We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on, or near) themselves.
This edition: Squirt Soda, which is made from nine ingredients that we’ve broken down as they appear online.
Squirt Soda Ingredients
1) Carbonated Water: Bubbly!
2) High-Fructose Corn Syrup: In simple terms, high-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sugar made from the starch of corn. In complex terms, high-fructose corn syrup is the result of corn syrup that has had some of its glucose converted to fructose enzymatically.
Sadly, high-fructose corn syrup has been linked to obesity and diabetes by many, many studies. It might as well be identical to regular table sugar, and it comes with all of the same adverse effects. (For reference, a 20-ounce bottle of Squirt contains 63 grams of sugar, which is almost double what the average man should consume, and more than double what the average woman should consume, in an entire day.)
3) Grapefruit Juice Concentrate: Concentrated juice typically has fewer nutrients than fresh-squeezed juice, but doesn’t spoil as easily. Squirt contains less than one percent juice, though.
4) Natural Flavors: Natural flavors are flavors derived from an actual food source, like grapefruit flavoring taken from actual grapefruits.
5) Citric Acid: Citric acid naturally occurs in citrus fruits and is frequently added to foods to extend their shelf life. It can also lend some sourness.
6) Modified Corn Starch: Modified corn starch is treated physically, enzymatically or chemically to partially break down the starch. It can be used as a stabilizer, thickening agent or an emulsifier — that means it helps the numerous ingredients in Squirt mix together.
7) Ester Gum: This is an alternative to brominated vegetable oil, an extremely unhealthy ingredient that was previously used in Squirt. It ensures that the citrus oils in this soda remain suspended in the carbonated water, rather than floating to the top, and it’s generally recognized as safe by the FDA.
8) Sodium Benzoate: A preservative found in sodas, processed foods and some personal care products, like shampoo, studies suggest that high amounts of sodium benzoate could be carcinogenic. More research is needed, but it’s always wise to minimize your intake of processed foods regardless.
9) Calcium Disodium EDTA: This another preservative. Gavin Lavi Sacks, associate professor and academic director of Cornell University’s Food Science & Technology at Geneva Program, previously told us that calcium disodium EDTA “binds to metals like iron, which slows the rate of oxidation, and thus, the development of rancid aromas.” Because it binds to metals, studies performed on animals have shown that sustained consumption of calcium disodium EDTA can cause essential mineral depletion. As for what it does to people, human studies are still required to come to a real conclusion on whether or not we should be worried about this ingredient.
Like most sodas, Squirt is made up of carbonated water, a ton of sugar and a couple preservatives. It’s pretty awful for you, but what did you expect?