list of foods that might trigger symptoms in excess--some of those would never have occurred to me as potentially problematic.

MyEmptyCanvas by MyEmptyCanvas | KOSCIUSKO, MS
Oct 13, 2010

I guess it's to much effort to call products by their regular names, huh? LOL

Bunny26 by Bunny26 | LAS VEGAS, NV
Oct 12, 2010

Great Info.Thanks for posting this.

Tfurr64 by Tfurr64 | Fort Smith, AR
Oct 09, 2010

Thanks for the list It's like having to learn a new language to read their lists of ingredients. They are so sly and devious in marketing things and defrauding a person anymore

Gin257 by Gin257 | LONG BEACH, NY
Sep 20, 2010

very helpful info. thanks!!

smfultz by smfultz | Kelso, WA
Sep 10, 2010

I quit canning years ago, but this is exactly why I have started again. I want to know what is being put into my family's bodies. I can, fortunately, buy meat from family members that raise their own animals, so I know that I'm not getting hormones and chemicals that way. These food producers are sneaky, deceitful, and dangerous! It's time to get hard on them and the easiest way to do that is to not buy their products. Be sure and spread the word about deceptive labeling to your family, friends and anyone else that will listen.

TheMal by TheMal | LOMBARD, IL
Sep 09, 2010

I'll be looking at this list today when I go to the grocery. Thank you for the information!

vintagepurple by vintagepurple | VISALIA, CA
Sep 06, 2010

i feel you crazilu on the migraines

joy9281 by joy9281 | TOLEDO, OH
Sep 02, 2010

Thanks for the list that is very helpful I try to avoid MSG due to heart problems & high blood pressure. I was not aware of a lot of these names and this will really help me to decide whether to purchase certain items.

crazilu by crazilu | Lakeport, MI
Sep 02, 2010

This is wonderful info to have. MSG gives me terrible migraines and vertigo and I've for years wondered why some foods "without" the MSG title give me the same results. Not sure why labels have to "hide" so much information on people that can make them sick.

marti3276 by marti3276 | Elma, WA
Sep 02, 2010

Thanks for the article! Another hidden ingredient is gluten, and having celiac disease makes it imperative that I keep a gluten free diet. Because it isn't always clear whether a product is gluten free or not, I mostly rely on homemade products, ie mixes, sauces, etc.

alh2027 by alh2027 | San Antonio, TX
Sep 01, 2010

Thank you so much for this article! I have fibromyalgia and have been trying to avoid MSG as well as aspartame (which may cause similar symptoms in people who are sensitive to it). Aspartame isn't too difficult to avoid, especially because products with it are required to have a "contains phenylalanine" warning on the label, but MSG is a lot harder to spot. This list will really help me out.