Somehow, trips to the grocery store have become complicated. Even if you find every ingredient on your list, do you feel confident about what it does or doesn’t do for your body?

With buzzwords like “adaptogens” and more sources of antioxidants and protein than you ever knew existed floating around, it can be hard to keep it all straight.

What if you had a clear-cut, skimmable glossary to help you figure out what exactly you’re looking for and consuming? Good news—we made one!

We scoured the Internet, consulted with our medical team, and even asked you about the under-the-radar ingredients you wish you knew more about.

Keep this guide handy when perusing the grocery store, and you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to make informed, healthy food choices.

Agar-agar

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits in emerging.

Agar-agar is a gelatin derived from seaweed. It’s a jelly-like white or translucent substance often used as a thickener in cooking and sweet-making. It makes a great replacement for animal-derived gelatins in vegan cooking. It’s also used in place of xantham gum. It doesn’t offer much in the way of health benefits, though it does contain some calcium. Learn more.

Acai

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits in emerging.

Acai berries are native to Central and South America. People generally describe the taste of acai berries as a mix of blackberries and unsweetened chocolate. Hailed a Brazilian superfruit, acai berries get their deep purple color from anthocyanins, antioxidants that are also concentrated in blueberries. It comes in multiple forms, like powders, juice, supplements, and whole berries. Learn more.

Acacia gum

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits in emerging.

Acacia gum is a food additive often used as a food stabilizer, thickener, and to improve texture. It’s safe to consume and may even offer some health benefits in high doses, though research is emerging. It’s also sold in supplement form. Learn more.

Acerola cherry

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits in emerging.

Also known as the West Indies or Barbados cherry, acerola cherries grow on plants in tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere. It’s rich in Vitamin C, though other purported benefits, like digestive and mental health, are not backed by research. Learn more.

Acesulfame potassium

Evidence-based: Research is mixed.

Acesulfame Potassium is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It can be found in soft and sports drinks in combination with other artificial sweeteners like Splenda. It’s FDA-approved, and research about the potential for carcinogenic effects has been criticized for design flaws. Still, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) cites concerns about cancer, hormone disruption, and risks to pregnant people. Learn more.

Acidity regulator

Evidence-based: Research is mixed.

Acidity regulators are food additives that enhance the taste of food. Some, like sodium nitrate, have been associated with health side effects, while others, such as sodium benzoate, are generally considered safe. Learn more.

Activated charcoal

Evidence-based: Research is limited.

Activated charcoal is charcoal that’s been treated with oxygen at extremely high temperatures. This black, odorless powder is commonly used to treat stomach upset, poison ingestion, and drug overdose and has been used for centuries. It may help promote kidney health and reduce cholesterol and gas, though evidence is limited. Learn more.

Adzuki beans

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits in limited.

Adzuki beans, commonly made into a sweet bean paste, contain fiber, protein, and complex carbs. Like other beans, they may help with digestion, protect against certain cancers, help with weight loss, and improve heart health. Other benefits, such as a reduction in birth defects, increased lifespan, and stronger bones, require more data. Learn more

Annatto

Evidence-based: Research is emerging.

Annatto comes from the seeds of the achiote tree grown in Central and South America. It’s often used as a food dye due to its orange-red color and is also used as a condiment because of its sweet-but-peppery taste. It contains carotenoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and tocotrienols that may help protect against cellular damage. Some research suggests it may have antimicrobial properties and promote eye health. Learn more.

Almond oil

Evidence-based: Yes.

Almond oil is the oil of the popular nut. It’s extracted by pressing ripe almonds with minimal heat. Almond oil is packed with vitamin E and is known to have anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy benefits. Learn more.

Anaheim chilies

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

These mildly hot chili peppers are also known as Mexico peppers, California chili, and Magdalena. They can ripen to a red color but are typically consumed when still green. Learn more.

Ancho chilies

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

This dried poblano pepper is most commonly found in Southwestern U.S. and Mexican food recipes. It’s mild and even sweet. Some research indicates that the bioactive plant compound in chilies, capsaicin, might help soothe pain and improve weight loss. Chili can worsen irritable bowel syndrome, but this side effect is likely temporary. Learn more.

Apple cider vinegar

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

Apple cider vinegar has long been used as a cooking and medicinal ingredient. Proponents say it can aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and help with diabetes management, though more research is needed. Learn more.

