What are you eating?

ingredientsIn early February, Subway announced that it would remove azodicarbonamide from its bread production. A variation of the ingredient has been used in commercial plastics such as foamed plastics and yoga mats. Food blogger Vani Hari, author of the famous “Food Babe” blog, wrote about Subway’s ingredients in 2012 and launched a successful petition to remove the ingredient.

“I think it is great that Subway is removing this product from their breads, and hopefully this will prompt other companies to do the same,” sophomore theater arts major Michaela Summers said.

The sandwich conglomerate has followed the example of several other companies. In 2010, McDonald’s infuriated Americans with its “pink slime” scandal after British television chef Jamie Oliver exposed its common ingredients on his show “Food Revolution.” Processed meat products were shown to be soaked in ammonium hydroxide, a colorless liquid chemical solution that forms when ammonia dissolves in water, which turned the meat into a pink slime. Since then, after much public outcry, McDonald’s in the U.S. halted its use of the substance.

Public exposure of bizarre food ingredients have led to an increased curiously and awareness about other artificial substances that people are consuming.

“I think it is incredibly important to be aware of what you are putting into your body,” Summers said. “You would be surprised at how many ‘health foods’ are actually not that great for you. …I choose to eat healthier options. I look at it this way: I demand a lot from my body and my body is extremely important to me, so why would I choose to give it anything but the best?”

While some studies on artificial ingredients are inconclusive or still under deliberation, health-conscious individuals like Summers believe that others should consider the effects it may have.

“Once you learn the facts about what you are eating, it really changes your perspective on what you choose to eat,” Summers said.

Sara Fenoglio, a certified health science educator and former fitness trainer, devotes her own blog, lovelifenaturally.org, to organic food recipes and natural living tips to increase awareness about the potential dangers that inorganic ingredients may have.

“Our bodies crave pure and natural foods and are unable to process artificial ingredients,” Fenoglio said. “Processed ingredients, such as high fructose, hydrogenated oils, bleached white flours and sugar, for example, send our bodies into a high glycemic state, causing elevated insulin levels, and also lead to type II diabetes.”

Like Summers, Fenoglio noticed a change in her body and emotion as soon as she began avoiding potential harmful ingredients listed in foods.

“It is an amazing thing when you start feeding your body what it craves: real food,” Fenoglio said. “You have less cravings, less health problems, you are able to listen to your body, and you never have to count a calorie, point or carb again. You begin to appreciate real food and have a newfound respect for your own body.”

Some of the most unusual ingredients are found in prepackaged foods on grocery store shelves and even on Azusa Pacific’s campus. Here are some common ingredients found in prepackaged foods and how they can affect your health.

Blue Dye No. 1, Yellow No. 6, Yellow Dye No. 10

Food dyes are color additives used by food companies to make products look more vibrant and appealing. Livestrong.com reported that Blue Dye No. 1, Yellow Dye No. 6 and Yellow Dye No. 10 had the most serious risks, which included allergies, hyperactivity, learning problems, aggressiveness and irritability in children, human growth abnormalities and growing tumors in the adrenal glands and kidneys of tested animals.

Dyes are normally found in ice cream, cereals, canned processed peas, packet soups, bottled food colorings, icings, cheese-flavored crackers and chips, colorful cereals, sports drinks, butterscotch pudding and macaroni and cheese mixes. Although the dyes remain legal in the U.S., countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and Norway have all banned the use of the ingredient in its foods.

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum, found in dairy products, sauces, toothpastes, medicines and salad dressings, is “a carbohydrate created through fermentation,” according to Fitsugar.com.

“The process begins with a sugar from a soy, wheat, dairy, or corn source,” Fitsugar’s site said. “A strain of bacteria, called Xanthomonas campetris, is added to the sugar to create a gum, or a slimy substance, which works as a colorless and tasteless thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier.”

This ingredient does not include any research revealing major health concerns from its consumption.

Enriched flour

This flour has had most of its natural vitamins and minerals extracted from its natural state. Food companies generally use it to increase shelf life and give bread a finer texture. It can be found in bread, cake, cookies, muffins, pizza, pretzels, donuts and pasta.

Jodi Davis, a health reporter for ahealthiermichigan.org, wrote that during the removal process, the grain and germ are omitted. The body then absorbs the wheat in a faster process than it would have in its natural form, which raises blood sugar more quickly.

“This excess blood sugar has to be metabolized by the liver, and if there’s an excess of sugar, your body will store some of it as fat,” Davis wrote in an article.

Mono, di and triglycerides

Monoglycerides, diglycerides and triglycerides are food additives commonly used as an emulsifier to adhere fats to water. Mono, di and triglycerides are used like other artificial ingredients — to extend food life.

Triglyceride intake should be monitored because high levels have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, according to livestrong.com. The triad of ingredients may be used in baked goods, soft drinks, candy, gum, whipped cream, ice cream, margarine and shortening.

Sugar (in all its forms)

The following ingredients are different ways sugar is identified on labels: dextrose, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dehydrated cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, maltodextrin, malt syrup, maltose, saccharose, sorghum or sorghum syrup, sucrose, treacle, turbinado sugar and Xylose.

The Chicago Tribune health blog featured more than 30 names for ingredients, most of them ending with “-ose.” The American Heart Association discourages consuming too much added sugar, as it has been linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease. The major sources of added sugars are soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, dairy products, cereals and grains such as toast or waffles.

Soy lecithin

Also known as E322, soy lecithin is extracted from soybeans either mechanically or chemically using hexane. It is actually a byproduct of the soybean oil production. According to webmd.com, soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier, which makes it possible to mix oil and water together.

It is often found in chocolate, salad dressing, mayonnaise, reduced-fat buttery spread and other foods that contain large amounts of oil. Soy by itself is considered a major food allergen by the FDA, but concerns about soy lecithin are not considered valid.

According to the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “Soy lecithin does not contain sufficient soy protein residues to provoke allergic reactions in the majority of soy-allergic consumers.”

Similar to xanthan gumxantham, this ingredient has not shown any major health concerns.