4 Hidden Ingredients to Watch Out For

Your body is a miraculous machine that turns food into fuel for anything and everything that you might need. Your body loves you and works hard for you, so, don’t you think you owe it to your body to choose foods and ingredients that love it back?

But eating healthy and choosing clean foods isn't as simple as it was 100 years ago, at least when it comes to packaged and processed foods (which didn't exist 100 years ago...)

Clever marketing language and beautiful packaging can make you think that a food is super healthy, however, a multitude of strange ingredients are hiding inside. 

At Bonafide Provisions, we want to teach you to be label readers. Not to make you crazy, but to help you be mindful of what you're putting into your body. 

There are 4 ingredients, in particular, that are found almost everywhere and might not be loving your body back...

Here are Sharon's Top 4 Ingredients to Watch Out For 

Citric Acid

What is it? 

Citric acid preserves and emulsifies foods, greatly extending their shelf life.

What's the problem? 

While citric acid does occur naturally in fruits like lemons and oranges, today, most of the citric acid that is included in packaged and processed foods actually comes from something called Aspergillus Niger, or, black mold. Yuk. 

Manufacturers have found that using this strain of black mold is a cost-effective and efficient way to convert sugar into citric acid. This can be harmless in small amounts for some, but for those who have autoimmune and other related conditions, this can pose varied health risks.

Where to watch out for it: 

Citric acid can be found almost anywhere, from condiments to drinks, to snacks. Some foods that commonly have citric acid include premade and packaged soups, tomato sauce, and salad dressings.


What are they?  

The second ingredient to be aware of are gums.  You may be familiar with a few of these like xanthan gum, guar gum, or carrageenan.  These ingredients are used to stabilize, thicken, and emulsify foods. Sometimes these gums are made from food sources and some are made from bacterial fermentation.

What's the problem?

Gums can potentially contribute to gas, bloating, digestive disruption, and more. Research is beginning to show that these gums may pose a risk in inflammation of the gut, potentially triggering disease or worsening existing conditions such as leaky gut, Colitis, Chron’s, and Irritable Bowel Disease. 

Where to watch out for them:

Gums are used as thickeners so, basically, anything that has a creamy texture. The most common place to find gums are plant-based, gluten-free, and dairy-free products. You may find them in sour creams, puddings, yogurts, and more.

You will almost always find gums in dairy-free milk alternatives!

Our favorite clean brand: MALK! 

If you're dairy-free but still want some creamy goodness in your life, opt for one of our favorite brands: Malk. Malk non-dairy milks are is made from filtered water, organic almonds, vanilla bean, and sea salt.  It has the Sharon Stamp of Approval!

Here's another Pro Tip: when shopping for non-dairy milk, make sure to always choose organic and milk that's made from sprouted nuts, as this rids the milk of potentially harmful phytic acid that occurs naturally in the nuts.

Hidden Sugar

What is it? 

Sugar is sugar, but it also goes by many other names. Some of them sound downright unhealthy. 

Sucrose, dextrose, maltose, brown rice syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, agave, Barbados sugar, cane juice, cane juice crystals... The list literally goes on and on and all of these names mean sugar. 

What's the problem? 

While there's nothing wrong with naturally-occurring sugar (in moderation), added sugar can contribute to excessive and empty caloric intake, blood sugar spikes, and possible increased risk of heart disease, to name just a few. 

Where to watch out for it: 

Added sugar is hiding both in plain sight and behind creative and healthy-sounding aliases in many packaged foods, snacks and beverages. 

According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily allowance of sugar for women is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons, and 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men.  Just to put this into perspective in a single 8 oz can of coca cola there are 26g of added sugar. Here is our tip: when in doubt, make it at home! You can control all of the ingredients when you make your own foods and drinks at home, especially the sugar content.

Vegetable Oils

What are they? 

Vegetable oils include but are not limited to sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, and soybean oil.  These guys are all a big NO for us here at Bonafide Provisions.

What's the problem? 

Vegetable oils are rancid to begin with and extremely fragile - meaning they should NEVER be exposed to high heat. Unfortunately, they are cheap, so, they are often used to make packaged and processed foods. During the manufacturing process, these oils are exposed to more heat and made even more damaged and inflammatory. 

For more detailed information on why vegetable oils are the WORST check out our blog post “The Best and The Worst Cooking Oils” https://bonafideprovisions.com/blogs/blog/the-best-worst-cooking-oils

Where to look out for them: 

Where are these oils hiding? In just about every packed or processed food, unfortunately. Some of the most common places to find these oils include packaged snacks (hellooo potato chips, almost always a guarantee there), salad dressings, salsas, sauces, condiments, and much more!

We admit, when it comes to snack foods, avoiding these oils can be pretty difficult - but not impossible!

Our favorite brands:

Opt for chips and snacks made with oils like avocado or coconut oil instead!  We absolutely love and approve of Lesser Evil and Barnana snacks - they are Certified Organic (just like us) and made with clean, healthy fats.  

Pro tip: Even if these vegetable oils are labeled "expeller-pressed", or, organic, it does not mean that they are any healthier than conventional vegetable oils!

So what can I actually eat? 

We don't want you to drive yourself crazy, nor are we trying to say that you should avoid all of these ingredients all of the time.

All we're trying to teach you is to read your labels and be mindful of how much of these ingredients you are consuming. 

At Bonafide Provisions, we live and eat by the 80/20 rule. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket 80% of the time - this is where all of nature’s gifts are waiting for you.  Make informed decisions to enjoy packaged or processed foods as treats 20% of the time. 

Just remember, everything in moderation!  Use these tips as a guideline and a motivation knowing that you're making choices that love your body back. 


Want to stock up on foods that will never, ever contain any of these nasties? 

Shop Bonafide Soups, Bone Broth & Keto Broth Now! 


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This blog was written by our contributing writer, Amanda Chaplin 

Amanda is in her first year of naturopathic medical school in Chicago, Illinois.  She has a special interest in autoimmune disease, chronic pain, and holistic nutrition.  Amanda has a strong background in public and global health, epidemiology, and immunology.  She has a passion for writing, recipe development and making pertinent health information easy to understand and implement into daily life. You can learn more about Amanda @theholistic.honey


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