Dodging the Dangers of Emulsifiers

If I thought trying to eat oil-free was a challenge, I had another thing coming when I was told to avoid emulsifiers.

They. Are. In. Everything.

Seriously, label reading is extremely important these days. And as I always tell the people when I’m trying to help them transition their way of eating: If the label reads like War and Peace? Just know it can’t be good for you.

Emulsifiers are thickening agents. Most commonly found in creamy things such as chocolates, fat-free salad dressings, dips, dairy-free ‘ice cream’ and plant-based butters, to name a few. It is even difficult to find an oil-free plant-based vitamin supplement. While not included in a Whole Food Plant-Based eating pattern, eggs are one of the earliest and most commonly used emulsifiers.

There has been much vague discussion of having a ‘leaky gut’ and inflammation as a result of including emulsifiers in foods. Now, science is showing there is proof of that and more to be concerned about.

Recent studies are showing that emulsifiers penetrate the lining of our gut microbiome thus releasing disease-causing, harmful bacteria into our systems. More specifically, in my case causing dangerous lesions in my brain. My neurosurgeon co-authored a breakthrough study and I have provided the link to follow. This focuses on only one disease, but there are many specialists now making the connection between emulsifiers and other ailments. Dr. Greger and his Nutritional Facts website cross-reference and qualify ongoing information regarding studies. Here’s a link to one of his recent videos on the subject. I highly recommend following the daily discoveries of his team.

This is simply more information that supports our Whole Food Plant-Based diet. Emulsifiers, preservatives, flavor enhancers and other additives abound and are considered acceptable. Processed foods are the norm in the Standard American Diet. In impoverished, and low-income parts of our country, highly processed foods are the only food available to the residents, causing obesity and other serious health issues for which they can’t afford treatment.

I have provided a link to the most common emulsifiers to avoid and another to emulsifier-free foods available in most areas. I have had to order some online as I do not have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s nearby.

Currently, I am coming up with simple ways to cook things we enjoy that were previously emulsified with harmful chemicals. For example, preparing my own energy bars to grab and go. Below is a creamy salad dressing recipe that gives you a “Ranch” dressing with clean whole plant-based foods.

Just before I committed to being completely plant-based, I had eaten eggs all my life in some way, shape, or form. After bloodwork, my doctor told me I was allergic to eggs. Well, I quit eating them immediately and couldn’t believe how wonderful I felt. I had lived my life accepting a norm of discomfort for as long as I could remember.

The same thing happened when I got rid of emulsifiers. Now, having been free of them for some time, if I unknowingly consume them in something, I feel the negative effects immediately.

If you think about it, how much of our population accept discomfort from their eating habits? Surely obese individuals struggle physically every day but simply accept it as their lot in life. That is only one obvious example that our bodies tell us when things aren’t right, and there are too many others to include here.

All the more reason to educate the population regarding the benefits of choosing a Whole Food Plant-Based lifestyle, and help people to find resources to live their healthiest life.

By Laura Hollenbeck

As I continue to learn more about the dangers of emulsifiers, I am coming up with simple ways to cook delicious meals we enjoy that were previously emulsified with harmful chemicals.

Below is a recipe for a creamy “Ranch-style” salad dressing made from clean whole plant-based foods.  Enjoy!

Creamy Dressing for Salads

By: Artfully Plant-Based

  • 1 cup soy milk or other clean plant-based milk without emulsifiers
  • 1 1/2 TBS apple cider vinegar (lemon juice optional)
  • 1 TBS Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic granules (I add more- personal preference)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chives (chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Add vinegar to the soy milk to clabber ( or curdle ) in a mason jar and set aside. After it has thickened a bit add the spices and shake. Add the nutritional yeast if desired for a thicker and cheesier texture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Some like a dash of chili flakes.

This is just one variation. The skeleton recipe is the clabbered soy milk. You may add your favorite herbs or whatever you have on hand. Nutritional Yeast adds a delicious flavor and is full of vitamins. If you desire a thicker dressing add an egg replacer (Bob’s Red Mill for example which employs psyllium husk). I have thickened and adjusted seasonings to make a dip for crudités.

Not only wonderful for traditional green salad, this is delicious tossed in chopped broccoli and cauliflower with a bit of red onion. (Which is even better the next day.)

We typically use ours up in 2-3 days. It may separate but shake it up and it is good to go.

Contributing Writer: Laura Hollenbeck

A forever student and passionate proponent of Lifestyle Medicine, Laura transitioned to an entirely plant-based lifestyle two years ago for purposes of health, animals, and the environment. She is certified in Plant-based Nutrition by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies and Rouxbe Online Culinary School’s Forks Over Knives and Plant-based Professional programs. A personal chef, artist, and avid reader, she lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan with her plant-based husband and dogs.

Laura is currently developing recipes for an emulsifier-free, whole-food plant-based cookbook.

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