Understanding Food Labels – Part 2


This week we spoke about what is on the label with regard to sugars and food additives.


Sugars especially contain empty calories. They add to the calorie burden with very little nutritive value and keep our bodies craving more. Sugar consumption causes insulin spikes, which damage the blood vessels and make us tired and moody, among other things. The total sugars are usually listed on labels under carbohydrates and they include the sugars found naturally in the food as well as anything that has been added.

High amounts of sugar lead to spikes in insulin, which can damage our arteries and can lead to weight gain and energy fluctuations. It is important to make sure that the foods we eat contain enough fiber to slow the release of sugars into the blood stream.


Fiber helps to keep our bowels functioning well and also provides nutrients for the good bacteria in our intestines to thrive, making us feel healthier, reducing bloating, and helping for better blood sugar control.

Food additives

Food additives are substances that are not usually consumed on their own as food and are not typically characteristic ingredients of food. They are usually added during the processing of foods, and they can become direct or indirect components of foods or their by-products.

Each food additive is assigned an “E number” once they have been deemed safe through testing by the European Union. (E=Europe). Because many chemical compounds and additives have long and complicated names, the E numbers allow for them to be understood universally.

The different categories and functional classifications that food additives fall under include sweeteners, colourants, antioxidants, and preservatives as listed below.

  • 100 to 199: Food colouring
  • 200 to 299: Preservatives
  • 300 to 399: Antioxidants
  • 400 to 499: Thickeners, emulsifiers, and stabilisers
  • 500 to 599: Acidity regulators and anti-caking agents
  • 600 to 699: Flavour enhancers, including monosodium glutamate (E621) or MSG.
  • 700 to 999: Sweeteners, foaming agents, and gases, including aspartame (E951)

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 24 August 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am.