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Decoding Ingredients: Different Names for Unhealthy Items

Decoding Ingredients: Different Names for Unhealthy Items

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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  • smfultz By smfultz

    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.

  • Gin257 By Gin257

    very helpful info. thanks!!

  • Tfurr64 By Tfurr64

    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

  • Bunny26 By Bunny26

    Great Info.Thanks for posting this.

  • MyEmptyCanvas By MyEmptyCanvas

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

  • AnnaJane By AnnaJane

    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.

  • NoBrainer By NoBrainer

    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.

  • dfhdhtyi5i5i685 By dfhdhtyi5i5i685

    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

  • Ahyden By Ahyden

    Thanks for the info!

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