Finding Hidden Ingredients on Food Labels

Finding Hidden Ingredients on Food Labels

What’s really hiding in the packaged “health foods” you buy might surprise you…

Life has gotten so hectic we barely have time to run to the grocery store when we need to restock the pantry. So it’s a quick dash in, and a cursory look at what’s on the nutrition label to make sure it doesn’t contain too much sugar or preservatives and fits in with our new year’s resolution to eat healthier, and we’re on our way to a healthier lifestyle and smaller waistline. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

It seems like the more laws that are created to regulate food labels, the more complicated they are to read. This isn’t just because there’s more information on them, it’s also because manufacturers looking to cut costs and cut corners are finding more creative names and ways to sneak in food additives that have become unpopular with consumers because studies have shown they lead to disease. The problem is these food additives taste good, so innocent consumers are being duped into buying products they think are healthy, but in reality contain the same ingredients they’re trying to avoid, just listed under an unfamiliar name.


According to the USDA, the average American consumes between 150 and 170 pounds of refined sugars per year. That’s more than some adults weigh, and breaks down to a full cup of sugar per day! You might see that number and think there’s no way you eat that much because you make a concerted effort to eat healthy and avoid added sugars. You could be right, or sugar could be hiding in plain sight – right on the label – under names and products that might not even have to be listed in the total sugars on the nutrition label.

Here are more than 50 names sugar can be disguised as on a food label:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barbados Sugar
  • Barley Malt
  • Beet Sugar
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Brown Sugar
  • Buttered Syrup
  • Cane Juice Crystals
  • Cane Sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob Syrup
  • Castor Sugar
  • Confectioner’s Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Syrup Solids
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Date Sugar
  • Demerara Sugar
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic Malt
  • Diatase
  • Ethyl Maltol
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Florida Crystals
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Glucose Solids
  • Glucose Syrup
  • Golden Sugar
  • Golden Syrup
  • Grape Sugar
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing Sugar
  • Invert Sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Organic Raw Sugar
  • Panocha
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refiner’s Syrup Sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Yellow Sugar

Diets high in refined sugars contribute to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, high blood pressure, and most chronic inflammatory diseases. Sugar can suppress immune function, cause blood sugar imbalance, and feed an unhealthy microbiome (think Candida and parasites) and even cancer. Sugar is hiding in everything from ketchup to sausage, lowfat milk and fruit juices and so much more. Careful label reading, looking for all of the above names, is important to reduce your sugar intake, especially when you are already fighting a disease or want to lose weight.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG was discovered in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Ikeda Kikunae, who isolated the flavor enhancer from sea kelp, which was a common ingredient in broth at that time. He was looking for an inexpensive way to reproduce what was responsible for its distinct umami flavor and was so satisfying to the taste buds. MSG quickly became a status symbol for wealthy Japanese housewives to proudly display on their dining tables and serve generously to their guests. From there, it spread to China, Taiwan, and the US.

In America, MSG came into heavy use in Chinese restaurants, and found its way into many processed foods, until scientists started questioning its possible role in migraines and other health issues. Prominent neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, MD, authored groundbreaking research and discovered MSG is a potent neurotoxin, crossing the blood-brain barrier and exciting brain cells to death.

To date, MSG has been implicated in several neurological symptoms after eating, and has been found to excite brain cells to death, promote cancer growth, and contribute to obesity and cardiovascular disease. It’s one of the most harmful food additives and is now hiding in everything from frozen dinners to processed meats, salad dressings, broths, nut milks, and so much more. It goes by many names on food labels:

  • Amino Acids
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract
  • Broth (all types – vegetable, chicken, beef, etc.)
  • Carrageenan
  • Caseinate
  • Citric Acid
  • Concentrate
  • Corn Oil
  • Disodium Guanylate
  • Disodium Inosate
  • Gelatin
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Hydrolized Protein
  • Hydrolized Vegetable Protein
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Mono Potassium Glutamate
  • Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
  • Natural Flavors
  • Protein
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Soy Protein
  • Soy Isolate
  • Stock
  • Textured Protein
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Whey Protein Concentrate

Putting It All Together – Test Your Label Knowledge

It’s one of those mornings – the kids woke up late and everyone is rushing out the door. You’re relieved you grabbed those protein bars last time you were at the store. They’re healthy, right?

Well, let’s put our knowledge to the test and look at the ingredients in a popular protein bar. Ingredients are listed on labels with the most abundant first, so the further down the list it is, the smaller the amount that’s in that food product. The ingredients below appear in the same order they are on the label; the ones in bold print are all names for sugar; the ones in italic are known to be hidden sources of MSG:

Chicory Root Extract, Almonds, Soy Protein IsolateSugarCorn Syrup, Vegetable Oil (palm kernel, palm, canola), Coconut, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whole Grain Oats, Maltodextrin, Cocoa, Rice Flour,Fructose, Vegetable Glycerin, Rice Starch, Corn Starch, Water, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Natural Flavor, Propylene Glycol, Barley Malt Extract, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Chloride, Baking Soda, Caramel Color, Sodium Metabisulfite and Mixed Tocopherols.

There are 5 forms of sugar in just one protein bar, 4 common names for MSG, and to be honest, the only ingredients in this bar that may be healthy – depending on the quality of the source – are chicory root extract, almonds, coconut, whole grain oats, and water.

Do Your Homework

Hidden sugars and MSG aren’t the only harmful ingredients hiding in common foods. Ask anyone who has had to track down a food allergy and they’ll tell you about tartrazine, the yellow dye that commonly causes severe allergic reactions and is hiding in many foods. Anyone concerned about their cholesterol can tell you that trans fats, which cause harm at the cellular level, aren’t even listed on food labels when they are less than 0.5 grams per serving. That may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time and replaces healthy essential fats at the cellular level, which are critically important for repairing cells and making healthy new ones.

Unfortunately, the list of harmful additives goes on. And, if you are buying packaged foods of any type –even if they seem healthy – you are guaranteed to be getting unwanted food additives. If you are experiencing digestive symptoms or have any unexplained health issues, it’s worth the time to do the detective work and learn what each ingredient on your food labels really is, and make sure it isn’t part of the problem.

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