Decoding Food Labels

Want to know what’s in the food you’re buying? Reading food labels is the easiest way to know the content of the food you’re eating. The two most important parts of food labels are the nutrition facts label and the ingredient list. Both are intended to give you the knowledge to make the right food choices for you and your family. Here is what you need to know about each:

Nutrition Facts Label: This section tells you how many servings are in the container/package, what constitutes one serving, and the amount of calories and key nutrients there are per serving. The number of servings is important to know because if you eat more than one serving at a time you will be consuming more calories and nutrients than is listed on the label. There are several nutrients that are required by law to be disclosed based on potential health impacts; these are total fat (including saturated fat and trans-fat), cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates (including dietary fiber and total/added sugars), and protein. There are also several required vitamins and minerals including potassium, vitamin D, calcium, and iron.

The Nutrition Facts label also discloses Percent Daily Values (%DV) for each nutrient, which gives you the percent of the total recommended DV for that nutrient based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This can also give you a quick snapshot of whether a food is high or low in a specific nutrient. Generally, a 5% DV means the nutrient content is considered “low” while a 20% or higher DV means the level is considered “high” in a particular product.

Ingredient Label: The ingredient label contains the ingredients included in a food product and is ‎listed in descending order from highest to lowest amount based on weight. Thus, the higher an ‎ingredient appears on the list the more it is contained in the product. The ingredient list ‎consists of both the major components of the food as well as any food additives that were used ‎to impart a technical function. Food additives are substances that are added to food to maintain ‎or improve the safety, freshness, taste, texture, or appearance of the food. They include vitamin ‎and mineral-derived additives that are added to improve the nutritional content of bread, dairy, ‎and cereal products; stabilizers and emulsifiers that prevent separation and keep the product ‎uniform and of high quality; antioxidants and preservatives that support food safety and longer ‎shelf life; and finally, natural and artificial colors/flavors to improve taste and flavor. While some ‎food ingredients may be easy to spot like salt and sugar, others may be less familiar. But all ‎ingredients permitted for use in food have been rigorously tested and reviewed by regulatory ‎agencies and are just as safe and vital to our food supply. So don’t be concerned if you don’t ‎recognize a particular ingredient’s name. ‎

Additional resources can be found here:

Get the Fast Facts on Ultra-Processed Foods 

Recent attention around processed food, particularly “ultra-processed” foods, has made headlines across the country. You may find yourself asking “What exactly are ultra-processed foods, and are they unhealthy?”

Foods are processed for several reasons including to prevent spoilage, ensure food safety, maintain or enhance taste and flavor, improve nutritional value, and lengthen shelf life. The degree of processing varies depending on the type of food and can range from minimally processed to highly processed. Ultra-processed foods fall into the highly processed category. Although researchers, regulators and food experts are still debating the exact definition, ultra-processed foods generally are those made using industrial, scientific processing methods and typically have five or more ingredients. However, this in no way means foods considered “ultra processed” are inherently bad or unhealthy. In fact, a recent study led by scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center showed that it’s possible to build a healthy diet with more than 90 percent of the calories coming from ultra-processed foods while still following the recommendations from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Don’t let misleading headlines deceive you into thinking you need to cut out your favorite or even staple foods from your diet. You might find it surprising that these common food items could be considered ultra-processed by ranking systems like the NOVA scale.

  • Breakfast Cereals: Many breakfast cereals are fortified with important vitamins and minerals and are a good way to increase dairy intake.
  • Flavored Greek Yogurt: Yogurt is a good source of calcium and some brands even add probiotics, which help improve gut health.
  • Peanut Butter: Not only is peanut butter a favorite among children and adults but it contains a slew of health-promoting nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium, iron, selenium, vitamin B6, and protein.
  • Plant-based Milks: Well-liked by consumers, plant-based milks like almond, oat, and soy are good choices for people who are lactose intolerant or have other dietary preferences.
  • Frozen Pizza: Not all pizza is created equally. Even more so, the increased consumer demand for low-carb, plant-based and gluten-free variations to their favorite foods has drove innovation like cauliflower crust pizzas that are higher in fiber and lower in calories than more traditional alternatives.
  • Canned Baked Beans: A favorite at family gatherings, baked beans are loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Protein Bars: Protein bars are often packed with vitamins and minerals. Read and compare Nutrition Facts Labels to find the best match for you. Don’t just focus on the protein; start by aiming for 3 – 10 grams of dietary fiber and added sugars to less than 8 grams per bar.  


