J500 Media and the Environment

Just Call Me Superfood With A Side of Fiber by meganr21
January 30, 2009, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , ,

If you are what you eat, then this morning I was a mixture of 38 different ingredients. Between a cup of Odwalla Original Superfood and a Fiber One brown sugar cinnamon toaster pastry  I can identify 32 ingredients – a pretty good number, but what are those other 6 mystery ingredients? Inspired by Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger, I decided find out about some of the ingredients I couldn’t identify.

So what is Nova Scotia Dulse? Dulse is a protein rich red alga that contains lots of vitamins and minerals. Ammonium bicarbonate? I’d seen it listed in lots of nutritional information, but until I actually looked it up I had no clue what it was used for (a raising agent in baking, similar to baking soda, in case you  were wondering).

The chemical structure of TBHQ.

The chemical structure of TBHQ.

How about TBHQ ‘added to preserve freshness’? TBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone to be exact) is the type of thing my organic chemistry teacher would have put on a final to throw everyone off. This aromatic organic compound is used as a preservative because it stabilizes fats without causing discoloration or changing flavors. The verdict is still out on positive and negative effects of the compound, but at lest I understand why it’s in my toaster pastry.

Just because you can’t pronounce it or don’t quite know what it is, doesn’t make it bad for you. That complex chemical could be a great source of important vitamins and minerals. So next time you’re at the market, take note of some of those ‘mystery ingredients’ and look them up when you get home. You may be surprised with what you learn, especially if you are what you eat. 

Megan Richards


Image from http://pppea.s16.xrea.com



4 Comments so far
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You are absolutely right: “Just because you can’t pronounce it or don’t quite know what it is, doesn’t make it bad for you.” Take a look at the consumer campaign Seventh Generation created. Their thought is that most consumers don’t know the difference between salt and chlorine (when listed on a label) and that an informed consumer base would trend towards their products.
The food non-profit Sustainable Table has also created what they call a “Meat Production Glossary” to make shopping “easier.”

Comment by j500

I like your positive spin on the issue. It’s somewhat refreshing that some nutrients come from these industrial strength snacks. I look forward to reading your perspective on other environmental topics!

Comment by christinaw09

Like Simran said, reading labels can be hard. NaCl looks nothing like the word ‘salt’ and people get confused when chemical compounds are spelled out. The problem is not everyone can become a chemist and figure out what these compounds are and how they interact with your body. That’s why it’s important to look into what ingredients are.

Aside from not all unknown things being bad for you, people also don’t realized that things familiar to us, even if they are healthy, can be dangerous. I took two bio-chemistry classes where we learned how your body metabolizes all sorts of foods, from carbs and fats to proteins and everything in between. Two key things I took from that class were first the notion that not everything is bad for you and second that good stuff can be just as dangerous as bad stuff, especially in large quantities. Even something as simple as water can be dangerous in huge quantities.

Comment by meganr21

I am so happy to read this! I gulped when I started this post as I am addicted to Fiber Ones and was worried that I might learn something to make me stop eating them!

Comment by brennad87

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