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) Cream: Cream is basically the layer of fat that rises to the top of milk before undergoing homogenization, a process that breaks down the fat molecules in milk to prevent them from separating.
2) Water: You (hopefully) drink this one.
3) Sugar: One serving size (two tablespoons) contains less than one gram of sugar, which honestly isn’t very much. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 36 grams and women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day (and that doesn’t include sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables).
4) 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 has been linked to obesity and diabetes by many, many studies (more on that here) — but regular corn syrup can also be debilitating, considering it’s basically liquid sugar.
5) Nonfat Milk: This has another name: Skim milk.
6) Mono and Diglycerides: This ingredient is typically added to food products as an emulsifier. In simpler terms, it helps all the ingredients properly blend together. But as we learned in our 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.
7) Natural Flavor: Natural flavors are flavors derived from an actual food source — i.e., cream flavoring taken from real cream.
8) Carrageenan: “Carrageenan is widely used in the food industry for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties,” explains Dagan Xavier, ingredient expert and co-founder of Label Insight. Some animal studies argue that there’s a connection between carrageenan ingestion and inflammatory bowel disease; however, the FDA lists the ingredient as a Generally Recognized as Safe Substance. And more recent human studies take the FDA’s side on this one.
9) Nitrous Oxide: Also known as laughing gas, this is responsible for turning whipped cream into foam when it exits the can. It also prevents the growth of bacteria inside of the can. Bummer alert: Using cans of whipped cream to get high is a bad idea.
While a dollop of Reddi-wip will certainly add some fat and sugar to that fat-and-sugar-heavy slice of pie, the additional damage is surprisingly negligible: One serving contains only one gram of fat and less than one gram of sugar (although, the mono and diglycerides may or may not add some trans fat into the mix). The lesson being: So long as you don’t squirt an entire can of Reddi-wip into your face, you should be just fine.