The order of ingredients: what does it mean?

The order of ingredients is not random. It’s actually quite telling. Ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest. This means the first few ingredients are the ones that the product contains the most. For example, if sugar is listed first, the product is predominantly made up of sugar. Paying attention to the first three ingredients can give you a good idea of the product’s nutritional value.

The importance of the ingredient list over nutritional analysis.

While the nutritional analysis provides a breakdown of macro and micronutrients (like fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins), it doesn’t reveal the quality or source of these nutrients. The ingredient list, however, offers this transparency. It tells you if the sugars are coming from whole fruits or added refined sugars, or whether the fats are from healthy sources like nuts or unhealthy ones like hydrogenated oils.

Sugar in disguise: 5 alternative names

When reading labels, look out for these sugar derivatives or alternative names for sugar:

1. High-fructose corn syrup
2. Dextrose
3. Maltose
4. Sucrose
5. Evaporated cane juice

The length of the list: a sign of ultra-processed products.

The longer the ingredient list, the higher the chance the product is ultra-processed. Ultra-processed foods often contain additives to improve taste, texture, or shelf life and are generallyless nutritious.

Examples include:

  • - Colorants: Tartrazine (Yellow No. 5), Allura Red (Red No. 40), and Sunset Yellow (Yellow No. 6) are common colorants that make food look more appealing.
  • - Preservatives: sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and sodium nitrite are used to prolong a product’s shelf-life by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi.

Why ultra-processed foods can be a health risk.

Ultra-processed foods are linked to various health issues, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. They often contain high levels of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, while lacking essential nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals.