Not Just SUGAR...
Why are people of the “Have” countries so fat and getting so much fatter?
It is MY OPINION that food shoppers have two major issues. One is doing the arithmetic that many labels require to understand total quantities of health-damaging ingredients. Two, failure to understand the practice of using substitute ingredients for sugar that is necessary to sweeten otherwise bland-tasting packaged foods.
Even consumers who want to practice reasonable common sense and care when buying foods have a hard time of it because of inconsiderate labeling.
Label standards, unfortunately, allow for wide variances in labeling especially in the “Nutrition Facts” panel where far too many food manufacturers’ take advantage of consumers by presenting their mandatory details in a cumbersome manner. Certainly the information is “all there” as required. But often it could be presented in a more comprehensible manner. Food packagers ought to use “Total Package Contents” rather than being permitted to use “Package Size” in the “Nutrition Facts” panel.
#1: Beware–“Nutrition Facts” Panel INGREDIENTS & PROPORTIONS
Every consumer wants to know what’s in the TOTAL package, yet, they are greeted with “Per 1/4 package” or “Per 1/6 package” and left to themselves to do the arithmetic. Across 50 or so items and 6 or 7 items per label, that’s expecting grocery shoppers to do a lot of arithmetic on each shopping trip.
But let’s see what we learn for a grocery shopper exercising his or her powers of “Buyer Beware”. Here are a few examples from my pantry as of this writing:
- I bought “Vegan” bouillon cubes because I thought they were a healthy alternative to chicken or beef soup. I was attracted by the front panel of the package and failed to read what was inside. I assumed by the name it must be healthy especially if a Vegan product. I was astonished when I finally did read the “Nutrition Facts” panel on the back. I’d generally use 2 cubes to get sufficient flavoring. Each 1/3 cube contains 636 mg of SODIUM. A bit of simple arithmetic: 3 x 636 = 1,908 of Sodium per cube. TOTAL DAILY SODIUM, I read, ought to be less than 1,200 mg. I was consuming 2 * 1,908 = 3,816 mg sodium, over 300% of the DAILY recommended intake in one meal! Now I don’t. And I tell all my health-conscious friends to avoid it, too. And that’s why the manufacturer likely uses “1/3 cube” to show you portions of his ingredients.
- Here’s a seasoning mix calculated on 1/6 of a package. “Sodium”, (salt): 370 mge. Thus, each PACKAGE contains 6 x 370 = 2,220 mg. sodium. That’s roughly 200% of our daily target.
- Another seasoning mix has 330 mg sodium per 1/4 package. So, each package contains 4 * 330 = 1,320 mg. But here’s the catch. One package is not sufficient for one adult meal. Generally people would use 2 packets to enjoy the flavor. They’d be consuming 2 x 1,320 mg = 2,640 mg sodium. But they also need to add 2 tablespoons of butter per package, so 4 tbsp. butter: 244 mg. of sodium. It also recommends 175 ml of milk per packet. That’s another 190 mg of sodium. People generally top off their plate with about 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese containing 150 mg. sodium. Total sodium from a typical meal size plate: 3,227 mg. sodium or almost 270% of daily recommended maximum.
- Here’s an even more frightening example. A certain soup has 790 mg. per 1/4 package. Most adults would consume a full package: 4 x 790 mg. = 3,160 mg. sodium, or 260% of daily recommended.
It is easy to understand how and why so many people in “Have” countries are getting fatter and are struggling with Hypertension, (High Blood Pressure). After my Nugget appears, you can start blaming “inconsiderate labels” instead of ill-informed consumers.
#2: Beware–INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTE NAMES
Food packagers know SWEETENER makes food taste better for most people. Yet, with the growing movement towards trying to eat healthier it might not be a good idea to show the sweetener up front where people can easily notice it on the label. Yet, if a food requires it to taste good, so it will sell, what’s a food manufacturer to do? I got it. Why not use lots of sweetener but from different forms of plants? Yup. They do just that. Instead of SUGAR being the main ingredient they will list a bunch of other sweeteners.
You’ll see sugar; fructose; malto, maltobiose, and/or malt sugar, many creative take-offs on fruit juices such as white grape extract, or juice of cane, or beet juice; etc. Each of these is a sweetener and ought to be treated as just as harmful and dangerous over the long term as “sugar”. Any of those sugar-like products wreak havoc on your pancreas and mess in dangerous ways with your INSULIN GROWTH FACTOR-#1.
Whenever something is packaged, labeling laws require the contents to be listed in descending order based on total amount contained within the package. Something that appears as the very first ingredient assures you that it is by quantity the most of any other ingredient in that package. Here’s where grocery shoppers need to take a lot of time reviewing the label.
Look for substitute ingredients that have the same health effect as a recognizable ingredient. Let’s take “Sugar” as our example. When you look at a label if the first ingredient is sugar, then you will understand that this product will taste good because it is loaded with sugar. However, you also need to scan down the rest of the label to look for words that mean there is an ingredient that is added to sweeten the product, though they may not call it “sugar”. Add up sugar PLUS all the sugar-substitutes listed. Then you’ll have a better idea of how much “sugar” you are actually stuffing into your body.
Everyone ought to carefully read every food product label.