Argan oil

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Argan oil is a trending skincare ingredient, but its roots are in the culinary field. It’s derived from the kernels of the fruit that grows on argan trees, which are native to Morocco, and boasts a nutty flavor. It’s a good source of omega-6 fats, vitamin E, and other antioxidants. Research shows it may help protect against inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Ingesting it may also be good for the hair and skin, though more research is needed. Learn more.

Ashwagandha

Evidence-based: Research is emerging.

Ashwagandha holds vast significance in Ayurveda, an alternative medicine based on ancient Indian principles of healing. Modern-day studies indicate that it may assist with mental health, including stress, depression, and anxiety. Other benefits include boosting athletic performance, male fertility, and brain function, as well as regulating blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation, though the research is not definitive. Learn more.

Ascorbic acid

Evidence-based: Yes.

If you see L-ascorbic acid on a label, it’s actually a fancy word for vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant has a laundry (grocery?) list of evidence-based benefits, including protecting the skin against free radicals and supporting immune function. Food sources like citrus fruits and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin C. Learn more.

Avocado oil

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Like the fruit it’s derived from, avocado oil is packed with healthy fats, particularly heart-healthy oleic acid. Consuming avocado oil may also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve eye health, and reduce pain associated with arthritis, but more wide-scale human studies are needed. Learn more.

Beluga caviar

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

This type of caviar consists of the eggs or roe of the beluga sturgeon, also known as Huso huso. Its pearl-like appearance and flavorful aftertaste make it an impressive addition to a fancy meal. Caviar is packed with B12 and fatty acids like DHA and EPA that aid in nervous system function and the production of red blood cells. Other purported benefits include improved brain, heart, and mental health. More research directly linking caviar to these benefits is needed. Learn more.

Black seed oil

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

This herbal ingredient comes from the Negelia sativa, a plant native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Potential health benefits include weight loss and blood sugar control, though more high quality research is needed. Learn more.

Barberry

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

These tart red berries grow on the Berberis vulgaris, a shrub native to parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. They contain carbs, fiber, and minerals and can be consumed as juice, powder, extract, or whole berries. Barberry supplements may help with diabetes, digestive issues, dental health, and acne reduction, but more research is needed. Learn more.

Berbere

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

This Ethiopian spice mix consists of chili peppers, coriander, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, and a number of other spices. It contains phenols and linoleic acid. Learn more.

BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole)

Evidence-based: GRAS, no health benefits.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food additive used as a preservative, often found alongside Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). It’s generally considered safe for consumption, provided that the totals of antioxidants are not greater than 0.02 percent of fat or oil content. However, it’s on the “do not consume” list for people following the Feingold Diet, a diet-based approach to managing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Learn more.

Belacan

Evidence-based: No

Belacan is a high-sodium shrimp paste most commonly used in Asian cuisine. There aren’t studies about its health benefits, but too much sodium can negatively affect blood pressure. Learn more.

Boletes

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Boletus edulis is an edible mushroom. It contains high contents of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and taste compounds but is low in fat and calories. It also offers antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties, but more research is needed. Learn more.

Bonito flakes

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Bonito flakes, also called katsuobushi, are made from fermented skipjack tuna. They are an umami-rich food that may aid in digestion, feelings of fullness, and weight management, though this would likely require larger quantities than what’s usually consumed. They’re packed with glutamate and inosinate, which work together to boost their umami flavor. Research is still emerging on any potential benefits. Learn more.

BPA (Bisphenol A)

Evidence-based: No.

BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical compound typically used to manufacture plastics, including food packaging. It can get into food and may cause health problems, including infertility, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. However, the FDA still considers BPA safe for food packaging, though it’s banned in items like infant formula and sippy cups. Learn more.

Brewer’s yeast

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

Brewer’s yeast is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a one-celled fungus. It’s a common ingredient for bread and beer, but some take it as a nutritional supplement because it contains B vitamins and chromium, which might help maintain normal blood sugar levels, though research is limited. Learn more.

Burdock root

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Burdock root is a vegetable that originated in Northern Asia and Europe but also grows in the U.S. It’s found in supplements and teas. It’s packed with antioxidants like quercetin, luteolin, and phenolic acids that might help the body fight free radical damage. Learn more.

Capers

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed.

Capers are derived from Capparis spinosa, a prickly bush in the Mediterranean and Asia. They’re small, circular, and green and often used as a garnish, ingredient, or seasoning in Mediterranean cuisines, like salads. They can have a high sodium content. Learn more.

Carrageenan

Evidence-based: No, GRAS.

This additive is used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks. It’s commonly found in milk products, including ice cream and hemp milk. It’s controversial, with some evidence indicating it may trigger digestive issues. The FDA considers it safe, but the National Organic Standards Board decided to remove carrageenan from their approved list in 2016. Learn more.

