Optimum Wellness Presented by King Soopers

Author- Dr. James Rouse

You try your best to stick to an “all-natural” foods diet, but still there are some funky ingredients lurking in your almond milk. What are they, where do they come from, and what do they do for (or against) the body? We’re not going to get into the artificial sweeteners, flavorings or colorings here – just know you need to avoid those. You’ll need to decide for yourself if you will avoid any of the ten additives below:

1. Carrageenan – is a thickening agent commonly used in alternative “milks” like almond milk and coconut milk. It is sourced from algae and seaweed. Too much carrageenan can irritate the gut, leading to diarrhea, gas, and/or bloating. Studies indicate that consumption of carrageenan may trigger an inflammatory response in the intestines, increasing the risk for inflammatory bowel disease.

2. Locust Bean Gum (aka Carob gum, carob bean gum) – is a thickening agent that comes from the carob seedpod. Some clinical evidence suggests that locust bean may be beneficial against gastroesophageal reflux. There have also been reports of hives following ingestion of locust bean gum.

3. Guar gum – very similar to locust bean gum but it comes from guar seeds. Functions as a thickening agent and prebiotic fiber. May be beneficial in terms of decreasing risk factors associated with insulin resistance. May also be beneficial for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.

4. Vital wheat gluten (aka Seitan) – the key here is the “glue” aspect of the substance. Wheat gluten is a sticky mass that binds ingredients together. Gluten is an obvious poison for anyone with celiac disease. Gluten-related disorders effect roughly 5% to 10% of the population and if individuals with gluten sensitivity are unaware that seitan (a common “protein” used by vegetarians) comes straight from wheat, they will likely have serious gastrointestinal side effects.

5. Potassium sorbate – is actually a manufactured salt from sorbic acid. It is used as a preservative in jam, cheese, bread, baked goods, and personal care products like facial and sanitary wipes. It helps prevent mold from growing. It is listed as “generally regarded as safe,” however there are reports that potassium sorbate ingestion may be damaging to white blood cells and gastrointestinal complaints such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

6. Cellulose (Carboxymethylcellulose, CMC or cellulose gum) – is a substance that keeps food from sticking together. It is a soluble fiber that should be coming from plants or vegetables but could be coming from wood (basically you’re eating sawdust). It is used in foods like shredded cheese. The Center for Science in the Public Interest rates cellulose as “safe.” CMC, the gum of cellulose is used in ice cream, beer, and diet foods to name a few. It is used to “improve” the texture of certain foods. It is not digested or absorbed and has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease symptoms.

7. Modified Food Starch – Used to improved consistency and keep solids suspended in liquids. It is generally considered safe, but individuals with food sensitivities (wheat, corn for example) will want to check the source of the starch.

8. Soy lecithin – this ingredient seems to be in almost everything and most certainly in one of our favorite delicacies, chocolate. It acts as an emulsifier (keeps liquid, fat, water from separating) and preservative. Lecithin is naturally occurring in egg yolk and soy. It is also used medicinally for a range of health conditions including high cholesterol levels and for memory support. Most side effects that are reported seem to be gut related and include nausea, diarrhea, stomach/intestinal cramping, and abdominal pain. If you have a known sensitivity or allergy to soy then you will want to avoid this additive.

9. Sodium benzoate – synthesized in a laboratory from benzoic acid and used as a preservative. May act as a neurotoxin in the body and deprives mitochondria (energy-producing cells) of oxygen. It is used to prevent the growth of bacteria in everything from personal care items to beverages. One of the problems is that when it combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), a chemical reaction can occur, forming small amounts of benzene, which have been shown to increase the risk for cancer.

10. Maltodextrin – a thickening agent used in snacks, cereals, puddings, and sauces. It is also found in some sugar alternatives. It is “supposed to be” sourced from corn, rice, or potato starch, which would classify it as gluten free, but it seems that manufacturers can use wheat-sourced maltodextrin and could be problematic for individuals with celiac disease.

There is most certainly a wide range of additives that are rampant in our food supply – well beyond the extent of this list. When in doubt, read labels, look up ingredients that you do not recognize and decide if your health is at stake if you eat certain products. Your best bet is to choose organic, whole fruits and vegetables and grains as much as possible, close to their natural state so you’re not consuming any unexpected additives.