Article Thumbnail

What’s in This?: Wendy’s Frosty

All 15 ingredients in this sweet stucco, explained (yep, even carrageenan)

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: Wendy’s Classic Chocolate Frosty, which is made from 15 separate ingredients that we’ve broken down as they appear on the Wendy’s website.


1) Milk: If you squeeze a cow in the right spot, milk squirts out.

2) Sugar: A small Frosty contains a not-at-all-small 47 grams of sugar, 11 grams more than the American Heart Association recommends men consume per day, and 22 grams more than they suggest women ingest.

3) Corn Syrup: Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made of glucose (aka sugar). It might as well be liquid sugar, unhealthiness and all.

4) Cream: Cream is the layer of fat that rises to the top of milk before it undergoes homogenization, a process that breaks down the fat molecules in milk to prevent them from separating. While not so healthy, the high fat content in cream reverses the many flavor-and-texture-related negatives that come from using nonfat milk. It acts as a lubricant between ice crystals, promoting a smoother texture, and traps air while the mixture is blended and frozen, which gives the Frosty more body.

5) Nonfat Dry Milk: Another name for powdered milk, which adds creaminess.

6) Cocoa (Processed With Alkali): Also known as Dutch process cocoa powder, this has a more earthy flavor than your average cocoa powder. “Consuming large amounts of alkalized cocoa powder is possibly unsafe due to the caffeine content,” Dagan Xavier, ingredient expert and co-founder of Label Insight, warned during our exploration of the ingredients in chocolate Muscle Milk. “This can cause problems for pregnant women, where the caffeine could cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of the fetus.” Cocoa may also trigger migraines in those susceptible to them.

7) Guar Gum: Guar gum is made from guar beans, and it gives this Frosty a chewier texture than your average ice cream.

8) Mono and Diglycerides: This ingredient is typically added to food products as an emulsifier, helping the other ingredients mix together. But as I learned in my exploration of all 39 ingredients in the Dodger Dog, mono and diglycerides are oftentimes packed with trans fats that aren’t listed on the nutrition facts label, which is incredibly problematic. That’s because trans fats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and consuming more than you think you are (because they weren’t listed on the label) could do serious damage to your body.

9) Cellulose Gum: Similar to guar gum, cellulose gum is a common thickening agent. Consuming large amounts of it may add bulk to your stool and have a laxative effect, according to the FDA. Eek.

10) Natural Vanilla Flavor: Because vanilla flavor made from the beans of the vanilla orchid is expensive, “natural” vanilla flavor is often made by other means. Many companies produce it by fermenting ferulic acid, a derivative of rice milling, or sugar. Topping the charts as the most nauseating source of natural vanilla flavor, however, is beaver anuses, which produce a goo called castoreum, used in vanilla flavoring. Because these methods come from “natural” ingredients, they’re often considered to be natural flavors and can be labeled as such.

11) Carrageenan: This is widely used in the food industry for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. Some animal studies argue that there’s a connection between carrageenan ingestion and inflammatory bowel disease; however, the FDA lists the ingredient as safe, and more recent human studies take the FDA’s side on this one.

12) Calcium Sulfate: Calcium sulfate helps to thicken the Frosty, and it’s used in higher quantities as a calcium supplement.

13) Sodium Citrate: Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid, which is found naturally in citrus fruits, and it acts as a preservative, helping to prevent the fat from coalescing.

14) Dextrose: Dextrose is a sugar derived from starches, like corn. Besides providing some sweetness, it lowers the freezing point of water, which contributes to a softer, less crystalized Frosty.

Fun fact: Dextrose has a high glycemic index, meaning it quickly raises blood sugar levels, so it’s used in IV solutions to treat low blood sugar and dehydration. People with diabetes might also consume dextrose tablets to raise their blood sugar if they become dangerously low. Because of this blood-sugar-boosting effect, consuming dextrose also provides an almost immediate jolt of energy — followed by an inevitable crash.

15) Vitamin A Palmitate: Vitamin A palmitate is simply a compound that acts as a source of vitamin A, which supports vision and the immune system. It’s often added to low-fat milk and other dairy products to replace the vitamin content lost through the removal of milk fat.

The Takeaway

While there are some ingredients that appear to be superfluous — mono and diglycerides and carrageenan, for example — these are somewhat common ice cream ingredients. Your bigger enemy in a Frosty is, as usual, the outrageous amount of sugar.

Is it worth it?

Meme Kombucha GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY