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Mystery Food Additives and Ingredients from A to Z

When it comes to healthy eating, a good rule to nosh by is "don't eat it if you can't pronounce it." On the other hand, life gets pretty boring if you never try new things. Learn the often harmless, sometimes delicious meaning behind these mystery foods and ingredients and you'll add dozens of new foods to your diet (and maybe even drop a few things from your daily menu, too). 

Acetic Acid
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This is what gives a pickle it's tangy bite. The vinegar in the brine is between four and 18 percent acetic acid.

Bianco Sardo
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This tasty sheep’s milk cheese comes from the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

Courgette

In the U.S., people call it zucchini, but in the U.K. this summer squash is commonly referred to as a courgette. Try our Roasted Zucchini and Quinoa Salad for a perfect dish starring courgette!

Dough Conditioners
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Used in many commercial breads and baked goods, dough conditioners shorten rising times and make dough uniform. Some have seriously wholesome sounding names like potassium bromate, azodicarbonamide, and ascorbic acid! (Love bread? Switch up your breakfast or lunch routine with Pan con Tomate.)

Echallions
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These are a cross between a French onion and a shallot. In the U.K., they are also called banana shallots (This Cornish Game Hen in Garlic-Shallot Marinade will give you the perfect excuse to whip out your new foodie knowledge!).

Farro
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Particularly popular in Italy, this ancient whole grain comes in three common varieties: farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt).

Guar Gum
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Guar gum is extracted from guar beans. It’s used primarily as a thickener and stabilizer.

High Oleic Oil
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High oleic oil is high in monounsaturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat—it’s also shelf stable. It was developed as a replacement for unhealthy hydrogenated oil and can be found in packaged baked goods.

Iberico Ham
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Considered by many to be the Beluga Caviar of porcine products, this Spanish ham can run you more than $150 a pound.

Jicama
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Some call it a Mexican yam. Pronounce it “HEE-kah-ma” and consider it a crunchy raw addition the next time you make slaw.

Kohlrabi
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Also known as a German turnip, this yummy root vegetable is great in salads and slaws.

Lionfish
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It’s an invasive species native to the Indo Pacific that has posed a serious threat to reefs in the Atlantic since it was introduced several decades ago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched the “Eat Lionfish” campaign and the food is now appearing increasingly on menus of restaurants in the southeast U.S. and Caribbean islands.

Monoglyceride
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This is used as an emulsifier. (Emulsifiers are added to food to keep water and oil from separating.)

Natto
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A dish, popular in Japan, it is made from fermented soybeans.

Offal
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Sweet breads, foie gras, haggis, sausage casings, chopped liver. What do they have in common? They are all organ meat, also known as offal.

Phenylalanine
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It’s an amino acid that occurs naturally in high protein foods like eggs and meat. It’s also used to make aspartame so it may be in your diet soda.

Quinine
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An alkaloid with antimalarial, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s the “tonic” in your tonic water. We’ll drink to that! (Why not toast with a low-cal signature cocktail?)

Rapeseed oil
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It is more popularly known as canola oil.

Soy Lecithin
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It’s in our salad dressing, in our Oreos, and even in our teabags! That’s because soy lecithin is very popular emulsifier.

Tatsoi
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An Asian leafy green vegetable, it’s also known as spinach mustard and Rosette bok choy.

Ugli Fruit
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Not if you ask us. We think this Jamaican grapefruit/orange/tangerine hybrid is beautiful! And delicious!

Vanillin
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Don't be fooled: This is synthetic vanilla extract, not the real deal.

Witloof
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This delicious plant is also called chicory and Belgian endive.

Xanthan Tum
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Look closely at the ingredient list on the store-bought bottled salad dressing. Odds are xanthan gum is on it. That’s because it is a great thickening agent and also prevents oil separation.

Yakitori
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This is a Japanese skewered chicken usually cooked over charcoal.

Zinc Oxide
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This excellent little compound (ZnO) is used to prevent corrosion in nuclear reactors, to vulcanize rubber, and to make cement. It’s also added to packaged foods as a source of zinc, a nutrient your body needs.

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