Human hair, chicken feathers, and high-fructose corn syrup—if you eat packaged bread from the supermarket, these ingredients have likely been in it. In fact, plenty of packaged breads sold in the United States contain ingredients that are actually banned in lots of other parts of the world. Here are five ingredients to look for at the store…and five reasons to start making your own bread or visiting the local bakery instead:
L-cysteine is a softening agent often added to bread and other baked goods in order to speed up industrial processing. And though it’s sometimes made in a lab, most of it actually comes from a natural source. Sounds good, right? Not if that natural source is human hair, chicken feathers, and cow horns, dissolved in acid before the L-cysteine is isolated and added to your bread.
2. Potassium bromate
Potassium bromate lessens baking time and strengthens dough, which big companies love because they can save money. But it’s not so great when it comes to eating it—it’s been linked to thyroid and kidney cancer, leading many countries to ban it completely, including the EU, Brazil, Peru, South Korea, and China.
3. Refined grains
Refined grains don’t sound that scary, but because they’re missing all the nutrients that whole grains contain, they’re actually pretty bad for you. Quickly broken down into simple sugars, refined grains can cause blood-sugar level spikes. They’ve also been shown to make us more vulnerable to insulin resistance and high blood pressure, to increase our risk of a heart attack by 30 percent. Look out for major culprits like white bread and rolls, and don’t be fooled by ingredient like “enriched wheat flour”—it’s not synonymous with whole grain.
This hard-to-pronounce additive enhances the texture of soft breads, and you’ll often find it in hamburger buns at fast food joints in the United States. But if you add it to food in Singapore, you’ll face up to 15 years in prison. How come? It’s been shown to interfere with respiratory health, causing asthma and allergic reactions in some people.
5. High fructose corn syrup
It adds that toasty brown color to bread and helps dough rise—and manufacturers love it because it’s the cheapest sugar. Too bad that health professionals point to it as a contributor to the American obesity epidemic. Excess consumption of high fructose corn syrup has been associated with hypertension, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and more.