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  • Jenny Maloney RD

What's in the ingredient label of your packaged foods?

Guar gum, maltodextrin, carrageenan....what are these ingredients in your healthy...or not so healthy foods? Ultimately you want to eat real fresh whole foods, the foods that don't have an ingredient label because they are not in a package, as often as possible. But it's unrealistic to not have packaged or convenience foods at all with our busy lifestyles. You can't just look at the front of a package and make your decision; there are many false claims like "heart healthy, 100% natural, whole wheat" that do not mean the food is healthy. And if you are just looking at the nutrition facts label for your health information, you are missing a big piece of needed education to make smart choices. The ingredient label is listed by weight- the ingredient listed first weighs the most and the ingredient listed last weighs the least. The less ingredients, the better. Many of these additives are considered safe according to the FDA but they can cause digestive issues, some may be cancer causing like carrageenan, and they are not real food. There are also many additives that are disguised as sugar like fruit juice concentrate and brown rice syrup and products use sugar substitutes instead of sugar to promote health but these can also cause digestive issues. Try to have more natural sugar sources like real cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, date syrup, and coconut sugar. Here is a list of some of the common ingredients to avoid or cut back on:

guar gum, xantham gum, soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin, maltodextrin, palm oil, shortening, high fructose corn syrup, processed sugar like brown rice syrup, sodium and potassium benzoate, BHA, food coloring, artificial flavors, natural flavors, carrageenan,

citric acid, lactic acid, caramel color, corn oil, cottonseed oil, dextrose, soybean oil,

partially hydrogenated oil, soy protein isolate, tapioca starch, citric acid, synthetic

vitamins like Vitamin A Palmitate and Artificial Sweeteners like sucralose, erythritol, stevia

Many of these ingredients are not only found in junk food but they are in your health foods. Once you start looking for these ingredients, you will notice that they are in many foods in your cupboard. Start looking at the ingredient label of packaged foods first and then you can look at the nutrition label for info like serving size and added sugars. Here's an example of a processed energy bar with a long list of filler ingredients:

Here's an example of a bar with real food ingredients:

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