Category Archives: additives


Jell-O Simply Good (or Still Just As Bad?)

Kraft recently released a new line of “Jell-O Simply Good” products. According to them, they are “delightfully honest” and “made with the good stuff.”

However, I found several questionable ingredients still lurking inside. Let’s take a look…

A Closer Look at the Ingredients in Jell-O Simply Good

Cane sugar is the most abundant ingredient in this product (19 grams per 1/2 cup serving to be exact). And it’s most likely made from genetically modified and pesticide laden sugar cane.

Gelatin gives Jell-O its gel like consistency. And it can be a health promoting ingredient if sourced from grass-fed and pastured raised cows. However, in this case, the source of gelatin is unknown.

Dried strawberry juice provides a “natural” flavoring. But, it doesn’t add any nutritional value. In fact, it only adds more sugar.

Adipic acid gives Jell-O a bit of tartness. While it is an organic compound, adipic acid is the precursor of nylon. And it rarely occurs in nature.

Disodium phosphate helps control acidity. Scientists synthesize it by combining phosphoric acid with a sodium compound. According to the Environmental Working Group, sodium phosphates may increase one’s risk of heart and/or kidney disease when consumed in excess.

Sodium citrate also controls acidity. And it is generally considered safe in small doses. However, it’s most likely made from genetically modified corn. Thus, those with corn allergies should avoid products with sodium citrate.

Natural flavor additives lead consumers to believe the flavor is all natural. However, this is far from the truth. While the final product is derived from something found in nature, chemical solvents are used to manufacture them. Further, food companies are not required to disclose the actual contents of natural flavors. Thus, we’ll never really know!

It’s also worth noting that Jell-O Simply Good truly gets its flavor from these “natural” flavors as opposed to strawberry juice. Juice is actually quite bland and its flavor diminishes over time. On the other hand, scientists specifically design natural flavors to be potent and shelf-stable.

Fumaric acid is another additive used for tartness. In general, small quantities are considered safe.

Turmeric oleoresin is supposedly a “natural” coloring agent made from turmeric. However, volatile chemical solvents are used to make it. And when fed to rats and mice in this study, it had carcinogenic effects.

According to the same study, consumption of turmeric oleoresin was also associated with a higher incidence of stomach ulcers and inflammation of digestive organs.

And in case you’re wondering, human safety studies don’t exist. They wouldn’t be ethical. And this is true for most food additives.

Vegetable juice is used for coloring in this product. And it’s relatively benign. However, the type of vegetable juice used is unknown. And the vegetables are most likely grown with pesticides.

Jell-O Simply Good versus Original Jell-O Mixes

The main difference between Jell-O Simply Good and the original Jell-O mixes is the removal of artificial flavors and dyes. This is a step in the right direction. But, far from “simply good” or “delightfully honest” in my opinion.

Other than the flavors and colors, the products are almost identical. Both have questionable additives, zero nutritional value, and an abundance of refined sugar.

A Healthy Alternative

real gelatin peach gummiesAs previously mentioned, gelatin can be a nutritious addition to your diet. However, quality matters. I recommend using a clean, no additive gelatin made from grass-fed and pastured raised cows.  My preferred brand is Vital Proteins.

Here is a fun recipe you can use to make homemade “jello” gummies with fresh juice and natural sweeteners.

Do you already use gelatin? If so, what are your favorite ways to incorporate it into your diet?

Ingredients Based On Corn

 

Corn is one of the most highly genetically modified (GM) ingredients in the United States.  For that reason I encourage people to eat organic corn in order to avoid the GM contamination as well as the high levels of pesticide that are one of the results of genetic modification.  

There are six forms of corn – dent corn, flint corn, flour corn, popcorn, sweet corn, and zein. Most people don’t think about the different forms when they’re buying fresh, frozen, or canned corn at the grocery store.  Those are easy to identify.  And corn, corn flour, corn starch, or corn syrup are easy to identify by reading the label.  The challenge however is that corn can be turned into a rather startling variety of ingredients that make an appearance in every single food category at the grocery store.

For those trying to avoid GM corn, or those who have a food sensitivity to corn, it’s not always easy to know which ingredients got their start from corn.  Use this list as a resource to help you know which products to buy organic or, in the case of a food sensitivity to corn, avoid.