Hess, Julie M et al. “Dietary Guidelines Meet NOVA: Developing a Menu for A Healthy Dietary Pattern Using Ultra-Processed Foods.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 153,8 (2023): 2472-2481. doi:10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.06.028

Hess, Julie M et al. “Dietary Guidelines Meet NOVA: Developing a Menu for A Healthy Dietary Pattern Using Ultra-Processed Foods.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 153,8 (2023): 2472-2481. doi:10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.06.028. Online supplementary materials and figures

IFT Food Processing Toolkit: Get the Facts: Food Processing. Accessed August 17, 2023

Latulippe, Marie. “Food Safety: Science Needed to Inform Dietary Guidelines on ‘Ultra-Processed’ Foods.” Food Processing, 7 Aug. 2023.

“Food Additives.” World Health Organization, 31 Jan. 2018, Accessed 28 Aug. 2023.

Trust the Process-es: Understanding the Truth About Processed Foods

Processed foods, by definition, are those that have been changed from their natural state. There are many ways that foods are processed. Some of the ways we process foods in our ‎own home include chopping, grinding, cooking, drying, fermenting, salting, freezing and ‎mixing ingredients of a receipt together. Then there are food manufacturers who use modern ‎technologies like ultra-high temperature processing (used for shelf-stable milk) and modified ‎atmosphere packaging (used for many foods from meat to dips) that involve numerous ‎complex ‎steps and require scientific understanding to function successfully.

For thousands of years humans have been processing food – and for good reasons too. Why? First for food safety. For example, the process of pasteurization, which ensures a beverage or food is safe and of good quality. Another reason is preservation. Historically the use of salt helped preserve meat and prevent spoilage. More recent developments include the use of aseptic packaging to ensure the safety of beverages and the use of food additives to support product quality. Citric acid and lecithin are used to prevent oxidation and rancidity in butter, cheese, bread, and almond milk, while emulsifiers, thickeners and stabilizers such as carrageenan, gellan gum, and xanthan gum help extend shelf life and improve product quality. Then there’s palatability and taste which is what makes food acceptable to consumers and includes everything from spices and seasonings to natural and artificial flavorings.

Nutritionally processed foods can deliver much needed vitamins and minerals like enriched bread, high-protein snack bars, or calcium-fortified orange juice. Finally, there is consumer convenience. Processed foods are noted for their convenience and require minimal preparation and cooking or could even be ready-to-eat. In today’s fast-paced society, convenience is key and a driving force behind many consumer’s food purchases – like microwave packaged rice, canned beans, and frozen pizza. Many of these foods are healthy and nutritious items that add variety as well as versatility to our diets and are oftentimes much less expensive than fresh food. Over the years consumers’ lifestyles have changed, including a reduction in the amount of time available to dedicate to meal preparation. In 2022, the labor force participation rate – the percent of the population working or looking for work – increased for mothers and fathers, regardless of marital status; ranging from 71.1% to 93.7%.[1] The availability, accessibility, affordability, and ease of processed foods are crucial to today’s way of living – it takes less than 10 seconds to open a can of beans compared to at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours to soak dried beans.

More resources can be found here:

Food Dates Guide: Know What to Keep or Toss

Let’s face it, no one likes to throw away food but we all do it. In fact, Americans waste about 40% of the ‎U.S. food supply which, according to the US Department of Agriculture, amounts to a loss of about ‎‎$1,500 of uneaten food per year for an average family of four. Unfortunately, not all of the food that’s ‎thrown out is bad, and in some cases product labels can give the wrong impression about the safety or ‎quality of a product. But aside from the inevitable moldy bread or wilted lettuce, how do you know ‎what to save and what to get rid of? Navigating the various dates terminology isn’t always simple. In ‎fact, Congress reintroduced a bill called the Food Date Labeling Act of 2023 in May. Legislators are ‎seeking a uniform solution to dating products with the hopes to reduce consumer confusion and ‎reduce food waste. Until that happens, here is quick guide to help you know what to keep and what to ‎toss: ‎

Use-By Date: The “use-by” date indicates the last day on which the product is expected to be at ‎its peak quality. This is typically used for perishable items like dairy products, meats, and ready-‎to-eat meals and, depending on the product, there could be safety implications if the food is ‎consumed well past the use-by date. When it comes to perishable items, precaution should ‎always be taken. It is best to do a visual inspection and if there is any doubt throw them out. ‎

