Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can You Judge An Ingredient By Its Name?

Here at Green Plate Foods, we are big fans of Michael Pollan and agree with so many of his “Rules for Eating”…except the one about avoiding anything that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
While there are Frankenstein-like things happening with some of our food, this rule ignores the fact that there have actually been some great ingredient innovations over the past several years, many of which are not only perfectly safe and healthy, but also result in fantastic recipes and products. If grandma knew more about them, you can bet she’d want to use them too! 
How well do YOU know your ingredients? 
Take our quiz to test your knowledge about which items pass the ‘grandma test’ and which ones she would flunk!
1.     Chocolate Liquor
2.     Vanillin
3.     Sunflower Lecithin
4.     High Fructose Corn Syrup
5.     Xanthan Gum
Want to know how you did?  See below for the results:

1.     Chocolate Liquor: PASS.

Chocolate liquor sounds like you would need to be 21 or older to consume but it contains NO alcohol. It’s really just a fancy name for the liquid product that results from grinding the cocoa nibs into a paste. It can be found in many chocolate products, such as chocolate chips or baking chocolate.

2.     Vanillin: FAIL

Vanillin is a compound that can be found in vanilla beans and gives it that familiar vanilla flavor profile; *however it can also be found and produced from other sources, specifically wood pulp, and used as a cheaper “vanilla” alternative.  Because it is a lower quality product, it is often an indicator that the overall product itself is not the best choice.

Look for: products that list “Vanilla Extract” or “Pure Vanilla Extract” in their ingredients

3.     Sunflower Lecithin: PASS

Sunflower lecithin is extracted from the sunflower seed once it is dehydrated. It is a type of fat that is used as an emulsifier (keeps ingredients mixed together) and is often added to baked goods to result in a better texture. Not to be confused with *soy* lecithin, sunflower lecithin is even taken as a nutritional supplement because it has nutrients which are helpful with muscle conditioning, memory recall and more.

4.     High Fructose Corn Syrup: FAIL

HFCS was developed as an alternative to table sugar because it is less expensive to produce.  Manufacturers looking for a cheap sweetener started replacing sugar in all types of products from pickles to baked goods to condiments. A couple studies have shown this ingredient is processed very differently in the body than the way other natural sweeteners are.  While the TV ads may lead you to believe it is perfectly safe, many doctors and dietitians believe this product is partly to blame for numerous health problems, including GI issues, in the United States.

Look for: products that contain natural sweeteners like “Raw Cane Sugar” or maple syrup

5.     Xanthan Gum: PASS

Xanthan gum has one of those funny names but it is a very useful product when it comes to baking. It is made by mixing sugars with a certain type of (safe) bacteria. Because it can thicken and maintain the structure of baked goods, it has become essential replacing gluten in the gluten-free baker’s kitchen, where lower protein flours without xanthan would result in dense final products.

How well did you do?
Our favorite rule is #CraveHealthy!  Treat your body right by choosing wholesome foods and quality ingredients, regardless of their funny names.  Grandma may not recognize all of them but as long as YOU know what to look for, there’s a lot out there to enjoy!

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