How is that for an eye-catching headline? In the Atlantic online magazine back in April there was an article topped with this true sentiment. People, meaning the teeming masses of the public, are unsure about what is healthy and what is not healthy.
If they write ‘Gluten-free’ on a box of candy bars, are the candy bars health food? Most people realize right away that you can’t make junk food into health food by changing the label.
PepsiCo announced last week that it’s replacing the aspartame in Diet Pepsi with sucralose, the sweetener marketed under the brand name Splenda.
“Aspartame is the number-one reason consumers are dropping diet soda,” Seth Kaufman, a vice president at Pepsi, said.
Will Diet Pepsi now be healthier for you because it no longer contains aspartame? It will be in one way, but it won’t be as healthy as pure water. It will still be a processed food, containing ingredients that will have varying effects on the population that ingest it. Splenda is an approved ingredient for addition to foods by the FDA, but they don’t do their own testing on these things, they rely on industry first, and then they rely on your actual physical reactions before they will go against the industry’s word on safety.
Amid declining soda sales, Pepsi has already introduced a line of sodas made with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. As the Motley Fool‘s Daniel Kline explained, “According to a survey done by NPD Food Safety Monitor in 2008, high-fructose corn syrup was a top food-safety concern for 58 percent of Americans. Only Salmonella, E. Coli, trans fatty acids, mercury in fish, and Mad Cow disease scared more people.” Meanwhile, high-fructose corn syrup has not been linked to either fatty-liver disease or obesity, and there’s currently no evidence that it’s more harmful than regular sugar.
Does using regular sugar instead of High Fructose Corn Sweetener make Pepsi healthier food? I happen to think that it does, but not by enough to warrant a health label on each bottle. Regular sugar, sucrose, is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. HFCS is 45% glucose and 55% fructose. Not a huge difference, but it is not nothing, either. I take issue with the statement in here that HFCS has not been linked to fatty-liver disease (NASH). In fact, the study linked to draws no conclusion at all, because the studies are all confounded by high-energy diet intakes. They can’t tell if its HFCS or just plain old sugar that is causing the problem. For me the take-away point is that eating sugar is bad, and should be an occasional treat.
They conclude the article on why consumers are confused about healthy food choices like this:
If consumers really wanted to make packaged food healthier, they could pressure snack companies to produce smaller portions, or to not market so aggressively to children.
Hmmm. Consumers are currently pressuring food companies. Cola companies are trying to find ways to keep us drinking these foods. Food companies are trying to find ways to keep us eating breads and starches by making ‘gluten free’ versions. None of these changes makes the food healthier in any way, really. They are still highly processed or total laboratory creations.
It is unhelpful, though, when a magazine like “The Atlantic” writes an article about consumer confusion and then puts confusing information in it. Sugar and HFCS are both ingredients that we get way to much of on average. The World Health Organization says we should eat no more than ten teaspoons of sugar per day, which is about 30% of the sugar found in ONE COKE. Sugar is in every bite of processed food, just about, its in 80% of all of them. Saying that HFCS is not a problem is not the same thing as saying its not “A” problem.
Finding something to like about processed foods is impossible. I refuse to stand in the grocery aisle and try to decide which adulterated yogurt is least bad for me. Yogurt is a marvelous fermented food, only made bad by the food industry. I will make my own. Bread is the same way. Make your own, if you can, it will be a thousand times better for your family.
If you want the best current solution for avoiding healthy-sounding foods, if you want to always pick the best foods, don’t buy processed foods. If it has a label, if it comes in a box or bag, it is artificial. Try to buy food that is single-ingredient. If it looks like something your great-grandma cooked with it is what you should purchase. That one change will change your family’s health the very most. It gets rid of pop, crackers and bread, pasta, and every artificial ingredient that is currently on your menu.