Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Sorting Out the Ingredient List Terms

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It is well worth it to find what is really in most processed foods and the ingredient list is the key.   Generally, the longer the list, the more ultra-processed that food is.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • Ingredients are listed by weight, so if sugar is the first ingredient, it is the predominant ingredient.  Watch out for these products.
  • Look to see if the first ingredient is a whole grain.  Whole wheat, whole oats, oatmeal, rolled oats, whole-grain corn, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgar, cracked wheat, millet, quinoa and sorghum are whole grains.  Wheat flour, enriched flour, or degermed cornmeal are not.
  • Terms like “multi-grain”, “seven grain” simply mean that the product contains more than one grain and they may not necessarily be whole grains.
  • “Stone ground” refers to how the grain has been processed and does not mean that the germ and the bran are left intact.  The germ and bran are where the fiber and nutrients are found in a whole grain.  The rest of the grain is primarily the endosperm which contains  starch. The bran or the germ may added, but that does not mean a whole grain.
  • Some cereals may list a whole grain as the first ingredient, but if a sugary source is the second on the list, the product is high in sugar as well.
  • For now Added Sugars are not on the Nutrition Fact Label, but maybe soon we’ll also have that information. All the sugars (added and natural) are grouped together for now. The sweeteners listed in the ingredient list are the added sugars.
  • The only sweetener listed as “sugar” on the list is sucrose. Sucrose is found in brown, powdered, granulated and raw sugar.  Other forms of sugar can be added are called invert sugar, dextrose, dextrin, glucose, maltose, lactose and fructose.
  • Corn syrup, honey, molasses, malt syrup, sugar syrup, fruit juice concentrate and high fructose corn syrup all are forms of sugars.
  • Sugar-free means less than 0.5 grams per serving. Reduced sugar means at least 25% less sugar per serving than the reference food.

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