Knowing what ingredients go into your food is
important, especially if it is highly processed
food. You will then know what you are really
eating and be able to gauge if it’s healthy or
But first, you have to understand the
ingredients listed for the product. Some
ingredients are straightforward, like salt,
tomatoes or sugar. But often, you will find that
you need a dictionary or an encyclopedia to
understand what the ingredients are. Citric
acid? Monoglycerides? E129? Disodium Ionsinate?
Guar Gum? What?
Rule of thumb is to avoid processed food that
has more than five ingredients, or those that
cannot be pronounced.
The harder it is to locate the list of
ingredients on a product, the more important it
is to read it.
It frequently appears that manufacturers are
trying to hide the ingredients in packaged
foods. They make it difficult to find the
ingredients on the label, or to read them.
Ingredients are often hidden under a flap of
packaging material in very tiny print. But the
harder they are to find and read, usually, the
more important it is that you read them.
If necessary, carry a small magnifying glass
in your pocket or purse so you know exactly what
is in a product before you decide to purchase
If the list of ingredients is long, there’s
probably a lot of chemical additives in the
product, and you’re risking your health by
To illustrate, we looked at the ingredients
listed for two products. You decide which is
safer to consume regularly.
Product A: Canned tomatoes
Ingredients: Tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar,
salt, herbs, citric acid
Comment: Few ingredients, mostly
Translator: Citric acid is an organic acid
found mostly in fruits and is used as a natural
preservative or to add an acidic/sour taste in
Product B: Soup in a sachet
Ingredients: Potato starch, vegetable fat,
dried glucose syrup, salt, whey powder, modified
corn starch, maltodextrin, mushroom extract,
sugar, dehydrated mushrooms, yeast extract,
dehydrated parsley, artificial flavors, spice,
Comment: Many ingredients. Not many are
recognizable or understandable (even after
checking what they mean) and many have gone
through some chemical process.
Translator: Potato starch is extracted
by crushing the potato so that the starch grains
are released from the destroyed cells, washed
out and then dried to powder form.
Vegetable fat is vegetable oil; dried
glucose syrup is a popular substitute for sugar.
It is more commonly referred to as corn syrup
because its main ingredient is usually
cornstarch. Modified corn starch is chemically
treated corn starch.
Maltodextrin, usually made from rice, corn or
potato starch, is made by cooking the starch to
break it down. The end result is a simple white
powder that contains roughly four calories per
gram, and extremely small amounts of fibre, fat,
Artificial flavors are chemically