Corn-based ingredients

  • Ascorbic Acid – also sometimes listed as vitamin C
  • Baking Powder – this may contain corn starch
  • Brown Sugar – made from white sugar with caramel coloring added 
  • Calcium Citrate – also known as ‘calcium salt of citric acid’ 
  • Caramel – coloring agent frequently used in soft drinks.  Can be made from cane sugar but most commonly made from corn; a known carcinogen
  • Cellulose – a form of plant fiber (note: this ingredient can also be made from wood) 
  • Citrate – this sour flavor enhancer comes in several different forms: Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, etc. 
  • Citric Acid – made by adding the mold Aspergillus niger to a base of corn steep liquor, molasses, hydrolyzed corn starch, or other cheap sweet solutions
  • Corn
  • Corn Meal – as well as being used for cooking, corn meal can be used for dusting baked items
  • Corn Starch – may be found in OTC tablets
  • Corn Syrup – may be found in liquid OTC medications such as cough syrup
  • Decyl Glucoside – often found in shampoo and other personal care products
  • Dextrin, Maltodextrin – used as a  thickening agent for condiments, frozen confections, and other foods
  • Dextrose (glucose) – found in sweets, may also be present in processed meats
  • Ferrous Gluconate – an ingredient found in black olives
  • Flavoring – Artificial or “Natural Flavors” may be corn based
  • Golden Syrup 
  • Honey – HFCS is sometimes fed to bees causing their honey to then have corn in it
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Iodized Salt – Dextrose may be added to iodized salt to help stabilize the iodine 
  • Lactic Acid 
  • Magnesium Citrate – Magnesium salt of citric acid
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Malic Acid
  • Malt/Malt Flavoring
  • Maltitol – a sugar alcohol made by hydrogenating maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol – This sugar alcohol is often blended with corn-based sugars
  • Methyl Gluceth – a cosmetic emollient
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – MSG can be made from corn
  • Polydextrose
  • Polysorbates (i.e. Polysorbate 80)
  • Potassium Citrate 
  • Powdered Sugar – may contain corn starch
  • Saccharin
  • Sodium Citrate 
  • Sodium Erythorbate – may be made from beets, corn, or sugar cane
  • Sodium Starch Glycolate – may be made from corn, rice, or potatoes
  • Sorbitan – made by dehydrating sorbitol  
  • Sorbitan Monostearate – may be found in various types of yeast (baking, brewing)  
  • Sorbitol – this sugar alcohol often appears in diet candies or gum, can also be in oral care products
  • Starch – unless otherwise specified (such as potato starch) this is probably corn starch
  • Sucralose – Splenda is often made with dextrose or maltodextrin 
  • Sweet’N Low – made with dextrin 
  • Vanilla Extract – may be made with corn syrup 
  • Vinegar, Distilled White 
  • Xanthan Gum – often grown on a base of corn or corn sugar 
  • Xylitol – can be made from birch or corn, in the US it is frequently corn
  • Zein – used in time-release medications

 

 

Clean Label Starches: Better For You Or Just Another Bait & Switch?

Are clean label starches a healthy choice? Well, the answer depends on whom you ask. If you ask the food manufacturers, clean label starches are definitely a better choice over more traditional modified food starches. Not because clean label starches are actually better for you, but because they allow processed foods to have a cleaner looking list of ingredients.

What are Food Starches?

Both starch additives are derived from ingredients such as corn, potato, tapioca and wheat. Both are modified from their original native state to withstand extreme food processing conditions, such as ultra high heat and homogenization.

So what’s the difference? It all comes down to HOW the starches are modified.

Modified versus Clean Label Starches

Chemicals (usually acids) are used to make modified food starches. As a result, the FDA requires them to be labeled as “modified” food starches.

On the other hand, clean label starches are produced by physical means, such as purification and heat treatment. Since no chemicals are used, a clean label starch may simply be referred to as “starch.”

Why use Food Starches?

Modified food starches and clean label starches both act as thickening agents, emulsifiers and stabilizers in many processed foods. Both are added to improve “mouth-feel” as well as maintain a desired texture and taste.

clean label starch in yogurtModified food starches are found in a wide variety of foods.  One example is yogurt. Take a look at the list of ingredients of this popular brand of fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt:

INGREDIENTS: Cultured Pasteurized Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic Cane Sugar, Non-GMO Corn Starch, Organic Natural Vanilla Flavor, Organic Carob Bean Gum, Organic Vanilla Bean Specks, Gellan Gum

One of the biggest hurdles manufacturers face with fat-free products is texture. This is where starch additives come to the rescue. They produce a thick and creamy yogurt in the absence of fat.