Sell-By Date: Aimed at retailers, this date indicates the date by which the store should sell the ‎product to ensure that the consumer has a reasonable amount of time to use it before its ‎quality begins to decline. However, this doesn’t mean a product should not be consumed after ‎its “sell-by” date and it has virtually no impact on the safety of the product. ‎

Best-By/Before Date: Probably the most common, this date is similar to the “use-by” date and ‎indicates the date by which the product is expected to be at its best quality. It is often found on ‎items like packaged foods, canned goods, and snacks. Consuming products after the “best by” ‎date doesn’t necessarily pose health risks, but the flavor, texture, and nutritional content may ‎have started to decline. Many foods are still safe to eat well beyond the “best by” date if they’ve ‎been stored properly and show no signs of spoilage.‎

Freeze-By: This date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak ‎quality, similar to above. It is not a purchase or safety date.‎

In addition to learning these important food date guides, it is also essential to understand the role food additives play in reducing food waste. Food additives and ingredients such as antioxidants and stabilizers help prevent spoilage and increase the shelf-life of some of your favorite foods and snacks. Understanding what these dates mean is one of the easiest ways to know whether to throw out a food product or not.

Being an Informed Consumer

Did you know that a food labeled “clean” has no U.S. regulatory or legal definition to support that claim?  

Or that organic foods can contain food additives?  

It’s easy to see how consumers may be confused about exactly what is in their foods. This is why transparency in food labeling is so important.  

The U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires that food labels contain information that is truthful and not misleading. U.S. regulations also require that all food products include an ingredient list that contains all of the ingredients that have been intentionally added to the product to ensure transparency.  

Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions around food labeling. 

“If You Can’t Say It, Don’t Eat It” 

A food label may have ingredients with unfamiliar or scientific names. Yet all food, including food ingredients, is made up of chemicals. As noted by the FDA “Every food we eat – whether a just-picked strawberry or a homemade cookie – is made up of chemical compounds that determine flavor, color, texture and nutrient value.”  Though some names may be hard to pronounce or scientific sounding, all food ingredients on a label must be proven safe before they can be added to foods.  

“You Should Avoid Products that Contain More than Five Ingredients” 

There is no need to avoid foods due to a fear of ingredient lists. When food products have long lists containing numerous food ingredients and/or additives, it represents nothing about the health or safety of the food, but rather shows how structurally complex it is. Each of these food additives is added to perform a desired function in the food product – e.g., enhance texture, provide nutrients, mitigate microbiological contamination, etc.  

“Foods With a ‘Clean’ Label are Safer” 

The use of “clean” in food labeling isn’t actually regulated in the U.S., thus it doesn’t reflect the science or safety of a food product. While consumers attribute a “health halo” to this trend, the perception that a particular food with “clean label” is good for you has little or no evidence to confirm this is true. The presence or absence of food additives does not make the product any more or less “natural”, “artificial”, healthy, or “clean”. 

Learn More About Understanding Food Labels

A ‘How To’ Guide to the Ingredient List (IFAC) 

Food Safety: Labelling and Nutrition (European Commission) 

How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label (FDA) 

Take a look at our infographic for a quick overview of the importance of transparency in labeling. Here’s a version for industry professionals.

Even Food Ingredients Can Play a Part in a Plant-Based Diet

It’s no secret that plant-based diets have become more popular, and with an increased focus on sustainability and the environment, the attention on this type of diet will only continue to grow. Consumers are increasingly shifting toward “flexitarian” lifestyles, which include a diet that is mostly plant-based with occasional consumption of animal products. According to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence, plant-based food sales are expected to see a fivefold increase by 2030. What does this mean for the food ingredient industry? 

A common misconception is that all plant-based foods are labeled “organic” or “all-natural” and consist of mostly vegetables and seeds. The truth is, many plant-based foods contain food additives, many of which are found in nature and provide technical as well as functional benefits.  

Food ingredients, including food additives, are as varied in their origin as they are in function. Some food additives come from minerals, while others are derived from plant sources like seaweed, trees, and fruit. Regardless of source, all food ingredients serve a purpose.  

So, what type of plant-based ingredients should you look for on the ingredient lists of your favorite foods?  

