Many health conscious people are careful label readers, but even labels might not tell the whole story. This Week’s blog post reveals the latest research on packaging that can end up in your meal, hidden meat in “vegetarian” foods, and the difference between ice cream and frozen dairy dessert.

Are you eating the packaging too?

Everyone knows how annoying it is to wrangle products out of packaging, but can that packaging actually wind up in your dinner? Researchers have known for a long time that tiny particles in plastic can leak endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones. Risk is highest with packaged food products and restaurant food—especially food that’s also high in fat. To reduce risk, avoid using plastic containers for take-home foods or restaurant leftovers if possible. But did you know titanium dioxide nanoparticles used as a white pigment to color products like gum/frosting can also leak into food? They don’t list the packaging on the ingredients list, but they just might be showing up as hidden ingredients in food. In the mid-20th century, titanium dioxide starting replacing toxic lead-based pigments and is now widely found in foods, personal products, cosmetics, plastics, and paper. Researchers studying the pancreas have found a significantly higher concentration of titanium dioxide crystals in the pancreatic tissues of people with type 2 diabetes. These findings may indicate what many health conscious diet experts have been touting for years—stick to whole, unprocessed, minimally packaged foods.

Thinking of switching to a plant-based diet? Here’s where meat can still sneak into your dinner.

These days, plant-based diets are increasing in popularity and people are more conscious about which food ingredients are vegan. If you’re already vegan or vegetarian, you probably know what you’re looking out for. However, you may be surprised to discover there can be hidden animal products in seemingly vegetarian foods. For example, many people know anchovy paste is a staple in Caesar dressing, but did you know it’s also common in green goddess dressing? Also pre-flavored rice dishes like those labeled “Spanish rice” might contain “natural flavors” or fats that are derived from chicken or fish. So if you plan on incorporating more meatless meals into your diet, check out our quiz to learn where meat might be making an appearance as some of the hidden ingredients in food products. You can also get some plant-based dinner ideas thanks to our Meatless Monday quiz.

Does it really matter if it’s ice cream or just frozen dairy dessert?

As summer’s heat wave continues, thoughts of cool desserts—such as ice cream—might get you salivating. But do you know the difference between “ice cream” and “frozen dairy dessert”? According to the FDA, a product must contain at least 10% milk fat by weight in order to be labeled “ice cream.” Products that do not meet those standards are usually labeled “frozen dairy dessert.” And before you run out to eat pints of trendy low-sugar frozen desserts such as Halo, it should be noted many of them are made with sugar alcohols—linked with digestive distress such as bloating and diarrhea. Hidden ingredients in food like frozen dairy desserts often haven’t been studied very well. Perhaps occasionally opting for a single serving of regular full-fat ice cream—around half a cup—is the balanced choice after all.


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