“Corn starch” sounds cleaner and more natural than “modified corn starch.” But from a health standpoint, clean label starches are no better than their chemically treated counterparts. Clean label starches are just another bait and switch in my opinion.

Potential Health Concerns

Both starches are nutritionally void. And it’s not always clear what ingredient the starch was originally derived from. In most cases it’s genetically modified corn, but not always.

There are also concerns regarding cross-contamination during the manufacturing process. So be extra careful if you have any food allergies and/or sensitivities.

Some argue modified starches are difficult to digest and there is some scientific evidence to support this. Scientists in this study found certain modifications decreased the rate of digestion in vitro. However, they put a positive spin on it. They suggest modified starches may act as a good source of resistant starch.

The truth is resistant starches aren’t all bad. Our bodies can’t digest them, but they do feed the good bacteria in our digestive tract. And a healthy gut flora is essential to optimal health. However, moderation is still necessary, especially for those with digestive conditions. And most importantly, there are much healthier sources of resistant starch available, such as whole grains, legumes, seeds and cooked then cooled potatoes.

Other Potential Hidden Ingredients

Lastly, there’s buzz about modified starches containing up to 10% maltodextrin, a complex sugar and a common hiding place for monosodium glutamate (MSG). But without access to industry formulations, we’ll never really know!

Healthy Alternatives

When it comes to Greek yogurt, there are several truly clean options available. But, only if you buy it “plain” and spice it up at home.  Or you can make your own Greek style yogurt by straining 32 ounces of plain, organic, whole milk yogurt in a lined colander overnight.

For a treat, top your yogurt with fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds. If a little sweetness is needed, add a drizzle of raw honey or pure maple syrup. A little bit goes a long way!

In Conclusion…

As always, you need to read the ingredient lists to know what’s in your food. But even then manufacturers keep coming up with new ways to trick consumers. When it comes to food starches, both the chemically modified and clean label versions are nothing more than highly processed additives manufacturers use to make foods highly palatable.

To stay in the know about other clean label ingredients food manufacturers are using, sign-up for Mira’s newsletter today! As a thank you, you’ll receive a free copy of Mira’s eBook “Eating Out, Eating Healthy”. It’s packed with tips for making healthy choices when eating out.

Top 10 Ingredients To Avoid

I’m often asked which ingredients we should avoid in our food.  There really isn’t a simple answer for that.  I could say all of the fake ones, but that leaves you to decide which ones are fake.  And truthfully some of them aren’t “fake”, meaning they’re not entirely from chemicals.  They’re just highly modified.  Either because they’ve been through some sort of a chemical process to invert, alter, or manipulate their chemical structure to change them significantly from their original form. 

An overview of Splenda (TM)

A perfect example of manipulation is Splenda.  It started out as sugar (which some could argue is highly processed, stripped of all minerals and therefore not a great choice to begin with).  In processing it becomes modified by the addition of sucralose which is made by replacing three hydrogen-oxygen atoms and inserting three chlorine atoms in their place. Because it contains less than 5 calories per serving it’s labeled as having no calories.  (A single packet, weighing 1 gram, actually provides 3.36 calories — a miniscule amount, however this is still misleading labeling).

Unfortunately Splenda (TM) is far from the harmless non-nutritive sweetener that it’s advertised to be.  It has been shown to alter intestinal pH and reduces intestinal microflora.  We need a balanced pH for good health.  We also require beneficial levels of bacteria to help support good digestive health.

According to one report published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, there seems to be some evidence that Splenda (TM) may not be as biologically inert as advertised.  It also appears that exposure to high temperatures can cause it to break down into a toxic substance.

Ingredient Overview

While I frequently write about what ingredients are, where they appear, and other information you need to be aware of in the newsletter, I also recognize that it’s helpful to have a “cheat sheet” of sorts to give you an overview and help you break it down a little bit further.  So I’ve created the infographic below.  These are my top ten “baddies” and the ones that you really want to watch out for.  Print it out, write it down, whatever you need to do to be able to bring this information with you to the grocery store. 

top-10-ingredients-to-avoid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking for more in-depth information about ingredients your best resource is The Pantry Principle:  how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food. 

