Have you ever been told that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on a food label, you shouldn’t be eating it?
Ingredients with scientific names we don’t understand can really throw us off, especially when we’re told that there is more than one name for sugar and we’re supposed to know all of them.
Not all ingredients in food with complicated names are bad for you, though. Here’s a list of a few ingredients that you might think you should avoid, but don’t need to steer clear of.
If you love cake, brownies and other baked goods, you also love amylase, though you probably didn’t even know it. Amylase is an enzyme. It is added to baked goods during the baking process to help them keep that smooth, thick consistency you love so much. Our body is full of enzymes to break down starches and perform other functions in our bodies. So as you can probably guess, a little amylase in your birthday cake won’t do you any harm at all.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
If you don’t recognize monosodium glutamate by its full name, its abbreviation might be a little more familiar to you. You probably recognize MSG as that ingredient in Chinese food you aren’t supposed to eat (it’s in other foods too, like canned soups and Ramen noodles). In reality, it isn’t as bad for you as you might have heard. The Food and Drug Administration says it’s safe to eat, and studies have yet to prove that consuming it regularly has negative long-term effects.
If you have ever heard of probiotic foods, you know that they tend to promote healthy digestion by increasing the amount of “good” bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are the bacteria added to these foods to make that happen, and lactobacillus acidophilus just happens to be one of them. It is added to foods like yogurt and other dairy products to keep your gut feeling great. So while its name might look intimidating, it’s actually something you want in your body. Eating bacteria might not sound glamorous, but your intestines will love it.
This ingredient is completely harmless, and once you know what it does in your food, you probably won’t mind it sticking around. Oligosaccharide is found in plant foods like broccoli and asparagus, but it is often added to foods to give them more fiber. Fiber keeps things moving through your digestive tract, and foods that contain a little bit more of it tend to help you fill up faster than foods without it.
This name sounds a little scary, right? Learning about its various uses can also be a little unsettling. All it really is though, in terms of food, is a thickening agent. Where do you think your favorite salad dressing’s thickness comes from? That would be the mighty xanthan gum at work. It is used in very small amounts, and science hasn’t proven it hurts us. It is safe to eat, even though you might not know how to pronounce it (zan-thin).
If you are ever unsure of what the ingredients are that are listed on your food labels, it’s okay to look them up. In many cases, what you are eating is relatively safe.