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) themselves with the help of an expert.
1) Water: You best be drinking this one.
2) Sugar: A single Bomb Pop contains seven grams of sugar, which actually isn’t all that much for a popsicle. For reference, a 16-ounce mocha frappucino from Starbucks contains an alarming 61 grams of sugar (that’s more than 12 teaspoons — or the equivalent of two Snickers Bars, plus a hefty bite out of a third).
3) Corn Syrup: Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made of glucose. It doesn’t get as much negative publicity as high fructose corn syrup (which we’ll touch on in a moment), but regular corn syrup also can be debilitating, considering it’s basically liquid sugar.
4) High Fructose Corn Syrup: High fructose corn syrup is corn syrup that’s had some of its glucose converted to fructose enzymatically. It’s a commonly-used sweetener, and has been linked to obesity and diabetes by many, many studies. So, if possible, you want to avoid anything containing this ingredient.
5) Citric Acid: Citric acid naturally occurs in citrus fruits, and it’s often added to foods to extend their shelf life.
6) Natural and Artificial Flavors: While natural flavors are quite literally flavors derived from an actual food source—i.e., cherry flavoring taken from real cherries—artificial flavors are chemical compounds created in a lab that mimic a natural flavor in some way. While that may sound unnatural (and thus, unhealthy), physician and biochemist Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, previously told us that she has no real problem with artificial flavoring: “They’re not killers because they’re added in very, very small quantities to food.”
8) Cellulose 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. Do you really have to worry about the small supply found in a Bomb Pop? Probably not.
9) Xanthan Gum: Similar to guar gum, xanthan gum is a thickening agent. It’s relatively harmless. That said, those with bowel issues should be wary when consuming it, as a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found it to be a highly efficient laxative.
10) Blue 1: While certain artificial colors (blue 1 being one of them) are known to be carcinogenic, Shanahan previously assured us that a normal person’s liver should have no problem breaking down whatever miniscule amounts of coloring we consume with our food.
11) Red 40: Red 40, like Blue 1, is also known to be cancerous. But as Shanahan just explained, you probably don’t need to worry about the insignificant amounts found in a Bomb Pop.
Bomb Pops are basically sugar and water. But then, these are popsicles—what did you expect? Bomb Pops are best consumed in moderation (once a year some time around the start of July sounds about right).