For regular, weekly updates on what’s going on in the world of food manufacturing and processing be sure to check out my newsletter, Food News You Can Use.

 

 

What’s That Flavor?

what's that flavor

Food manufacturers are always looking for new ways to keep consumers engaged with their brands.  They’re also looking for new ways to encourage you to eat, or a new flavor to tempt you with.  After all, the more you eat, the more profitable their product is.  Unfortunately this has turned us into a nation of snackers.

We’ve been so effectively marketed to that we think we have to have snacks.  Even more than that, when we say the word snack most people think chips, pretzels, granola bars, or other high carbohydrate foods which deliver a lot of calories and little to no actual nutrition.  

a snack is not a meal

Unfortunately the more we snack the less hungry we are when meal time comes around.  So perhaps we don’t eat a real meal.  And then a couple of hours later we’re hungry again and it’s time for another snack.  By the time you get to the end of the day it’s possible that you’ve simply snacked for the entire day.  You go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again. The challenge is that you’re just making yourself hungrier and hungrier.  Your belly may be full, but your body is not nourished.

Snacking is not meant to replace mealtime.  It’s a mini-meal.  A little something to keep you going if you’re hungry in between regular, nourishing meals.  Preferably something that has a little protein and a healthy fat.  Healthy snacking can help to keep your blood sugar stable.  All day snacking, especially with high carbohydrate snack foods can put you in the front row seat of the blood sugar rollercoaster.

manufacturer manipulation

As part of their effort to keep you snack-engaged, food manufacturers sometimes run campaigns designed to get consumer feedback on flavors.  One example is the Pepsi Co. “Do Us A Flavor” campaign which they’ve been running since 2012.  [I’m deliberately not linking to it because I don’t want to participate in bringing attention to it — you’ll see why in just a minute]  Thanks to this campaign they’ve come up with different, unusual flavors of potato chips such as Korean Barbeque or Smoked Gouda and Chives.  Some manufacturers are looking to build brand excitement by “retiring” flavors or creating “limited editions” in an effort to create a scarcity effect.

By creating these campaigns the manufacturers are hoping to build further brand engagement.  To hook you a little bit more closely to the brand.  They don’t need to guess at developing new products.  Consumers tell them exactly what they want so the manufacturer can make it.  It allows them to save money and tempt you to eat more snacks.

All of these flavors, however, don’t add up to good nutrition.  They simply add up to more chemicals and more calories. 

new flavors

 

resources

If you’re looking for a healthy snack check out this article on protein snacks to boost energy.

Want to know more about flavors and how they’re used in food?  

When you’re looking for a snack, remember, a snack is not a meal.  Choose a little something with some protein in it and have just enough to get through your day to your next meal.  You’ll feel better and your metabolism will be more balanced because of it.

Hormel’s Vital Cuisine — Ingredient Review

Food niches

Food producers like to target niche markets where they believe they can capitalize on the desire of the consumer in that group to eat according to their needs.  Categories may include diet or weight loss products, items aimed at athletes, or those who follow a particular dietary protocol such as Atkins, South Beach, Gluten Free, etc.  

The latest target niche is cancer.  Hormel Foods, in partnership with the Cancer Nutrition Consortium, has developed a line of Ready To Eat (RTE) foods aimed at those undergoing cancer treatment.  Often people in this situation experience a wide range of issues when it comes to their food.  These can include lack of appetite or a change in tastes and eating sensations.  Coupled with a lack of energy, plus the physiological changes of treatment this often leads many people undergoing cancer treatment to be undernourished.  They frequently do better with nutrient dense, higher protein meals.

What’s in the box?

Unfortunately the choices developed by Hormel Foods do not represent the best options for nutrition as many of the ingredients are less than desirable.  Some are even known to cause cancer.  This is a rather upsetting thought when one considers that the item is aimed at those going through treatment for cancer who are presumably have a weaker immune system.  Below is a slideshow highlighting examples from the Vital Cuisine line.

 

I find it astounding and rather appalling that a company would put ingredients known to cause cancer into a food product designed for those going through this very condition.  

What to eat?

