What is that ingredient? Soda edition

Have you ever read through an ingredient list and thought, what in the world is that?

Well you're not alone. There are lots of ingredients that even the experts have to look up. In fact, as a dietitian, I find myself researching ingredients multiple times each week to better understand what they are and why these ingredients are added to particular foods. The next few weeks I will reflect on some of these ingredients that are used in the food consumers eat on a daily basis. These are ingredients that will be found in processed foods and drinks. This edition is focused on sodas in particular. I hope you enjoy and use this as push to kick that nagging soda habit, even if it is diet soda.

The most common ingredient in all regular sodas is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made of 42 (commonly used in cereals, baked goods, processed foods, and some beverages) or 55 percent fructose combined with glucose and water. (FDA)

Is HFCS less safe than other sweeteners?

The FDA receives many inquiries asking about the safety of HFCS, often referring to studies about how humans metabolize fructose or fructose-containing sweeteners. These studies are based on the observation that there are some differences between how we metabolize fructose and other simple sugars.

We are not aware of any evidence, including the in studies mentioned above, that there is a difference in safety between foods containing HFCS 42, or HFCS 55, and foods containing similar amounts of other nutritive sweeteners with approximately equal glucose and fructose content. Examples of those are sucrose, honey, or other traditional sweeteners. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone limit consumption of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose. The FDA participated in the development of the Dietary Guidelines and fully supports this recommendation. (FDA)

Food dyes: Red #3 (erythrosine), Red #40 (allura red), Yellow #5 (tratrazine), Yellow #6 (sunset yellow), Blue #1 (brilliant blue), Blue #2 (indigo carmine).

Food coloring is another common ingredient used in sodas. There is usually a blend of two to three food coloring chemicals to make that iconic look the drinks are known for. For example, Code Red Mountain Dew wouldn't be the same if it was clear. A grape or strawberry soda has to be red or purple, otherwise it's an imposter. But in reality, these drinks have no color unless color is added to them.

What is Brominated Vegetable Oil BVO?

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is a fire retardant that is used in sodas as an emulsifier. In fact, BVO is banned across Canada, India, Europe and Japan but is still found in 10% of sodas sold here in the USA.

What is Sodium Benzonate?

Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in a wide variety of sodas, currently it is being researched on if it is potentially cancerous.

What is Glycerol Ester of Rosin?

Glycerol Ester of Rosin is a wood resin used to better mix fruit flavored oils with water in fruity flavored sodas.

What is Propylene Glycol?

Propylene glycol is a versatile chemical that is used as an anti-freeze to de-ice planes, a "plasticizer" to make polyester resins, and found in electronic cigarettes. This chemical is commonly used in soda as a preservative, thickening agent, and/or a stabilizer.

Next time you drink a soda, or want a soda, read the ingredients to better understand what it is you're actually drinking. More times than not, you will find that you soda is watered down sweetener with natural and artificial flavors, chemicals for texture and preservation, and colors to make it look appealing. Soda is basically water, cheap sugar, chemicals, and flavorings. Why not drink water?

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