I had the opportunity to clean out a pantry and fridge of one of my swimming buddies late last year.
He felt that the family was eating well but he wanted me to check. The bottled and packaged foods that filled much of his pantry and fridge were condiments like sauces, mayos, seasonings, pesto, hollandaise and dressings.
I’m not one to look at the fats, carbs, salt, sugar and protein content of a food (the nutritional panel), nor do I bother about the claims on the front of the package, but rather I want to know exactly what is in the food. I go straight to the ingredients as this is where the truth lies on any label. Having said that, there are some hidden chemicals in our food that I’ll discuss briefly later.
No matter what I looked at in my friend’s pantry and fridge, the ingredients included an acidity regulator, thickener, colour and/or flavour, as well as binders and starches – ingredients that may have ramifications for our health. We use condiments to add flavour to our food, often on a daily basis, so we could be getting an overdose of these additives.
The food industry is about making money for the most part – food manufacturers make sure the food tastes good so that you keep coming back for more. Making your own condiments is a cost-effective way of making sure you are only consuming the best of ingredients.
It means getting back into the kitchen to feed and nourish your family, but time spent in the kitchen can be time saved in ill health.
It’s interesting to note that many similar products, for instance tomato sauce and BBQ sauce, contain almost exactly the same ingredients except the manufactured chemical flavour is different in each. Let’s take a look.
BBQ sauce often contains:
Concentrated tomatoes (74%), sugar, salt, food acids (260, 330), colour (150c), flavours (including smoke flavour), vegetable gum (415, contains traces of soy), spices.
Concentrated tomatoes is another name for tomato paste. I called Heinz to ask about their concentrated tomatoes. They said the tomatoes are cooked and the water is reduced from the tomato and then pulp is removed, leaving a smooth paste. This process is usually done when tomatoes are in season and at the peak of harvest. This paste must then be stored in containers, usually plastic, to be used to make foods that need the tomato paste, like sauces and soups. The good thing about a good tomato paste is that it is higher in the antioxidant lycopene. An antioxidant helps stop oxidation (inflammation) within the body.
Conventional agriculture may use chemicals. One that is encouraged in tomato crop production is Roundup. From the www.roundup.com.au website comes the following advice on the use of Roundup near tomatoes:
“One of the biggest problems for tomatoes is aphids. Encourage their natural predator the ladybird and rid your garden of milk thistles which attract them. A systemic weed killer like Roundup kills this weed from leaf to root so it won’t spring up again. It also breaks down on contact with the soil so your tomato plants and soil will be safe”. (1)
If you have been listening to what I have to say about Roundup and have watched my documentary What’s With Wheat? you will know that this is not a safe option to use on any food that we consume. And now that there is a link with NH lymphoma and Roundup, it may be best not to consume conventionally grown tomatoes. I’ve put a link in the references to the advised herbicides that can be used in tomato production in Australia and around the world. Roundup is just one such chemical used. (2)
Growing tomatoes is like growing weeds, it’s easy to do! Or visit your local farmers markets and make your own BBQ sauce. These are the ingredients I use: tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, molasses, tabasco sauce, seaweed salt, Rapadura sugar, allspice, chili powder, paprika, nutmeg, cumin black pepper. Not a man made flavour, acidity regulator, thickener or colour in sight. Get the full recipe here.
Let’s have a deeper look at the ingredients in the BBQ sauce. They may sound safe but when you dig into how they are made and what they are made from you may choose not to consciously purchase food with these ingredients:
- Flavour. I’ve talked about this term in my book, where you can read what the term actually means (think 48+ chemicals).
- Colour 150c is an artificial colour created by heating or caramalising a carbohydrate (starch hydrolyzates, sucrose, dextrose, invert sugar, molasses, malt syrup and lactose) in the presence of a reagent (sulfuric, sulfurous, phosphoric, citric, acetic and carbonic acids; the ammonium, sodium and potassium salts of carbonic, phosphoric, sulfuric and sulfurous acids; and the ammonium, sodium and potassium hydroxides). The richness of the colour depends on what reagent is used. In the case of 150c, an ammonium compound reagent but no sulphite compound can be used. (3)
- The two acidity regulators are acetic acid (260) (which may sound like vinegar, but it’s not made like an apple cider vinegar) and citric acid (330). Citric acid is used widely as a preservative in many foods. It is not from citrus as many people believe, but rather it is commonly derived from a fungus, Aspergillus Niger, which may be genetically modified (GM). The fungus is combined with a substrate made from corn, which could also be GM. (4) There is a large worldwide demand for citric acid. It is mainly being used as an acidity regulator in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Global citric acid production has reached 1.4 million tones, increasing annually at 4.0%. (5) Therefore, better and more efficient ways of production are always being measured and patented. In short, modern citric acid is more likely to be derived from a GM fungus, Aspergillus Niger, using a substrate from GM corn. I won’t bore you with the several patents on making acetic acid (acidity regulator) that are in practice today, but instead inform you that new ways of producing mass amounts of this acidity regulator are being invented. So not knowing what substrates or what catalysts (eg manganese actetate) are being used, and which patent is being used to make the acetic acid, you are basically eating something of unknown origin. That is unless you do the research and call the food manufacturer, like Heinz, and ask them for their source of acetic acid. Or you can take my word for it. Food manufacturers often won’t tell you about such ingredients, saying they are proprietary secrets. When I questioned one food manufacturer about the flavours in their tomato and BBQ sauce, they refused to tell me the amount of flavours and the type of flavours, as that was proprietary as well.
- Vegetable gum 415 is xanathum gum. It is a popular food additive that’s commonly added to foods as a thickener or stabilizer. It’s made when sugar or a carbohydrate is fermented by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris. When sugar is fermented, it creates a goo-like substance (polysaccharide), which is made solid by adding an alcohol. More often than not the carbohydrate that the bacteria feeds off is usually a GM corn so the bacteria can be more efficient and make more xanathum. The GM version of xanthomonas campestris can also use cheap whey as a substrate instead of a corn sugar. (6) For vegans reading this, you will not know if your xanuthum gum is from animal products or plant products unless you investigate. Most food manufacturers’ customer care services don’t even know their sources and will have no idea what you are talking about. They will have to get back to you, most probably because no vegan has ever asked the question because it’s hard to ask the right question when we don’t even know what the question is that we have to ask to understand these food additives!
But with full disclosure, I give you the recipe and method for my homemade healthy BBQ sauce.
Ingredients commonly found in store bought tomato sauces are: Concentrated tomatoes (79%), sugar, salt, food acids (260, 330), natural flavours.
As I mentioned above, if you take a close look at the BBQ and tomato sauce ingredients they are similar but the chemical flavouring agents would be different.
Ingredients that I use to make tomato sauce are all organic ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, red onion, seaweed salt, pepper, turmeric, rosemary, Rapadura sugar, cumin, apple cider vinegar and chilli or cayenne (optional). Again, not a man made flavour, acidity regulator, thickener or colour added. You can find the recipe here.
Are you wanting to learn more about health to make informed choices and decisions? We have our Introduction to Nutrition Course via our Functional Nutrition Academy to increase your knowledge around health. For more information CLICK HERE
Next time I share my homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise, and sweet chili sauce.