As mentioned above, the best food choices for those who are undergoing treatment for cancer are real, nourishing, nutrient dense foods. I always encourage people to read the label.  When dealing with a health-care crisis this becomes even more important.  While it may be overwhelming to learn how to understand the body’s nutritional needs when dealing with cancer, there are resources out there.  A couple of my favorite books are:

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.35.54

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz

 

 

 

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.52.18 The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach for Preventing Recurrance by Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman

 

 

 

The idea of niche marketing for specific health conditions is quite probably a new category of foods.  Who knows, we may find ourselves seeing foods designed to support those with arthritis, gout, or ulcerative colitis on the shelf next. As always it is important to look past the hype and the labeling.  Be informed, read the label, and eat well.

Boy Scout Popcorn – What’s In That Bag?

It’s Girl Scout cookie time. Everywhere you turn, at the grocery store, at the mall, outside shopping centers, are young girls dressed in their uniforms, selling cookies.  And if you live in suburbia, they’re knocking at the door, earnest little faces selling what is arguably one of America’s favorite cookies. However people are more aware of what’s really in those cookies and it seems like everywhere you turn people are complaining about the trans-fats, the GMOs, plus all the other negative ingredients.  The Food Babe even wrote an article dissecting the cookies and their ingredients.  *

I was talking about this with someone recently and she mentioned that she no longer buys Girl Scout Cookies because as much as she loves them she doesn’t want to eat all of the negative ingredients. Then she followed up with, “Thank goodness popcorn is safe. Because I love my Boy Scout Scout popcorn, we always buy enough to last the whole year.”  Ummm, excuse me? Well that’s a big whoops. Everyone is so focused on the Girl Scouts and their cookie sales that no one is really paying attention to Boy Scout Popcorn. Unfortunately it’s not as great as you might think. Let’s take a moment and look at the label of just two of the different flavors.

What’s In The Popcorn?

Mira_PopcornInfoGraph1_FIN

Mira_PopcornInfoGraph2_FIN

Important points

More than just what’s in the infographic is the story behind a few of the ingredients:

  • The dairy products are most likely to be from conventionally raised cows. These animals are given antibiotics, a lot of antibiotics.  In fact some estimates are that more than 70% of all antibiotics prescribed in this country are given to animals, not to directly to humans.  Studies have shown that overuse of antibiotics does contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria. You can read more about it here, here and here.
  • Citric Acid sounds safe enough, most of us think of it as being sourced from citrus fruits. Unfortunately in the world of food production that would be too time consuming and too expensive. This citric acid is most likely to be made from fermenting mold with genetically modified corn. Virtually all of the citric acid in the U.S. is manufactured this way.
  • By now many of you are aware of the fact that trans-fats have been banned. However manufacturers have until 2018 to remove them completely from their products and they can apply to the FDA for a permit allowing them to continue to use it.

In August when the Boy Scouts start knocking on your door you may want to reconsider buying that popcorn. By all means, continue to support your local troop; but consider making a donation directly to them rather than buying the popcorn.

And if you want popcorn? My suggestion is to make it at home. Here’s my favorite recipe:

 

Delicious Noosh Popcorn
Print
Ingredients
  1. organic popcorn
  2. 2-3 tablespoons organic cold pressed coconut oil
  3. 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  4. 1-2 tablespoons dulse flakes
  5. 1 tablespoon Himalayan sea salt
Instructions
  1. Pop popcorn in hot air popper according to directions
  2. While popcorn is popping melt coconut oil
  3. In a separate bowl mix together nutritional yeast, dulse, and salt
  4. When popcorn is done drizzle coconut oil over popcorn
  5. Sprinkle dry mix over popcorn and oil
  6. Mix well to combine
  7. Enjoy
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Full disclosure: I used to be a Girl Scout, a Girl Scout Leader, and I raised three Girl Scouts. There was a lot of cookie love going on in our house for years. But all of that was before I became more conscious about ingredients. At this point when Girls Scouts I know ask for the sale my response is to simply make a donation to the troop. 

What’s In Your Tea?

Screenshot 2016-01-09 19.17.58With the weather getting colder I’m definitely drinking more hot tea.  Mention tea drinkers and most people tend to think of the United Kingdom.  The United States, however, is growing as a nation of tea drinkers.  According to the Tea Association of the U.S., from 1990-2014 the U.S. wholesale market grew from two billion dollars to more than 10 billion. Tea appears to be taking more shelf space at the grocery store and there’s an increasing number of brands and flavors.

Health Benefits

Tea has many health benefits.  Starting with the fact that it often has far less caffeine than coffee.  Different types of teas offer different benefits:

Green – high in the polyphenol EGCG, studies show that tea may be supportive against a variety of cancers as well as preventing clogged arteries and improving cholesterol levels.