Cardamom

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

This spice is derived from the seeds of multiple plants. It’s sweet and often compared to mint. It boasts anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties that may help with high blood pressure. It may also protect against cancer and other chronic conditions, but more research is needed, particularly with human participants. Learn more.

Cardoon

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Cardoon is a bitter-tasting thistle that’s native to the Mediterranean. It’s low-fat and mostly water-based. It contains bioactive compounds that may help with metabolic disorders, but research is emerging. Learn more.

Carambola

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Also known as star fruit, carambola is sweet and sour and resembles a five-point star. It’s yellow or green, and smaller versions are typically sour while the larger types are sweet. It’s packed with plant compounds that may reduce inflammation, cholesterol, and the risk of fatty liver. More research, particularly on humans, is needed, and individuals with kidney issues or on prescription medication should speak with a provider before eating this fruit. Learn more.

Carob

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

Carob comes from trees known as Ceratonia siliqua. It’s a fruit that doubles as a sweet substitute for chocolate, particularly for people with digestive or dietary concerns, but its use dates back centuries to ancient Greece. You can find carob fresh or dried as a powder, syrup, dietary pill, extract, or in chips. Research on digestive health benefits is limited. Learn more.

Cascabel chilies

Evidence-based: Research is limited.

These are mildly-hot chilies. Some research suggests that capsaicin, a bioactive plant compound in chili peppers, can help relieve pain and support weight loss. Chili might temporarily worsen irritable bowel syndrome. Learn more.

Castor Oil

Evidence-based: Yes.

Castor oil is a vegetable oil with numerous uses, including medicinal, industrial, and pharmaceutical. It’s FDA-approved as a laxative but may cause GI upset like vomiting. It may promote wound healing, and can hydrate skinwhen applied topically. Learn more.

CBD (Cannabidiol)

Evidence-based: Research is emerging.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, comes from cannabis plants but does result in the “high” of its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD seems to be everywhere these days—from skin care products to edibles. It’s also in some drinks, touting anti-anxiety, pain-reducing, and anti-inflammatory benefits, but research is in its early stages. Learn more.

Cherimoya

Evidence-based: Research is limited.

Also known as apple custard, this green, cone-shaped fruit likely originated in South America’s Andes mountains. It boasts a sweet and creamy flesh. It’s loaded with free radical-fighting antioxidants and may improve mood, eye health, digestion, and blood pressure while having anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. More research on humans is needed, and the skin and seeds can be toxic. Learn more.

Chia

Evidence-based: Yes.

Chia seeds are nutrient-dense and packed with antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients may help reduce disease risks, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Learn more.

Citric acid

Evidence-based: Research is mixed.

Citric acid is the compound found in citrus fruits that gives them a tangy, sour flavor. Artificial types are used as additives to boost flavor and preserve food. It may help metabolize energy, prevent kidney stones, and aid in nutrient absorption, but the type of citric acid plays a role in some of these benefits. Some people may be allergic to the additive, though the FDA generally considers it safe. Learn more.

Cordyceps

Evidence-based: Research is limited. Historical use in TCM.

Cordyceps is a genus of a fungus that grows on insect larvae. After the cordyceps attack the insect, their collective remains are used by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners as a centuries-old remedy for fatigue, sickness, kidney conditions, and low sex drive. Though it has its place in TCM, there’s a need for more research, particularly on human subjects. Learn more.

Curcumin

Evidence-based: Yes.

Curcumin is a compound with anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease the risk of diseases like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. It serves as the primary active ingredient in the spice turmeric, though its concentration is low. Learn more.

Daikon radish

Evidence-based: Yes.

These sweet, white, crunchy radishes can help with weight maintenance and provide a layer of protection from chronic diseases like heart problems and cancers. They’re versatile and can be used in anything from salads to stir-fries. Learn more.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)

Evidence-based: Yes.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in foods like salmon. When consumed through food, it can help reduce the risk of heart disease and pre-term birth. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits. Research into children who take it for ADHD management has shown promise. Learn more.

Dragon fruit

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

This fruit grows on the Hylocereus cactus and is native to Mexico and Central America. You may also hear it referred to as pitaya, pitahaya, and strawberry pear. It’s packed with antioxidants like betalains, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonoids that can protect your cells from damage. Some data indicate that dragon fruit can help with insulin resistance, liver fat, and heart health, but human research is limited. Learn more.

Drupe fruit

Evidence-based: Yes.

