Reading ingredient labels has become a form of entertainment for me, weird I know, but I see a lot of ingredients I have never heard of, let alone can pronounce. I came across an ingredient so bizarre that it requires a hyphen: mono- and diglycerides. This food combination is considered one ingredient and can be found in beverages, ice cream, gum, whipped toppings, margarine, bread, and other baked goods. Just like partially hydrogenated oils, they're everywhere, and that's what makes me suspect.
To find out if they are healthy or harmful
Mono- and diglycerides are a kind of incomplete fat, but they really have no caloric impact since they're added to foods in such tiny amounts. These not-quite-whole fats are common food additives used to blend ingredients together that don't naturally blend well, such as oil and water. Think of processed peanut butter like Jif. It contains mono- and diglycerides to give it a creamy consistency, and to prevent the oil from separating and sitting on the top. My natural peanut butter separates and I really don't mind. Just like hydrogenated oils, mono- and diglycerides increase the shelf life of foods, but they are on the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list according to the FDA.
These fatty food additives may come from an animal source (derived from a pig or cow), a vegetable source (usually canola or soybean oil), or may be synthetically produced. Vegetarians and vegans should steer clear of them since manufacturers aren't required to list the source of their mono- and diglycerides. I'm not vegetarian, but I am trying to avoid processed foods so I'll be avoiding these incomplete fats because I think complete fats are just less engineered.