Gas station food is nearly all off limits since pledging to eat all-natural ingredients. But the other day, while harriedly filling at the pump and wishing energy could be dispensed this way for humans, I found some cheesy popcorn that claimed to be all-natural. Disodium phosphate, an ionic compound of Sodium (Na), Phosphorous (P), and Oxygen (O), was one of the ingredients.
Disodium phosphate is added to white cheese popcorn as a sequestering agent(2). The cheese flavor comes from an evaporated dairy product, and Disodium phosphate, as a sequestrant, stabilizes ions in this substance, inhibiting their reaction with other ingredients or the air (3).
Disodium phosphate is also marketed as a nutritional supplement. Rocky Mountain Wellness claims it supports liver and gallblader function by maintaining the balance between acidity and basicity in the body. Their marketed Disodium phosphate capsules also contain gelatin, stearic acid, water, and "colors." Hm. (1)
It seems Disodium phosphate does not have any immediate health hazards. However, its presence in my popcorn reinforces a persistent question on this food journey. Even with all-natural ingredients, how processed is too processed? Should I have saved $1.89 at the gas station, gone home, and popped some popcorn kernels tossed with oil and sea salt, and maybe eaten a piece of cheese? No preservatives, even natural ones, are needed for this snack. This would have taken time and energy, but would it have been better for my body, in the long run, than dehydrated dairy products and Disodium phosphate?