This is a list of some of the most common additives I get asked about. This list is really here to help you make choices that suit your own food needs. It is by no means exhaustive, I am certainly not the expert on this stuff but its a pretty darn good start. Get to know this stuff better – there is heaps of research around – ask questions, wonder some more, perplexed by what you read on a label? Do your homework (or ask me and I will see what I can find out)
Amaranth comes from a herb. High in nutritional value and gluten free. It can be ground into flour, and is also puffed and used for cereal.
Made from the root of the herb arrowroot. It is a gluten free starch used as a thickener very similar to corn starch. I use arrowroot in my bread recipes.
Though a little confusing Buckwheat is not from wheat at all, it is actually a fruit. Buckwheat is quite nutritious and can be ground into flour. Commercial buckwheat pancakes are not all they seem – check the ingredients, it is often used in combination with wheat flour. So don’t assume that all mixes are gluten free.
Caramel colour can be produced using barley malt, which is not gluten free. Some countries, in particular North America, use corn to make caramel colour. Barley and corn are grains.
Citric acid can be made from corn, beet sugar, wheat or molasses, whilst it might be gluten free, citric acid is so highly processed it is not something I am all that keen on eating. Never quite knowing the source (possibly grain) I generally stay away from it in food if I can.
Gluten free but not grain free, corn is used to make corn flour, corn starch, polenta, corn syrup and goodness knows what else. You often see it referred to as maize. Corn is a grain.
Dextrin is most commonly made from corn, potato, arrowroot, rice, or tapioca. It can also be made from wheat, even though that is not very common. If it is made with wheat, “wheat” will usually appear on the label. All in all, another highly processed additive that can have unknown origins. Corn, rice and wheat are all grains.
Dextrose is made from rice, corn or wheat starch. Regardless of which starch is used it is so highly processed and made from grain I never consume food containing dextrose.
What is a flavour? I never have been able to get a straight answer from a manufacturer about “flavours”. I simply steer clear of food with “flavours”.
Glucose syrup is a highly processed product made from corn, sorghum or wheat starch. I prefer to stick with more natural sweeteners made by nature, not in a science lab. Do your own research on how glucose syrup is made. I once read that acid is used to convert cellulose or starch from corn to sugar. Aaahhh!
Used extensively in gluten free baking. It is made from the guar bean and used in gluten free baking. It helps give elasticity and stretch to the dough that normally would come from gluten. I don’t use Guar Gum, when I have used it I have experienced cramping and discomfort in my tummy.
Lecithin is a thickener that is usually made from soy. From what I have been able to research the majority of soy lecithin used in food is derived from refined soybean oil that has been processed using a hot-solvent extraction technique. Soy lecithin initially started its life as a waste product produced during the “degumming” process of soybean oil. Now it is used in all kinds of food. Don’t take my word for it. Do your own research and then you decide.
Malt flavouring is most commonly made from barley (grain). Manufacturers generally don’t provide the source of the malt flavouring on their labels.
Maltodextrin is made from potato, rice, corn or wheat (the last three being grains). Another highly processed additive, I don’t eat it.
MODIFIED FOOD STARCH
Modified food starch can be made from different sources of starch including wheat which makes it neither gluten nor grain free. A common source of modified food starch comes from corn which is a grain.
Pectin is a natural gelling agent found in fruit. Pectin is used in making jams and jellies.
Read the label of the seasonings. Seasonings are a bit like “flavourings” – who knows and how do you find out?
Avoid malt vinegar, it is not distilled and is made from barley. Any other vinegar is generally OK. I prefer to simply use Apple Cider Vinegar.
Whey is gluten free. Whey is the liquid part of the milk that remains after the solids are removed to make cheese. Whey powder on the other hand contains all kinds of additives, read the label!
I never use or eat yeast. Keep an eye on brewer’s yeast, often recommended as a health food, it is the by-product of beer – definitely not grain free.
May be derived from soy, corn or other plant products. I understand from my research that Xanthan gum is produced for commercial use through the fermentation of corn sugar, using the bacterium Xanthomonas. Used as an ingredient in conventional and natural products, xanthan acts as a stabilizer, a thickener and a gelling agent. I don’t use this gum in any of my cooking.