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What Is Trisodium Phosphate, and Is It in Your Pantry?

Because knowing is half the battle. What is trisodium phosphate, and is it in your pantry?

In an effort to improve the quality of our food in order to improve and boost our health and wellness, many of us shop at health food stores. However, people aren’t always aware that some foods lining the shelves of health food stores aren’t always as clean and pure as what we would hope. Some processed foods that line the shelves still contain less-than-ideal or even plain toxic ingredients.

One of these somewhat hidden ingredients found in everything from the health foods to cleaning agents is called trisodium phosphate. (TSP) is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula Na3PO4. It is a white, granular or crystalline solid, highly soluble in water producing an alkaline solution. Obviously, the alkalinity used in food products is not at all the same as the alkalinity used in cleaning products. Keep in mind, that just because a product is used as a cleaning agent doesn’t make it unsafe for food (think vinegar). On the other hand, just because it’s in your food doesn’t mean it is good for you.

While TSP has not scientifically been proven to be toxic to humans, it has scientifically been proven to irritate the mucous in the gastrointestinal tract, can cause a mineral imbalance including loss of bone calcium, and calcification of the kidneys. So, avoiding foods containing this product would definitely be beneficial.

Interestingly, it’s recommended to keep TSP exposure to no more than 70mg a day, yet, those consuming a traditional American diet often consume more than 500mg a day.

TSP is added to processed foods for its ability to enhance flavors, modify the color of cereals, helps the food to flow more easily, and provides the mineral phosphorus to be fortified to the product, and lastly, it can act as an emulsifier in certain foods like cheese.

Because TSP is currently allowed in our food supply, it’s important to be aware of this ingredient and avoid it as much as possible. Some of the foods and household products most commonly containing TSP include:​

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Processed meat products
  • Processed cheeses
  • Many canned soups
  • Many commercial cakes and baked goods
  • Toothpaste & oral hygiene products
  • Hair coloring and bleach agents
  • Some cosmetics

Keep in mind that the more you choose to purchase real, whole, fresh food ingredients, the less aware you need to be of these sneaky food ingredients such as TSP. Though added to food in somewhat small amounts, to our bodies on the cellular level, those small amounts can actually be large. Remember, if it’s not something (an ingredient) you would likely find in your kitchen or be easily able to replicate, the chances are good it’s not a nutritious food or food ingredient.

If you are purchasing cereals or other foods commonly containing TSP, make sure to check the ingredient label. Additionally, aim to get organic, non-GMO and truly whole food products to avoid as many chemicals and additives as you can.

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