In place of animal-derived gelatins, many food manufacturers use a substance called carrageenan, which is an essential component of many nut milks, popsicles, pizza and infant formula. Derived from red seaweed, this substance is grown sustainably and harvested from oceans around the world. Carrageenan is a plant-based ingredient that may be used in foods labeled vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, and organic. In addition, carrageenan as a food ingredient is often used to replace sodium, fats and sugars – three nutrients that, when consumed in excess, have proven to be detrimental to heart health

Guar gum is another example of a plant-based ingredient that can be used to enhance foods. This thickening agent is derived from guar beans and is used to keep fats and oils from separating in foods like soups, stews and yogurts. Additionally, studies have shown that guar gum, when consumed in moderation, can act as a prebiotic, blood sugar regulator and weight loss aid. Locust bean gum, also referred to as carob bean gum, closely resembles guar gum and is also used as a plant-based thickening agent. This ingredient is a major source of dietary fiber and can be found in desserts, ice cream, dressings and sauces. 

Additionally, without food ingredients, you may not have access to some of your favorite plant-based products. Some plant-based meat products contain an ingredient called methylcellulose, which acts as an emulsifier by binding the ingredients of the patty together. Without this key ingredient, the burgers would fall apart. 

Food ingredients even play a role in the produce at your local grocery store. Mono and diglycerides (typically categorized as emulsifiers) are ingredients often found in frozen foods, chocolate and infant formula. However, these ingredients may also be used as edible coatings applied directly to the surface of fresh fruits and vegetables. This prevents the produce from spoiling and decaying too quickly.  

These are just a few of many food ingredients derived from plants or that may be found in plant-based foods. To learn more about different sources of food ingredients, click here

Take a look at our infographic for a quick overview of food ingredients in a plant-based diet. Here’s a version for industry professionals.

“Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month” – Five Food Ingredients That Reduce Waste

Each year, around one-third of the global food supply is wasted due to confusing labeling, spoilage and expired product. To put it in perspective, that is almost 1.3 billion tons of food worldwide. Despite upward trends in sustainability practices over the last decade, food waste remains a major problem for countries at all levels of economic development.  

To bring awareness to food waste trends and encourage consumers and companies to practice sustainability, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have designated April as “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month.” Though a U.S.-established holiday, these federal agencies are encouraging public, private, and nonprofit sector partners worldwide to collaborate on ways to create positive change and help meet the shared objective of reducing food loss and waste by 50% by 2030

One way to achieve this goals is by promoting the value of food ingredients that help prevent spoilage and increase shelf-life. Let’s take a look at five types of food ingredients and how their usage can help support a more sustainable food supply worldwide. 


“No added preservatives” has become a common phrase used to position foods in a positive light. However, many preservatives do not deserve the bad reputation they have been given. In fact, preservatives are critical in preventing spoilage and delaying the growth of bacteria in foods. Types of preservatives include salt, sugar, vinegar, phosphates, and nisin. Without preservatives, we would not have access to kitchen staples like peanut butter, sliced fruits, cheese, baked goods, jellies and more. 


Antioxidants are another type of food ingredient that can prevent food waste. By slowing down the lipid oxidation process, antioxidants help prolong the shelf-life of foods and improve flavor. Ingredients like citric acid, lecithin, and phosphoric acid are some of the more common antioxidants that are added to everyday products like soft drinks, teas, juices, canned foods, cottage cheese, and cereal bars.  


A food stabilizer is an ingredient used to help maintain the physical and chemical characteristics of a food product. To support quality and longevity throughout a product’s shelf life, food manufacturers utilize stabilizers to help prevent foods from losing their original structure. Common stabilizers include ingredients like guar gum, xanthan gum, carob bean gum and pectin.  

Firming Agents 

Preventing food waste does not just apply to enhancing the shelf-life of the end product. Many added ingredients can help preserve the integrity of foods throughout the manufacturing process. Firming agents, for example, help strengthen the structure of certain foods and can prevent them from breaking down during production. Firming agents like sodium citrate and cellulose gum are commonly used in ice creams, pickles, relishes, and baked goods to enhance thickness and increase overall freshness. 


Like firming agents, emulsifiers can help enhance the texture and stability of foods. Emulsifiers form or maintain an emulsion in a food product, which prevent fat separation and can help reduce food waste. Foods like coffee creamers and cakes contain monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids which contribute to a more economical production process and, overall, more consistent food quality.  

