>> Tuesday, July 27, 2010
My son has decided that salads are not a bad thing...as long as he has his ranch dressing. He likes one very specific kind of ranch - Annie's Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing. That's it. Try to substitute with Hidden Valley Ranch, and he'll turn his nose up. (I know. I tried just last week when we were out of Annie's ranch.)
Sometimes I get in a rut buying things because I know that they're HFCS and trans-fat free, so I buy them without even thinking about them. I realized this was the case with my son's salad dressing. So, I thought it was time to do a little investigating. On that note, let's take a look at the ingredients lurking in both Annie's Cowgirl Ranch and Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.
Annie's Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing
Canola oil, water, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk powder (cultured nonfat buttermilk), sugar, sea salt, whole egg powder, onions, garlic, chives, xanthan gum, parsley
Wow! Not bad! They even put their ingredient list in plain site on their product page - always a good sign. The only ingredient that gives pause is xanthan gum.
What is xanthan gum? Xanthan gum is an additive that is used to thicken and stabilize foods. Xanthan gum is especially useful in products that require an emulsifier like salad dressings. Xanthan bum is found in toothpaste, foods, and even medicines. It has a remarkable thickening ability, so just a little xanthan gum can thicken a large amount of salad dressing.
Xanthan gum is made by fermenting sugars (glucose and fructose) with the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. The resulting polysaccharide (or many sugars chemically bound together) is precipitated and ground into a fine powder. Liquid is added later to form the gum. Xanthan gum can be made from a variety of sources - wheat, soy, corn - but corn syrup is the most common starting material in the US.
Am I worried about xanthan gum? Not really. Do I wish it wasn't in Annie's salad dressing? Well, sure, but it seems to be the price we pay for buying a shelf stable salad dressing in all honesty. For the most part, I think that Annie's has done a great job keeping their ranch salad dressing as free from "strange" ingredients as possible.
Ok, now let's look at the competition:
Hidden Valley Original Ranch Topping and Dressing
Vegetable oil (canola and/or soybean oil), water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavor, spices, less than 1% of garlic (dried), onion (dried), vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbid acid and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.
That's quite a difference, isn't it? In addition to the xanthan gum, there are a host of other preservatives and "strange" ingredients. I don't recognize many of the additives in the ingredient list, but frankly, I don't feel compelled to become familiar with them right now.
Needless to say, I'm happy that my son likes Annie's ranch dressing over Hidden Valley ranch!
Do you have an ingredient that you'd like to know more about? Have a food question that you'd like answered? E-mail me! I love learning about the foods that we eat and am always looking for ideas.