Black – the highest caffeine levels are found in black tea.  In studies it appears that black tea may protect the lungs against damage from cigarette smoke and may even help to reduce the risk of stroke.

White – Appears to have the highest anticancer properties compared to other varieties of tea.

Oolong – A partially fermented black tea, this has been shown to help lower cholesterol level.

Pu-erh – Fermented and aged, this tea showed benefits for lowering cholesterol and helping with reduced weight gain in animal studies.

Flavoring

Recently one of my readers, Mary, wrote in and asked, “How do they make the flavored teas.  I like the fruity flavors but after reading your book I’m wondering how they get the flavor in there.

Great question.  The answer, unfortunately, is that often the flavors are from artificial ingredients.  Many companies list their ingredients on their website making it easy to find out what’s really in your tea.  For the fruity teas (which seems to be the most popular judging by conversations with friends) although they have fruit pieces in them they also have artificial flavors.  Some tea companies use “natural” flavors, but as we’ve discussed before, natural doesn’t always mean what we think it does.

And then of course there’s other negative ingredients such as citric acid and maltodextrin, both of which are sourced from corn and therefore highly likely to be genetically modified. Another issue with tea is the use of pesticides however that is a rather deep topic and I’ll be covering it at another time.

Here’s a slide show with the ingredients of some popular flavored teas

Make your own

So what’s the answer if you want to drink flavored tea but don’t want all the additives?  Tea can also be flavored with juices, extracts (such as vanilla or lemon), or fresh herbs and spices (such as ginger, vanilla, cardamom, or mint) but remember blend cautiously for balanced flavoring.

In my opinion the best option is to blend your own.  I typically buy my teas and ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Their ingredients are organic and many of them are  fair trade and ethically wild harvested. Starting with a base (black, green, white, roiboos, etc) add in your flavorants.  Mix well and place into a jar.  Good choices for flavorings can be: jasmine, rose, lavender, mint leaves, citrus peel, ginger, lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, or other spices.  Choose just a couple of flavorings that will go together, it takes a while to learn how to make complex blends without overwhelming the base tea or creating a mish mash of flavors that are not pleasant.

One of my personal favorites is a lemon tea made using a number of lemon flavor ingredients. Before I started making my own tea blends I didn’t even know that there was a green roiboos.  Now it’s my favorite, I really love it.  It’s not as sweet as the red and has a pleasant grassy note which I think pairs well with the lemon.  When I make this tea blend I purchase all of the ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lemon Tea

equal parts:
lemon verbena
lemon grass
lemon peel
green roiboos tea

Mix together and store in an airtight jar in a place away from sunlight

To brew a cup of tea add 1 heaping teaspoon of tea to 1 cup boiling water and let steep for five minutes
A tea ball can be helpful, otherwise strain before drinking
Enjoy!

Enjoy these teas hot or cold and take advantage of them as a delicious alternative to plain water (especially the decaffeinated varieties).

 

Zurvita Zeal – A Review

Screenshot 2016-01-10 16.29.47 Screenshot 2016-01-10 16.31.34

As The Ingredient Guru I often get asked to “take a look” at a variety of products.  Especially if they have good buzzwords  on the label.

Recently I was given a bottle of Zeal by Zurvita*.  The person who gave it to me wanted my opinion; she was very excited about the product, and takes it every day, in part because of the label statements.   “Gluten free”, “vegan”, “natural ingredients”, “complete nutrition”,  “no artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives”, and “an excellent source of fiber”.

It’s important to note that products like these often do not have gluten.  That’s because gluten is found in wheat, barley, and other glutenous grain products.  The gluten free statement is merely a marketing ploy to capitalize on the desire of a growing number of people to eat gluten free.

After a review of the ingredients I will not be trying this product.  Here’s why:

Caffeine: The label does not disclose how much caffeine is in a serving but it contains several sources.  Guarana seed powder and yerba mate.  The product also has green tea extract however the website says, “Green tea used in Zeal is standardized at 50% EGCG content and is considered decaffeinated because when it is processed to contain a high level of antioxidants (EGCG), the amount of naturally occurring caffeine is reduced” the guarana and yerba mate most likely do provide caffeine.