These are just a few of the many ingredients and additives that help maintain food freshness and quality and can help achieve food waste reduction goals. Download our infographic (this one is for industry). Learn more about how food ingredients contribute to a more sustainable food supply or discover more information about the different types of food ingredients by browsing our website.  

Add Holiday Cheer to Your Favorite Holiday Meals with Food Additives

Nothing says it’s the holiday season like the arrival of all the delicious foods, treats, and beverages that go along with it. Whether it’s savory ham or turkey, sweet holiday favorites like candy canes or chocolates, or the universally loved eggnog, these foods and beverages help make the holidays merry and bright! However, more goes into each of these items than you might realize. More than butter and seasoning, your favorite holiday treat would not be complete without the help of food additives. Check out just a sampling of what you can expect to see during this year’s holiday festivities below! 

Meat Tenderizers 

The main course at any holiday feast often comes down to a delicious plate of ham or turkey. Nothing is better on a cold, snowy evening than a flavorful, tender cut of meat shared around a table filled with friends and family. That tender flavor is brought to life with the help of additives that act as tenderizers. For example, ficin is an enzyme that is derived from fig trees, while Bromelin is an enzyme that comes from pineapple fruit and leaves. These additives can help dissolve or degrade proteins to soften meat and poultry tissue.  

Food Colors 

You might be shocked, but candy canes don’t just come with that classic red stripe included – it has to be added! Thanks to the help of certified colors, that stripe is made possible. Certified color additives, like the ones used to create the classic bright red stripes on candy canes, have been used in foods for over 50 years. They are also often used to balance and enhance colors that already occur naturally in foods. Certified colors are synthetically produced under strict safety conditions and help deliver bright, consistent color to your favorite holiday treats. 


The holiday season couldn’t be complete without another delicious candy and dessert ingredient – chocolate, of course! From chocolate bars to chocolate truffles, if you check the ingredient list, you’re likely going to see soy lecithin included. Lecithin is a type of fat typically derived from soybeans or eggs and is used to improve the texture and mouthfeel of chocolate, allowing for the smooth, rich experience that consumers expect of the final product. In the case of soy lecithin, once soybeans are harvested, they are crushed to produce a variety of products, including oil. Soy lecithin is produced by mixing soybean oil with hot water and centrifuging the mixture to separate the lecithin. Over the holidays, soy lecithin helps your molded chocolates keep their shape and sheen and ensures bell-shaped peanut butter cups have a substantial chocolate coating. 


Beyond the main course and the desserts, we certainly can’t forget the classic holiday beverages that stock our  local grocery store refrigerators this time of year. Eggnog is a time-old tradition during the holidays, and it is through the help of food additives that it maintains its sweet and creamy texture. Carrageenan is a versatile food additive that helps stabilize and thicken foods or beverages.  

Have more questions about food additives? Learn more here.

What Are Upcycled Foods?

An estimated 30% of the global food supply is thrown away annually. Not only is this wasteful, it’s neither sustainable nor good for the environment. As a result, many food and beverage stakeholders are taking steps to support a more sustainable and less wasteful food supply.  

This means you may have begun to see phrases like “upcycled foods” more when reading online or while shopping at grocery stores. But what does “upcycled” mean? According to the Upcycled Food Association (UFA), “upcycled food is about reducing food waste by creating high quality, nutritious food products out of the nutrients that slip through the cracks of our food system.”  

Taking it a step further, the Upcycled Foods Definition Task Force published a summary paper in the Spring of 2020 further defining the phrase:  

“Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains and have a positive impact on the environment.”  

Upcycled Foods Definition Task Force

This means that upcycled foods are:

  1. Made from by-products or ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. 
  1. Value-added products. 
  1. Safe for human consumption, but can also be used in animal feed, pet food, and cosmetics. 
  1. Have an auditable supply chain that ensures they are truly helping to reduce waste without putting added stress on the environment. 
How does this apply to food additives? 

Believe it or not, some additives that are commonly found in food and beverages are already upcycled ingredients. Take pectin for instance. The main sources of pectins are the rinds of citrus fruit, apple pomace (the main by-product of the apple juice industry) and sugar beet pulp. These otherwise wasted food processing components are used to help improve the texture of jams and jellies. 

Another example is glycerol ester of wood rosin (GEWR). GEWR is harvested from the stumps of pine trees cut down for other uses such as papermaking or as building lumber. GEWR is used as a stabilizer in fruit-based beverages and chewing gum. 

