I have recently begun paying closer attention to what is in the processed foods I eat; even the ones we consider “healthy” have several items in their ingredient list I am not familiar with and I wondered what exactly I am putting into my body. After doing some research, I have learned that some of these ingredients are pretty harmless, while others are the kind of thing I would rather avoid.
For this article, I decided to deconstruct the ingredient list of one of my all-time favorite frozen veggie products, the Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burger.
The ingredient list is as follows, in this order: the first 4 ingredients are water; cooked black beans; cooked brown rice; onion. The next 2 are whole kernel corn and corn oil. Both of these items have a high probability of being a GMO product, because they are high risk items (www.nongmoproject.com).
The next item is soy protein concentrate. According to Wikipedia, soy protein concentrate is made from soybean meal from defatted soy flour. Soy is a complete protein but it is also a good source of phytoestrogens. There is much controversy over the health risks of phytoestrogens. A 2001 literature review (De Lemos, Mário L (September 2001). “Effects of Soy Phytoestrogens Genistein and Daidzein on Breast Cancer Growth”. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy (Harvey Whitney Books) 35 (9): 1118–1121) suggests that women with a history of breast cancer should avoid soy due to the fact that studies on soy showed an increase in breast cancer cell growth in animals.
The next item on the list is wheat gluten. This is an obvious problem for those with gluten sensitivities or allergies. Egg whites are next on the list, which makes the Black Bean Burger not a vegan item, so vegans cannot use this product. The next 3 items are diced tomatoes, bulgur wheat (once again, an issue for those with gluten sensitivity), and green chiles. Calcium Caseinate comes next, and is an unfamiliar item. Calcium caseinate is a protein derived from milk. So once again, not vegan. Cornstarch is next on the list, this is also a high risk item for GMOs according to the list on www.nongmoproject.com.
The rest of the items are listed as “may contain 2% or less”: onion powder; spices; tomato juice; yeast extract; tomato powder; dextrose (glucose); salt; and garlic powder. Next on the list is hydrolyzed vegetable protein. According to Wikipedia, hydrolyzed vegetable protein is made from corn and wheat glutens and soy protein. This, along with the next item, soy sauce, are not ok for those with gluten allergies.
“Natural and artificial flavors” are next, no detail as to which ones from which sources. After this comes paprika; jalapeno pepper; and citric acid – no mysteries there. And now we get to the end of the list where all of the unpronounceable mystery ingredients are….
The last several ingredients needed to be deciphered. Xanthan gum, a food thickener is one of these ingredients. According to one source ( Cohan, Wendy. “Could Xanthan Gum Sensitivity be Complicating your Celiac Disease Recovery?”. Celiac.com. Retrieved 2010-05-19) xanthan gum can be an allergen trigger and should be avoided in those with gluten intolerance unless it is know for sure whether it is derived from wheat or whey. Disodium inosinate is listed after xanthan gum. Disodium salt of inosinate acid is the full name, and it is a food additive found in food such as noodles and potato chips to enhance flavor, and is frequently used in synergy with MSG. It is also said to usually be derived from meat or fish, but can be derived from tapioca (“E-numbers : E631 : Sodium inosinate”. Food-Info.net. 1998-09-27. Retrieved 2013-08-30). This sounds like something I personally do
not want in my food. Especially if it is used with MSG.
The last few ingredients are thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1) lactic acid(used as a preservative) and caramel color. Caramel color has been shown in studies done on rats to effect the immune system, but not on similar studies done on humans but these findings are still controversial.
After deconstructing the ingredient list and looking into what some of the less familiar ingredients are and the possible effects of eating them, many of you may be feeling a little discouraged or overwhelmed. Why not try making your own at home from fresh ingredients? There are several amazing and easy to make recipes on One Green Planet to try, check out 12 Greatest Homemade Veggie Patties Ever and Veggie Burgers, 15 Recipes, Countless Benefits… and they all can be made and frozen for later convenience!
Who knows, you may find that your new favorite is your own creation rather than one from a box!
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons