Look at the ingredients on the back of your ice cream. What do you expect to see? Milk, sugar, perhaps vanilla? What you might find, though, is glycerol monostearate, an emulsifier that can help to keep the milk fat in suspension and limits the growth of ice crystals on the ice cream.
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Labels can be deceiving and many times we don't even know what we are eating! The ingredients with the strange names usually fall under certain categories and serve certain functions in our food. For instance:
Acidity regulators: These are used to adjust the acidity or basicity of foods and include buffers, acids, alkalis and neutralizing agents.
Anti-caking agents: These make the product more free-flowing.
Emulsifiers: These are very common and allow for easier mixing of oils and water. One example of a food emulsifier is egg yolk.
Flavor enhancers: These help bring out the natural flavor in the food. The most known is the controversial monosodium glutamate (MSG) sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid and a form of glutamate.