Drupe fruit, also known as stone fruit, is fruit with a pit. Examples include cherries, peaches, and plums. Each contains its own nutrient contents, but generally, these fruits are packed with antioxidants and may protect against some diseases. Learn more.

Durian

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

This tropical fruit is pungent and used in soups, juices, and even desserts. It’s a good source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, and healthy plant compounds. Its nutrient contents may protect against cancer, cardiovascular issues, infections, and high blood sugar, but there aren’t any human studies. It can be unsafe to consume this fruit with alcohol. Learn more.

Elderberry

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

This fruit has been used for centuries by Indigenous peoples to treat fever and rheumatism. The ancient Egyptians used it for their complexions and to treat burns. Nowadays, people swear by it as a cold and flu treatment. It’s high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, but larger-scale studies are needed to support claims that it can help treat colds and the flu. Safety concerns, specifically regarding stomach issues from overconsumption, also exist. Learn more.

Edible gold

Evidence-based: No.

Edible gold is mostly a just-for-show ingredient. It can be lightly brushed over chocolate or other desserts to give it a golden look. People with a gold allergy may have a reaction when consuming this ingredient. Learn more.

Endive

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Endive is a crisp leafy green packed with antioxidants like kaempferol that may lower the growth of cancer cells. More research on human subjects is needed. Learn more.

Enoki mushrooms

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

These mushrooms have a crisp texture and mild taste. They are a good source of fiber and rich in B vitamins, such as niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamine. Some research suggests enoki mushrooms conception can reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells, improve heart and brain health, and bolster immunity. More research is needed, especially on human participants. Learn more.

Fennel

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is mixed.

Fennel is an herb and medicinal plant with a taste often compared to licorice. Fennel and fennel seeds are nutritious and contain vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, some of which are known to support heart health. Research about its ability to curb appetite is mixed, and purported anti-cancer benefits have not been observed in humans. Learn more.

Fenugreek

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

This herb has been used in Chinese medicine to treat conditions and diseases for centuries and has long been seen as a potential way for lactating people to boost their milk supply. It’s also a cooking spice and thickening agent and has a sweet, nutty taste. It may help control blood sugar, cholesterol, heartburn, and inflammation, but more research is needed. Learn more.

Ferrous gluconate

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

Ferrous gluconate is commonly prescribed in supplement form to aid in anemia treatment, but you may also see it on an ingredient list for cereals, infant food, and dairy products. Learn more.

Fish oil

Evidence-based: Yes.

Commonly consumed as a supplement, fish oil is made when fat or oil is extracted from fish tissue. Benefits may include increased heart and eye health, less inflammation, and improved mental and cognitive health outcomes. Learn more.

Freekeh

Evidence-based: Yes.

Freekeh is made from green durum wheat and is a whole grain. Some research indicates that it can assist digestion, heart health, and weight management. It contains gluten. Learn more.

Fresno chilies

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is limited.

These medium-sized, chiles are thin and milder than a jalapeno. They contain capsaicin, a bioactive plant that some research indicates might help relieve pain and help with weight loss. However, chili might make irritable bowel syndrome worse temporarily. Learn more.

Fugu

Evidence-based: No.

Fugu is a Japanese delicacy served as sashimi and nabemono, or Japanese hot pot. It can be lethal if not prepared carefully to remove the tetrodotoxin, a venom found in eel and octopus that’s toxic to humans. Learn more.

Ginseng

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Research on additional benefits is emerging.

This antioxidant-rich herb has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Purported benefits include cancer protection, brain health, immune function, blood sugar control, and erectile dysfunction, but more research is needed. Learn more.

Gluten

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Gluten refers to a family of storage proteins with health benefits that naturally occur in certain grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten-free diets have increased in popularity in recent years, and people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and other conditions are advised to avoid gluten entirely. Others should speak with a provider before cutting gluten. Learn more.

Gochujang

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. No additional research.

This seasoning is used in Korean recipes to make vegetables taste spicy. It’s made of glutinous rice, chili powder, barley powder, salt, and fermented soy. Learn more.

Goji berries

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

These small, tart red berries are commonly sold powdered or dried and added to juices. More research is needed to confirm benefits, including better immune function and eye health. Learn more.

Gooseberry

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Gooseberries are small berries that grow on bushes and boast sweet or tart tastes. Though small, they’re nutrient-dense and contain vitamin C, B Vitamins, copper, fiber, and manganese. These nutrients may help protect against heart issues, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. More research is needed. Learn more.

Guar gum

Evidence-based: Research is mixed.

