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2.04.2011

Not-so-fun facts about processed foods.

Everyone knows that processed food is "bad."  But that is a very abstract way of grouping an enormous number of products together, so many people find themselves saying that "well, this one isn't that bad because of x y and z."  And in the light of the recent "revelation" about the meat content of Taco Bell's... meat, I thought I would share some little tidbits that I've picked up over the years.  Not all of them are terrible- some are simply amusing or surprising.  How do I know these things?  A few reasons- I read everything I run across that relates to food.  It just interests me.  Also, let's just say I know a guy in the food industry...
  • In any canned pasta that is labeled "contains whole grains," the whole grain isn't in the pasta, it's in the meat.
  • Almost all canola oil you buy is already partly rancid, and many of the essential fatty acids have been removed to prolong shelf life.
  • Ever notice how all the meat pieces on a hamburger or sausage pizza from Pizza Hut are the same size and shape?  That's because they are an extruded meat/soy product.  Probably similar to Taco Bell's meat.
  • 100% stone ground whole wheat flour isn't usually stone ground.  The only requirement is that it is passed through the stone mill, not that the stone mill actually works.
  • Not all oatmeal is created equal- whole or steel cut oats have the lowest glycemic index and are the healthiest, while instant oatmeal (the little packets) has a high glycemic index (even disregarding the sugar in the flavoring) because your body has to do less work to release the carbohydrates.  
  • Artificial sweeteners may or may not cause brain tumors, but they do trick your body into actually consuming more calories.  While they don't have any sugar in them, your brain tastes sweet so expects sugar.  When no sugar turns up in the bloodstream that turns your appetite into overdrive and makes you eat more.
  • Ramen noodles are fried- that's why they cook so fast.
  • Just because your bread says "wheat" doesn't mean it's healthy.  If it's light and soft like white bread and only a light shade of brown it likely has a tiny bit of whole wheat flour and caramel coloring in it.  The best clues that your bread is healthy- It says 100% whole grain/wheat bread and the fiber content per SLICE (some list one slice as a serving, some list two, so make sure you check) should be 3g or higher.  Also remember that wheat breads contain a lot of hidden sugar (to disguise the bitter wheat taste).
  • Baked Lays weren't exactly revolutionary- Pringles are essentially the same thing.  Both are made of potato puree and oil extruded or pressed into shape (Pringles, at least full fat ones, are fried, though).  When Pringles were first released Frito Lay actually took them to court to prevent them from calling their product potato chips (and won...).  Funny how now they have no problem calling their nearly identical product potato chips.
  • Activia commercials piss me off because they imply that Activia is the ONLY yogurt that helps your digestive system.  ALL yogurt helps the digestive system.  It is true that certain strains tend to be beneficial to different people.  But pretty much any yogurt (particularly plain or low in sugar) is going to be helpful at promoting regularity and general digestive health.
  • Velveeta isn't cheese.  I really hope you already knew that, though:)
That's just from an hour of brainstorming- I may be back to add to the list if I think of new ones.  Do with this information as you will... I personally have no problem with Ramen noodles being fried.  I have slightly more problem with the fact that they are white flour noodles, but I still love them far more than I should and occasionally still eat them.

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