A couple other examples include lecithin (often sourced as a by-product of vegetable oil production) and yeast extract (which can be produced using the by-products of corn, sugar beet and sugar cane used to make molasses). 

How do I know if the food I’m buying is upcycled? 

Foods that are upcycled will indicate so on their packaging. One way they may do so is using a new certification standard and label established by the UFA. The first iteration of this standard sets a framework for the certification of upcycled ingredients and products. 

Ultimately, by upcycling by-products that would have otherwise been thrown away, food & beverage manufacturers are aiding the environment by decreasing waste and creating a more sustainable food supply. 

The Role of Food Additives in Ensuring Healthy Meals

white food plate with fork and knife on blue background

In late 2020, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services published the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The DGAs are published every five years and contain science-based recommendations that help drive food and nutrition policy. This time around, they included recommendations for pregnant women, infants, and young children (the B-24 population), guidance on reducing sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake, and suggestions to incorporate more nutrient-dense foods into everyday diets.

With a hurting economy as a result of COVID-19, many families and individuals are experiencing challenges in meeting their daily nutritional needs. While food additives may be better known for enhancing the taste, texture, freshness, and appearance of foods – they are also critical in ensuring many food products meet federal nutrition recommendations for these same reasons – and at a more affordable cost. This is especially important in a time where many have limited access to grocery stores or markets, whether as a voluntary safety precaution or due to geographic location.

How do food additives help us meet nutrition recommendations?

COVID has not only affected our finances and how we shop, it’s also resulted in huge shifts in our eating habits – with 85% of all consumers reporting changes to how, and what, they eat since the pandemic began. One of the most prominent changes is a renewed focus on health and immunity, as many Americans are increasingly seeking healthier food choices – making the role of food additives even more valuable.

One way food additives can help improve nutrition is extending the shelf life of canned fruits and vegetables. Common ingredients such as salt and vinegar, as well as food additives like citric acid, are used to preserve canned foods, and as an added bonus these products are less expensive than fresh fruit and vegetables. Another food additive, mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, is used as a coating agent for fresh fruits and vegetables and preserves product quality during transportation and storage. Phosphates contain naturally occurring phosphorus, a mineral that is essential to bone development, and are used to help fortify and leaven bread and baked goods.

Do food additives make it affordable to eat healthy?

Harvard’s School of Public Health reports that eating a healthy diet is more expensive than an unhealthy one. While the absence or presence of food additives doesn’t necessarily make a food more or less healthy, the versatility of food additives contribute to improved shelf-life and stability while enhancing the nutrient profile and being more affordable.

Another important consideration is dietary restrictions and social/personal food decisions. Food ingredients such as konjac gum, a hydrocolloid used to help stabilize dairy products and prevent the development of ice crystals, is also a U.S> Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-recognized source of dietary fiber. This dietary fiber assists with satiety, intestinal health, and cholesterol levels, and may not be present in each consumer’s daily diet otherwise. Other examples include ascorbyl palmitate, which may be used as a source of vitamin C; and yeast extract, a source of vitamin B-12; which is important for those who are pregnant and can sometimes be lacking in plant-based foods.

The benefits of food additives to health and nutrition through food consumption are diverse. Several additives, including pectin or carob bean gum, are FDA approved as recognized sources of dietary fiber and can provide beneficial effects such as improved digestion and the feeling of satiety. Other ingredients, like carrageenan, can be used as replacement agents – replacing the sodium in lunch foods or fats, oils, and sugar in sweet treats, for example. Food additives like citric acid can also be used in products that revitalize skin, soothe sore throats, and curb nausea.

Food additives also contribute to consumer nutrition in how they accommodate diverse dietary preferences and needs. For example, xanthan gum and guar gum are used in gluten-free baking to help bind and thicken ingredients, making gluten-free foods more easily attainable for professional and at-home bakers. Plant-based products and diets, which have seen increased interest during COVID, are also aided by food additives such as yeast extract – which contribute to enhancing the flavors, texture and nutritional value of plant-based meat alternatives.

It is important that we all have access to nutritional, healthy foods without having to worry as much about cost, food spoilage, or availability. Food additives, through their versatility in purpose and function, make nutritional, affordable foods a reality – playing a vital role in helping us achieve healthier lifestyle through balanced, nutritional diets.

To learn about the different kinds of food ingredients, and how they bolster nutrition, the environment, the food supply, and more, visit our Types and Sources pages.