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You Ask, I Answer: Monoglycerides & Diglycerides

What are monoglycerides and diglycerides?

I’ve seen them on food labels but don’t know what they are or why they are in some foods.

— Lisa (last name withheld)
Brooklyn, NY

Ah, yes. Nothing makes you want to reach for a dictionary more than reading a food label.

Monoglycerides and diglycerides are related to triglycerides (three fatty acid molecules bound to a glycerol molecule) — the basic unit of all dietary fats.

They consist of either one or two fatty acid molecules bound to a glycerol molecule and are mainly used as emulsifiers, thickeners, and binders in a variety of different foods.

Although they can be obtained from triglycerides, they are very easy to create synthetically.

“Non-natural” peanut butters, for instance, contain mono and/or diglycerides in order to prevent the oil from separating from the more paste-like crushed peanuts.

You will also often see them present in margarines and low-fat butter replacements.

While they pose no health risks (or benefits), individuals with soy allergies should exercise caution, since a large percentage of mono and diglycerides are derived from soybean oil.

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