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A “Real” Cheesecake… Bursting with Artificial Ingredients

Cheesecakes run the dietary gamut.  From raw vegan varieties to low-carb versions to the monstrosities unleashed by The Cheesecake Factory, there truly is a type for everyone.

While those Cheesecake Factory creations can certainly be considered “blog worthy” (with their huge portions and nutrition figures that defy human comprehension), it is Jell-O No Bake Real Cheesecake products that really hit processed-food gold.

According to the packaging, “your friends and family will think that you made dessert from scratch!”.  The product’s website unashamedly describes these as “homemade delicacies”.

Alas, unless you call a chemical-laden warehouse packed to the gills with industrial machinery “home”,  very little about this product screams “made from scratch.”

If you were to make a conventional cheesecake at home, you would need the following ingredients: graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, butter, salt, cream cheese, white sugar, sour cream, heavy cream, all-purpose flour, vanilla extract, and eggs.  Number of ingredients: 11

For a conventional vegan version, you would use another sweetener in place of white sugar and use one of many egg substitutes (“flax egg”, “chia egg”, applesauce, etc).  Vegan butters and creams would also be used.  Number of ingredients: Varies, but anywhere from 11 to 14.

A raw vegan cheesecake, meanwhile, also requires minimal ingredients: a nut and date combination for the crust (I once made a raw vegan cheesecake with a macadamia nut and coconut crust), and usually a combination of cashews, coconut oil, vanilla, lemon juice, dates (or agave or honey) and water for the filling.  Number of ingredients: Varies, anywhere form 8 to 11.

Now let’s take a look at the ingredients that comprise Kraft’s version of a “real” cheesecake:

Filling mix: sugar, dextrose, modified corn starch, baker’s cheese [skim milk, lactic acid, culture, bha (preservative)], hydrogenated coconut oil, corn syrup solids, contains less than 2% of natural and artificial flavor, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sodium caseinate, calcium sulfate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, disodium phosphate, lactic acid, calcium lactate, dipotassium phosphate, salt, mono- and diglycerides, propylene glycol monostearate, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, acetylated monoglycerides, cellulose gel, hydrolyzed soy lecithin, yellow 5, yellow 6. Contains: milk, soy. Crust mix: enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, graham flour, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, high fructose corn syrup, contains less than 2% of honey, baking soda, calcium phosphate, salt, artificial flavor, soy lecithin [emulsifier], cornstarch. Contains: wheat, soy.”

Let the dissection begin!

Number of Ingredients in Filling: 26
Number of Ingredients in Crust: 12

I mainly want to focus on this product’s “filling”.  Of the 26 listed ingredients, only 3 — sugar, natural flavors, artificial flavors — can be purchased at a regular grocery store.

Although you can certainly buy cornstarch, I have never seen modified cornstarch on supermarket shelves.  And, while dextrose is available from some specialty stores (for the sole purpose of making beer), it is not something you’ll find in aisle 5 of your local supermarket.

That leaves 23 ingredients (which, together, make up 88% of the filling!) that are unavailable to consumers.  These include:

  • Two unhealthy oils (while coconut oil is a healthful oil, the hydrogenation process creates trans fats; the partial hydrogenation of palm kernel oil also introduces trans fats into the mix)
  • Tetrasodium pyrophosphate,  a pH buffer and binder also used in pet food, detergents, and toothpaste
  • Propylene glycol monostereate, an emulsifier and thickener (also used in paint solvents, antifreeze coolant and food packaging adhesives)
  • Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, a chemically-altered, cellulose-based thickening and anti-clumping agent
  • Acetylated monoglycerides, an emulsifier that also serves as “protective coating” and lengthens shelf life
  • Two petroleum-derived artificial dyes

Oh!  That reminds me — I need to go plant my tetrasodium pyrophosphate trees.

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3 Comments

  1. Justine said on April 20th, 2011

    Ewwww. It’s so disturbing to read that list of ingredients; it’s just waaaay past “junk food” and more like a chemistry class. As an added kick, i’m sure it doesn’t even taste good (these things never do). The least desserts can do is be delicious and satisfying, right?

  2. Jane said on April 20th, 2011

    HA! Already planted my tetrasodium pyrophosphate trees AND my hydroxypropyl methylcellulose bushes. Sucka! ;)

  3. Lauren said on April 21st, 2011

    Correct, Justine. I’ve tried this monstrosity. It’s retched.

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