Guar gum is an additive commonly found in processed foods like salad dressing and yogurt to thicken and bind them. It is low-calorie and high in soluble fiber, so it may help with blood sugar and cholesterol control. The FDA considers it safe in specific amounts, but too much can trigger digestive issues like bloat and gas. Learn more.

Galangal root

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

This Southeast Asian spice has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It can be consumed fresh or cooked and is often used in Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai recipes. It may help treat infections, lower inflammation, improve male fertility, and fight some cancers, though research is often limited to animals. Learn more.

Gram flour

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

Also known as chickpea or besan flour, Gram flour has been a popular ingredient in Indian recipes for hundreds of years. It’s made with chickpeas and has a mild and nutty taste. It contains antioxidants that can help combat free radical damage. When used in processed food, it may lower the amount of a potential carcinogen known as acrylamide. Chickpea flour has fewer calories and less of an impact on blood sugar than wheat flour, plus it may be more filling. Learn more.

Ginger root

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

This spice is related to turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. It’s found in powdered, dried, oil, or juice form and a pickled version is also served alongside sushi. It is high in gingerol, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substance. Research on its effects on nausea and vomiting is mixed, though it’s shown promise to help with other conditions, such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, and indigestion. Learn more.

Hemp

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Hemp seeds are the small, whitish seeds of the hemp plant. They only have small traces of THC, the compound in cannabis that triggers a “high.” They’re loaded with healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc and can be pressed into hemp oil. They may help with heart disease risk, skin disorder treatment, and digestion and serve as a good source of plant-based protein. Learn more.

Hibiscus

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Hibiscus is a flowering plant that has been used in ancient and traditional medicines to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Animal, test-tube, and human studies suggest it may help with blood pressure and metabolic syndrome benefits, but more research is needed. It’s commonly found in teas, capsules, and liquid extracts. Learn more.

High-fructose corn syrup

Evidence-based: No.

High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener. It’s been linked to conditions including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Scientists and healthcare providers typically recommend limiting or avoiding this sweetener. Learn more.

Hogget

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

Hogget is a domestic sheep around one to two years old. It’s typically consumed unprocessed but salted and smoked (cured). It’s a good source of protein and may especially benefit bodybuilders and recovering athletes. Fat content varies, and it may increase heart disease risk, but research is mixed. Consuming it in moderation is generally acceptable, and people with concerns should discuss them with their providers. Learn more.

Hops

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Hops are female flowers from the hop plant Humulus lupulus and are most commonly found in beer. Research indicates hops may have a sedative effect. They may also help with menopause symptom relief and obesity, but more human-centered data is needed. Learn more.

Ikan bilis

Evidence-based: Yes.

Ikan bilis is another term for anchovies. In Malay cuisine, ikan bilis specifically refers to dried anchovies. Small in size but dense in nutrients, these fish contain niacin, selenium, iron, calcium, and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. They’re a great source of protein and may improve heart health. Learn more.

Iberian ham

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

This Spanish-style ham comes from black pigs that eat a specific diet of grains and corn. Before slaughter, they switch to grazing on acorns, grass, and herbs. Studies suggest this type of ham doesn’t increase the risk for high blood pressure or heart disease compared with other kinds of ham, though more data is needed. Learn more.

Inulin

Evidence-based: GRAS, research is limited.

Inulin is found naturally in foods like asparagus, leeks, bananas, onions, and wheat. It’s a type of prebiotic fiber that may help reduce blood pressure, and can aid in blood sugar management. It’s generally considered safe. People, particularly those who are pregnant, should discuss taking supplements with their providers. Learn more.

Jaggery

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. No additional benefits.

This unrefined sugar is trending as a “healthy” sugar alternative. Though studies show that it has a higher nutrient profile than sugar, you’d have to consume a ton of it to gain those benefits. Since it’s high-calorie, it’s best consumed in moderation. Learn more.

Jackfruit

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

This subtly sweet tropical fruit is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that may control blood sugar and reduce disease risk. Other purported benefits, like heart health and skin condition prevention, have not been specifically studied. Learn more.

Jicama

Evidence-based: Yes.

This globe-shaped root veggie is also known as yam bean, Mexican potato, Mexican water chestnut, and Chinese turnip. It’s low-calorie, high-fiber, and contains vitamin C, folate, potassium, and magnesium. It may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, aid in digestion, promote heart health, and more.Learn more.

Kamut

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Also known as Khorasan wheat, Kamut is loaded with fiber and may help control blood sugar control and reduce heart disease risk. Larger-scale research is needed. Learn more.

