Types of Food Ingredients

Taste, texture, freshness and appearance are a few of the major contributions food ingredients and food additives make toward the enjoyment of food. Food ingredients are classified by Codex into the functions they serve in food products. Below is a list of some common food ingredient classifications and their uses.

  1. Acid Regulator

    Acidity regulators, also called buffering or pH adjusting agents, help control the pH of a food to prevent it from becoming too acidic or alkaline.

    Phosphates are a common acidity regulator and may be used in meats, tomato ketchup, dairy products, and soft drinks.

    Other examples of acidity regulators

  2. Anticaking Agents

    Anticaking agents help keep solid food free-flowing. Powdered foods often clump together and change textures when they absorb moisture from the environment. The addition of anticaking agents help to prevent this from happening.

    Many anticaking agents are derived from mineral sources, such as calcium, magnesium, and silicon. Calcium silicate is a common anticaking agent found in table salt, and helps to absorb both oil and water to reduce salt particles from clumping together.

    Anticaking agents are also used in flour, sugar products, powdered milks, grated cheese, cake mixes, and egg mixes.

    Other examples of anticaking agents

    • Calcium silicate
    • Microcrystalline cellulose
    • Phosphates

  3. Antifoaming Agent

    Antifoaming agents reduce the formation of foam in liquids. Antifoaming agents, also known as defoamers, are commonly made from silicates, which are derived from silicon, oxygen, and other minerals.

    Antifoaming agents can be used in the manufacture of beverages to minimize foaming while mixing and bottling. They can also minimize foaming in products being used by the consumer, for example antifoaming in your coffee creamer to minimize foam when you mix with coffee.

    Antifoaming agents are also used in oils, jams and jellies, juices, sauces, and liquid eggs.

    Examples of antifoaming agents

  4. Antioxidant

    Antioxidants help prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting against deterioration or breakdown caused by oxidation. Oxidation occurs when food reacts with oxygen and deteriorates in quality as a result.

    Antioxidants, like vitamin E and vitamin C, are commonly found in fruits and vegetables like blueberries, kale, and chocolate. They may also be produced when derived from a fruit source. Citric acid is a common antioxidant derived from citrus fruits.

    Examples of antioxidants

  5. Carriers

    Carriers dilute, dissolve, and disperse food additives, nutrients, enzymes, or flavorings to make them easier to use while not affecting their function in the finished food. Common carriers found in the household include salt and sugar.

    Carriers can be found in dairy products, baked goods, and soups.

    Examples of carriers

  6. Colors

    Colors are used to balance and enhance colors that occur naturally in foods. They are also often used to give colorless food life, making them more enjoyable and attractive.

    There are two types of food colors allowed in the U.S. – certified (synthetic or artificial colors) and exempt (colors derived from natural sources). All color additives, certified and exempt, must be approved by the U.S. FDA or relevant regulatory authority before they may be added to foods.

    Colors are used in candy, margarine, beverages, cheese, jellies, yogurt, and baked goods.

  7. Emulsifiers

    Emulsifiers help form or maintain an emulsion in a food product by creating suspension. A common ingredient that serves as an emulsifier in a food is mustard in a vinaigrette.

    Emulsifiers can be used to create and maintain emulsions which can help reduce food waste and reduce calories and/or to replace fat. Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids are a common emulsifier and are used in coffee creamers, ice cream, spreads, and cakes.

    Emulsifiers are found in many other foods, including margarine, bread, chocolate, and some processed meats.

    Examples of emulsifiers

  8. Firming Agent

    Firming agents are used to help foods maintain their crisp quality and strength. They are also commonly used to help extend shelf life.

    Sodium citrate, also known as citric acid, is a common firming agent derived from citrus. Firming agents are sometimes found in pickles and relishes.

    Examples of firming agents

  9. Flavor Enhancers

    Flavor enhancers are added to foods to improve taste by boosting a flavor already present in food.

    Flavor enhancers are made from a wide variety of sources, but typically are isolated from certain flavorful foods.

    They are used in nutritional and diet foods, sauces, soft drinks and salad dressings.

    Examples of flavor enhancers:

    • High intensity sweeteners
    • Some enzymes

  10. Foaming Agent

    Foaming Agent

    Foaming agents make it possible to add a gas, such as carbon dioxide, to a liquid or solid food, leading to a change in texture. The use of foaming agents in food and beverages often contributes to a whipped, foamy texture.

    Foaming agents are commonly used in whipped cream and foamed espresso as well as flavored waters.

    Examples of foaming agents

  11. Gelling Agent

    Gelling agents are often used to enhance the texture of foods by improving its thickness through the formation of a gel. Gelatin and agar are common examples of gelling agents, and are often used by home cooks to create thicker jams, jellies, and sauces made from fresh produce.

    Gelling agents are commonly used in puddings, sauces, and gelatin products like Jell-O.

    Examples of gelling agents

  12. Glazing Agent

    Glazing agents give food products a protective coating on their outer surface, helping to protect from bacteria and extending shelf-life. They can also help to prevent water loss.

    Oftentimes they can give the surface of food products a shiny appearance such as what you might see on an apple you purchase at the store.

    Examples of glazing agents

  13. Humectant

    Humectants help to retain or prevent the loss of moisture in foods by joining and controlling water activity. Humectants also aid in increasing the shelf life of foods by lowering microbial activity.

    Glycerin is a humectant commonly used to control the moisture levels in foods that contain a mix of oil and water.

    Humectants are found in dairy products, some fruits and vegetables, confections, and baked goods.

    Examples of humectants

  14. Preservatives

    Preservatives are added to foods to keep them safe for consumption by helping to prevent spoilage. Preservatives also help foods maintain their appearance, taste, and texture.

    Preservatives can come in many forms. For example, sugars, salts, and vinegars are examples of preservatives, which are often used to delay the growth of bacteria in foods.

    Prservatives are used in jellies, cured meats, oils, cereals, dressings, fruits, vegetables, and baked goods.

    Examples of preservatives

    • Acetic acid
    • Nisin
    • Phosphates

  15. Raising Agent

    Raising agents increase the size of and air inside of a dough or batter, resulting in the often desired light, airy texture of breads and baked goods.

    Raising agents work by releasing a gas that allows the original dough or batter to form into a larger, more airy baked product.

    A common example of a raising agent is baking powder which is used by food manufacturers and home cooks alike.

    Examples of raising agents

  16. Sequestrant

    Sequestrants help improve and preserve the quality and stability of food products by preventing rotting and oxidation. This helps food products last longer and maintain their freshness.

    Sequestrants are commonly used in canned fruits and vegetables.

    Examples of sequestrants

  17. Stabilizer

    Stabilizers help food products maintain their structure for a longer period of time, adding to their shelf life and protecting their physical consistency. Salad dressings, for instance, often contain oils and water which are kept from separating on the shelf with the aid of stabilizers.

    Examples of stabilizers

  18. Sweetener

    Sweeteners add sweetness to foods, and are often a low to no calorie sugar substitute for sugars. They are used in small amounts to intensify or to obtain the same level of sweetness as regular sugars, without raising blood sugar levels.

    Sweeteners are often used in soft drinks, canned foods, jellies and jams, baked goods, candy, and dairy products.

    Examples of sweeteners:

    • Allulose
    • Stevia
    • Saccharin

  19. Thickener

    Thickeners improve the density of liquid food products like soups and sauces, contributing to consistency and texture.

    Flour, corn starch, and gelatin are some common thickeners used by home chefs to improve the textures of sauces, gravies, and jams.

    Examples of thickeners