Crystalline fructose: This is essentially dehydrated high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is 55% fructose by volume while crystalline fructose is 90% fructose by volume.  Excessive fructose consumption is bad for the liver.

Natural flavors: As we’ve discussed before, the term natural doesn’t really mean much and “natural” flavors might not be everything they’re cracked up to be.

A Screenshot 2016-01-10 17.01.08personal frustration with this product is how it is labeled.  The ingredients are extremely small red/orange print on a brown background.  This makes it very difficult to read, a choice that I have to believe is deliberate on the part of the manufacturer.  I find it deceptive when manufacturers label with this type of print or grey print on a dark background.  Anytime the label is not clear and easy to read I have to wonder what they are hiding.

While there are a number of apparently clean ingredients in this product, it is not without negative ingredients as discussed above.  The use of buzzwords on the label is something called front of package labeling and is often used by companies to distract consumers from looking further into the ingredients.  Keep this in mind when reading the label and looking at new-to-you products.  Just because the label says it’s a good choice doesn’t always mean that it’s something you want to consume.

 

 

Ed note:  Zurvita is a network marketing, or MLM, company.  This article is does not address the “business” of Zurvita and is not meant to be construed as for or against these types of opportunities.  It is simply a discussion of this one product that the company produces.

Sour And Tangy Flavor Trend

Sour flavors have piqued our collective interest, on par with the spice craze.  This consumer trend toward tangy flavors seems to have less to do with competitive one-upsmanship (as with spicy foods) and more to do with a movement toward wellness, artisanal foods, and ethnic cuisines.

More and more people are reaching for greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods due to their probiotic content and known health benefits.  As of 2013, Greek yogurt had expanded its market share from a mere one percent in 2007, to more than one third of the entire yogurt market.  Research has shown that fermented foods provide important nutrients, support beneficial bacteria for your gut flora and can help optimize your immune system.

Others have been introduced to sour tastes through Asian cuisine and ethnic dishes like kimchee.  Alongside the wellness fermentation trend, chefs are experimenting with pickling and other techniques to create sour flavors from cultures around the world.  In fact, Katherine Alford, a vice president at the Food Network says [quote]Sour flavors are having a national moment.[/quote]

This trend has invaded commercial industries as well.  There has been a large buzz surrounding sour beers with large distributers like New Belgium creating a new series of sour beers in light of their growing popularity in the United States.  Craft brewers all over are also trying to perfect the style, which involves intentionally spoiling the beer with good bacteria, the same microbes that make yogurt and miso.

Sadly, not all sour foods are healthy choices.  Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc., saw a ten-fold increase in sales for sour gum in 2014 and has thus pronounced 2016 “the year of the sours” with plans to unveil several new sour candies and gums.  Pringles currently touts a tube of XTRA Screamin’ Dill Pickle chips with a dare: “Brave one bite and you’ll be hooked on the aggressive taste that won’t quit.”

Citric Acid

Unfortunately, this type of forceful advertising and manipulative use of sour flavoring highlight some concerns.  Citric acid – sometimes referred to as sodium citrate – is commonly the additive used to enhance flavor and provide the tangy, pucker-inducing taste that has become so popular.  This innocuous sounding additive is not commercially sourced from citrus fruits as you might think.  Instead, black mold is used to cheaply convert sugars into citric acid.  The sugars used in this process are often derived from cornstarch and the corn is highly likely to be genetically modified.

As a result, mass-produced citric acid is a hidden GMO ingredient that reportedly sets off allergenic responses in some sensitive consumers.  It is also known as an accomplice to the creation of benzene – a known human carcinogen.  It is often used like MSG, added widely to enhance and intensify flavors, while also functioning as a preservative.

Citric Acid is Commonly Added To
Symptoms of Citric Acid Sensitivity
  • Ice cream and sorbets
  • Caramel and other processed sweets
  • Sodas, cider, beer and wine
  • Many canned and jarred foods (preserves, canned fruits/vegetables, sauces, and even baby food)
  • Baked goods and cake mixes
  • Mouth ulcers or rashes
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhea
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Headaches
  • Acid reflux in infants
  • Other symptoms of food allergy

How to Avoid Citric Acid

The FDA and international food regulating agencies consider citric acid to be a harmless additive despite public concern regarding these apparent sensitivities.  As always, read labels to avoid citric acid and other harmful additives.  Enjoy sour flavors healthfully and naturally with homemade kombucha, fermented foods and organic yogurt.