Kava

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Kava, or Kava Kava, has been consumed as a ceremonial drink in the Pacific Islands for years for its purported relaxation benefits, and it’s reported to reduce anxiety, stress, pain, and cancer risk. The cancer risk studies have been limited to mice, but current research does support its use for anxiety. Learn more.

Kiwano

Evidence-based: Yes.

Also known as horned melon, this flavorful fruit grows in parts of Africa. It’s low in calories and fat and contains several antioxidants, including zinc, lutein, and vitamins A, C, and E. These nutrients may help with blood sugar levels, blood oxygen transport, hydration, and immune function. Learn more.

Kudzu root

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

Kudzu root, also referred to as Japanese arrowroot, is native to China, Japan, and Korea. It’s been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is commonly put in herbal supplements or root teas. Research into benefits like reduction in alcohol dependence, liver damage, and alleviating menopause symptoms is limited.Learn more.

Lactic acid

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

This organic acid is produced by bacteria when foods like pickled vegetables and kimchi undergo fermentation. It’s FDA-approved for most foods except infant formula. It’s usually meant to keep food from spoiling or to add flavor. Lactic acid may help gut health and increase the absorption of iron and flavonoids, but other research suggests it can cause digestive issues and brain fog. Learn more.

Lard

Evidence-based: No.

Lard, a semisolid fat, is a common baking ingredient for its ability to give food rich flavor and creamy texture. It’s made from pork, so people may not consume it for health or religious reasons. Butter and coconut or vegetable oils are common substitutes that are considered more heart-healthy. Learn more.

L-theanine

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

You’ll most commonly find this amino acid in black tea, green tea, and some mushrooms. It also comes in pills and tablets. Potential health benefits include reducing insomnia, anxiety, and stress. Studies have shown promising results but have been small. Learn more.

Loquats

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

This small, round fruit is sweet and native to China. It’s been used as a medicinal fruit for years. It’s packed with nutrients, including carotenoid antioxidants, which can protect against cell damage and some diseases and improve eye health. Loquats also have phenolic compounds, which also have antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory benefits and may protect people from diseases like diabetes, though human studies are lacking. Learn more.

Longan fruit

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

Longan fruit comes in fresh and dry forms, and the fresh version has fewer calories. It’s a good source of vitamin C and fiber, which can protect against diseases and improve digestive health. Evidence that it can reduce stress and fatigue is anecdotal.Learn more.

Locust bean gum

Evidence-based: Yes, GRAS.

Also known as carob gum, this vegan thickener is a common addition to packaged foods. It’s high in fiber and may help with digestive health and decrease blood sugar and blood fat levels. It’s generally considered safe but may cause reactions in infants and people with allergies to it. Learn more.

Maca root

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

This root is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower. It has been used as food and medicine in Peru for millennia and has gained worldwide popularity recently for its purported abilities to boost sex drive and fertility, though more peer-reviewed research is needed. Learn more.

Matcha

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Matcha is a type of green tea. Before harvest, bushes are shielded from sunlight for 20 to 30 days, making it different than standard green teas. When you consume matcha, you’re ingesting whole-leaf powder, which means you’re getting more caffeine and antioxidants than regular green tea. It may help reduce your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and improve brain function, but research is emerging. Learn more.

Maltodextrin

Evidence-based: No, GRAS.

Maltodextrin is a white powder and food additive put in processed food to add volume and thickness. It’s made using corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat and is high in carbohydrates. The FDA considers it a safe food additive, but people with diabetes should limit their intake. Learn more.

Matsutake mushrooms

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

This mushroom grows in the wild in Japan, China, and North America at the base of Oak, Elm, and Maple trees. Fall is prime time for these mushrooms, which are considered adaptogens. Some promising research indicates matsutake mushrooms can help prevent and treat cancer and diabetes and lower cholesterol. More research, particularly on humans, is needed. Learn more.

Mesquite

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

This ingredient comes from the bark and pods of a mesquite plant and is used as a natural sweetener in baking and smoothies. It has a low glycemic index rating, so it may help with blood sugar levels. Learn more.

Moringa

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

Formally known as Moringa oleifera, this nutrient-dense plant is native to North India. It’s typically sold in the U.S. as a supplement and may reduce inflammation, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, but more research is needed. Learn more.

MSG (Monosodium glutamate)

Evidence-based: GRAS, research is mixed.

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a centuries-old flavor enhancer often found in processed food, Chinese cuisine, canned vegetables, and canned soups. It has a reputation for being unhealthy, but newer research contradicts these claims. Multiple health authorities including the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the FDA, and the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) consider MSG to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Learn more.

