I read food labels regularly because I have to watch out for forms of carbs, sodium, and other things that are bad for me. I’m sure millions of people are doing the same and the same people have been encountering scary-sounding ingredients that makes one reach out for things labeled “organic.”
The word organic, before it became a selling point for many food vendors, just meant it came from a living being (plant/animal). Of course it has evolved into a more complex definition in recent times. I remember a Breyers ice cream commercial touting it only contained milk, eggs, and sugar. Nothing that we can’t spell. Well, that’s great. I do buy Breyers because I like the texture. But is it really too risky to buy other brands?
The answer is not always. I was recently enlightened by an article I read on the July/August 2016 issue of Dr. Oz’s The Good Life. The article was written by Jessica Migala and it’s called “Scary-Sounding Ingredients That Are Totally Okay.” Unfortunately as of this writing, it’s not yet accessible on the magazine’s website. But I’ll give you the low down.
Ascorbic acid: Also goes by sodium ascorbate. It’s found in juices, teas, canned/jarred artichokes, and humus. It’s added because it prevents browning and it’s nothing more than a form of Vitamin C. It’s the same as the bottled vitamin you buy from Nature Made. And it does have nutritional value as naturally ingested Vitamin C. Can you get too much? Well, any excess gets peed out so no worries.
Tocopherol: Again, this is just another vitamin – Vitamin E. We all know that it’s a good antioxidant and helps our immune system. It’s used as a food additive to prolong freshness. Kinda like those Vit. E capsules we use on our skin to keep our skin looking fresh.
Cellulose: If you remember, this was mentioned in your high school biology class. Cellulose is added to food to prevent clumping and also as a thickening agent. It comes from the cell walls of wood pulp or cotton seeds but it’s not the sawdust scare of recent news. Think about it, it comes from cell walls – that means this is on the microscopic level and totally organic. Cellulose is a harmless form of fiber and is also found in fruits and vegetables.
Guar gum and xanthan gum: Guar gum comes from the seeds of a bean plan while xanthan gum comes from the fermentation of certain bacteria. (Remember, not all bacteria is bad). These two are ones I generally avoid, as I mentioned, the texture puts me off. Other than my aversion to the mouth feel, these actually have some healthy benefits as they are a good source of fiber. So what are they for? They thicken the texture and keeps ingredients from separating so you’re likely to find these in sauces, salad dressings, nondairy milk and ice cream, even baked goods.
Cyanocobalamin: This sounds pretty scary but it’s just a type of Vitamin B12. It’s added to fortify many foods like cereal and yeast products. It occurs naturally in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products. It’s especially important for people had weight loss surgery and people over 50 who tend to lose the ability to absorb the vitamin, people with digestive disorders such as celiac or Crohn’s diseases, and those who follow vegan/vegetarian diets. Deficiency in this vitamin could lead to anemia, weakness, loss of balance, numbing or tingling in arms and legs.
Finally, dihydrogen oxide: That’s just plain water.
Migala’s advice: Instead of being scared, research it. We all have Google on our phones, people. My personal advice (I am an MLIS) – make sure the sources are reliable, preferably from .gov websites).