Mustard oil

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

Mustard oil is commonly used in frying, roasting, baking, and grilling in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.It contains omega-3 fatty acids and may help reduce oxidative stress. Data on its ability to reduce heart disease is mixed, and there isn’t evidence to support claims it helps with upper-respiratory diseases like colds.Learn more.

Nopal cactus

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

This prickly pear cactus is native to southwestern states in the U.S. and Mexico. It needs to be consumed when it’s young—older nopal cactus is too tough to eat. It can be found in jellies, candies, and Mexican recipes. Modern-day research shows it has promise for antiviral use, oxidative stress reduction, blood sugar regulation, lowering cholesterol, and hangover treatment, though research is emerging. Learn more.

Nori

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

Nori is a type of dried seaweed often used in sushi. It contains iodine and tyrosine, which may support thyroid function. It’s also a good source of vitamin B12, though there’s debate over whether the body can absorb and use the B12 found in seaweed.Learn more.

Nutritional yeast

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Also known as “nooch,” nutritional yeast is a vegan, plant-based protein often used as a seasoning in soups, sauces, and smoothies. It may help reduce cholesterol, support immune health, and provide protection from diseases, though more research is needed. Learn more.

Okra

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

Okra is technically a low-calorie fruit but is typically used like a veggie in cooking. It’s a great source of vitamin C, which supports immune function, and K1, a vitamin that can help blood clot. It contains more protein than most produce. More human research is needed to determine whether consuming okra can support heart health, prevent cancer, and control blood sugar. Learn more.

Oxalates

Evidence-based: Yes.

This molecule is found naturally in plants and even the human body. Plants use oxalates to regulate certain minerals, like calcium, and also for protection against predators. Oxalates bind to calcium in the human body as well. Learn more.

Palm oil

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Palm oil has a savory, earthy taste and is most commonly used in ready-made grocery store meals and cooking. It’s 100 percent fat and has some vitamin E. Research about potential benefits like brain function protection and reduced heart disease risk has shown promise, but it’s controversial for its environmental impacts. Learn more.

Pantothenic acid

Evidence-based: Yes.

A scientific-sounding name for vitamin B5, pantothenic acid provides essential nutrients to help the body create blood cells and turn food into energy. You’ll find it in broccoli, cabbage, and whole-grain cereals. Learn more.

Passionflower

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is limited.

This flowering vine is often put in teas because of its purported benefits to aid with anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes, and pain relief. More data is needed on human models to confirm its benefits. Learn more.

Pattypan

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. No additional research.

Pattypan is a type of summer squash with a mild flavor that is often used in salads and casseroles. Though there isn’t specific research on patty pan, it’s rich in vitamin C, folate, and manganese and may assist with weight loss. Learn more.

Pine nuts

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

These small, sweet nuts shaped like teardrops are primarily grown in the Northern Hemisphere. They contain pinolenic fatty acid, which can promote heart health. Other benefits with promising research include weight maintenance, blood sugar regulation, and brain health. Learn more.

Potassium sorbate

Evidence-based: Yes, GRAS.

This chemical additive stops the growth of mold, yeast, and fungi, thereby prolonging a food’s shelf life. The FDA considers it safe when used appropriately, and it’s found in many food products from apple cider to pickles. Learn more.

Pyridoxine hydrochloride

Evidence-based: No.

Pyridoxine hydrochloride is a water-soluble B vitamin, a synthetic form of B6, that is essential for creating neurotransmitters and homocysteine level regulation. Other reported benefits, such as mental and brain health improvement, are inconclusive or not supported by data. Vitamin B6-rich foods include salmon, tuna, turkey, and chickpeas. Learn more.

Quinoa

Evidence-based: Yes.

Quinoa, a gluten-free seed often mistaken for a grain, was hailed as a sacred food by the Inca people hundreds of years ago. Today, it’s lauded for its nutrient contents like fiber, protein, folate, and magnesium, making it useful for weight management and gut health. It boasts flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol, which can have anti-inflammatory properties. Learn more.

Quince

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

This ancient fruit is native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. It’s low in calories and high in nutrients and has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Research into its health benefits is usually related to quince syrup and is in its early stages. Learn more.

Reishi mushrooms

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

These mushrooms grow in hot and humid parts of Asia. They may help fight cancer and fatigue and promote heart health and blood sugar control. They can be consumed as a tea, powder, supplement, or extract. Learn more.

Rye flour

Evidence-based: Yes.

Rye flour is typically used in baking and can often be found in bread, pretzels, and pasta. It’s lower in gluten than other flours but isn’t gluten-free. It is a good source of fiber and B vitamins and may affect blood sugar less than other forms of bread. Research suggests it can also aid in heart and digestive health and decrease inflammation. Learn more.

Saffron

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, costing upwards of 5,000 USD per pound. It’s been revered all over the world for its reported abilities to boost sex drive, memory, and mood, though more research is needed to support these claims. Saffron is rich in antioxidants, like crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol, which protect cells from oxidative stress. Learn more.

Sodium benzoate

Evidence-based: GRAS, research is mixed.

Sodium benzoate is a preservative that can add shelf life to processed and packaged foods. The FDA classifies it as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) when used for its intended purpose. There is concern about its ability to convert to a carcinogen called benzene, but long-term studies linking the preservative to cancer don’t exist. Learn more.

Sodium nitrate

Evidence-based: Research is limited, not GRAS.

Sodium nitrate is a salt used as a preservative to extend the shelf-life of foods. It’s also found in unregulated drinking water, packaged meats, packaged fish, and plants. Some research links high sodium nitrate consumption to cancer. Opting for organic food and reducing consumption of cured meats can reduce risks associated with this preservative. Learn more.

Spirulina

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Spirulina is a nutrient-rich algae that’s commonly taken as a supplement. It’s packed with B-1, B-2, and B-3, iron, copper, protein, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Some research shows it may help with cholesterol and heart health, anemia, and have anti-cancer properties. Learn more.

Sunflower oil

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

Low in unsaturated fats, sunflower oil may reduce cholesterol, improving heart health. Results are mixed, and it’s likely dependent on nutritional composition. Additionally, sunflower oil that is high in linoleic acid, or omega-6, may increase the risk for weight gain. Learn more.

Tahini

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Tahini is a paste commonly found in humus and other Mediterranean and Asian dishes. It’s made from ground toasted sesame street and has a mild, nutty taste. It’s a great source of phosphorus and manganese, which keep bones healthy, and anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats. More research is needed on its purported antibacterial, brain health, and anti-cancer benefits. Learn more.

Tamari

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. No additional research.

Tamari is a rich-flavored sauce that is typically gluten-free, vegan, and used in Japanese dishes.It’s a shoyu sauce made by fermenting soybeans and occasionally wheat with koji (a fungus) and moromi (brine). It’s used for its flavor more than its health benefits, and people adhering to gluten-free diets should check the label: sometimes tamari products contain gluten. Learn more.

Tomatillo

Evidence-based: Yes.

These vegetables belong to the same family as tomatoes and eggplant and are commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Ripe tomatillos may be green, purple, or red and get sweeter as they age. One cup (132 grams) contains 17 percent of daily vitamin C needs. Learn more.

Tocopherol acetate

Evidence-based: GRAS, research is mixed.

Often seen on labels as Alpha-tocopheryl acetate (ATA), this synthetic form of vitamin E is commonly found in dietary supplements. Vitamin E is an essential nutrient, but studies on its use as a dietary supplement for coronary heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline are mixed. Learn more.

Tulsi

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Also called holy basil, tulsi is a green leafy plant native to Southeast Asia. It’s been used in Indian medicine to treat conditions like eye disease and ringworm. It may aid in anxiety, depression, blood sugar and cholesterol reduction, and alleviating joint pain. Learn more.

Turmeric

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

Turmeric is a spice used in curry that gives it its yellow color. It’s also become a popular dietary supplement. It contains curcumin, a substance with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts with large amounts of curcumin, and more research is needed.Learn more.

Truffle

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is emerging.

This fungus has a distinct smell and taste and is used in several types of dishes. Truffles are nutrient-dense and may have antibacterial, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. These purported benefits are mostly based on studies using test tubes and truffle extracts. More research is needed on health benefits.Learn more.

Valerian

Evidence-based: Nutritional value is confirmed. Additional research is mixed.

This perennial plant grows wildly in grasslands in North America, Europe, and Asia. Its white, purple, and pink flowers bloom in the summer, and herbal remedies are often made using its rhizome root. It’s commonly taken as a dietary supplement for sleep and anxiety, but research is conflicting. Learn more.

Xanthan gum

Evidence-based: GRAS, additional research is emerging.

This food additive is commonly found in salad dressings. It’s gluten-free, and the FDA considers it safe. Newer research suggests it may reduce blood sugar and lower cholesterol, but more data is needed.Learn more.

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