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    Archive for the ‘Splenda’ Category

    Big Food Crimes: Farmwashing, Ruining Oatmeal

    By this point, Big Food’s nutritional rap sheet is longer than the ingredient list for Pop Tarts — and it only continues to grow.

    A recent stroll through supermarket aisles has uncovered even more felonies of deception and extreme processing.

    These products are considered armed (with lousy ingredients) and dangerous (for your health). If you spot them, do not approach them. Keep walking.

    Continue Reading »


    Pepsi’s Next Attempt to Keep Americans Hooked on Soda

    In “let’s unleash more corn syrup and fake sweeteners” news, PepsiCo has announced the upcoming launch of a “mid-calorie beverage” known as Pepsi NEXT, which will offer 60% less sugar and 60% fewer calories than regular Pepsi.  Iowa and Wisconsin are scheduled to be the first two victims states to try the new carbonated concoction.  Despite the forthcoming pomp and circumstance, this is far from a new concept.  And, above all, it is yet another beverage chock-full of unhealthy chemicals.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber One Cereal

    fiberone_hc2.jpegI was wondering what you thought of Fiber One Honey Clusters cereal.

    The ingredient list is a little long, but the first ingredient is whole grain wheat, then whole grain oats.

    It tastes so sweet, but the label says there are only 6 grams of sugar per cup.

    Is this cereal really good for you or not?

    — Jessie Arent
    Peterborough, NH

    Let’s examine the evidence.

    First up, the nutrition label.  A 1-cup serving of Fiber One Honey Clusters contains:

    • 160 calories
    • 0 grams saturated fat
    • 280 milligrams sodium (almost twice as much as a vending-machine-size bag of potato chips)
    • 320 milligrams potassium (roughly as much as a very small banana)
    • 13 grams fiber
    • 6 grams sugar
    • 5 grams protein

    This cereal also offers — as a result of fortification — a quarter of a day’s worth of the Daily Value of all B vitamins, iron, and zinc; 10 percent of the Daily Value of calcium and phosphorus, and eight percent of the Daily Value of magnesium.

    Let’s take a peek at the ingredient list.  Some interesting observations:

    • Sugar shows up six different times, each time under a different name (sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, barley malt extract, honey, and malt syrup).  This is a common trick used by food manufacturers.  If all of these ingredients were labeled as “sugar”, then “sugar” would show up earlier in the ingredient list.  Mind you, these six instances do not include the times sugar is part of another ingredient, as is the case with the “wheat bits.”  In total, sugar appears in some form thirteen times.
    • The high fiber content is largely due to the presence of inulin.
    • Fiber One tastes so sweet because it also contains sucralose (AKA Splenda)

    There are a few things that don’t sit well with me.

    The first is the presence of artificial sweeteners, especially since each serving of Fiber One already delivers a teaspoon and a half of sugar (which I think is a reasonable amount for a cereal to provide).

    Artificial sweeteners have the “benefit” of being calorie-free (or, in some cases, very low-calorie), but they do nothing in terms of helping our palates get used to lower amounts of sugar in the diet.  In fact, they often make it worse.  Remember, Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar!

    While there is nothing wrong with including inulin (a prebiotic fiber naturally found in asparagus, onions, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables), I am not a huge fan of extracting it simply to boost fiber values.

    That said, it is at least being used in a whole grain product.  I have a real problem when refined grain products use inulin to give themselves a fiber boost.

    What I always tell people who consume Fiber One products is to treat it as one of many sources of fiber.  In other words, Fiber One should not be the only source of fiber in your diet.

    I specifically say that because I have come across a fair share of consumers who have told me one reason why they love Fiber One is because, if they have two cups of it a day, then they don’t really have to worry about eating fiber the rest of the day.

    Not true.  Other foods — fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other whole grains — contain different kinds of fibers (and hundreds of different phytonutrients!) that deliver their unique share of health benefits.


    Want Less Calories? Just Add Water

    CC-reduced-LGFood companies are well aware of the rising demand for lower-calorie alternatives.

    In their efforts to please the masses — and line their pockets — they sometimes utilize the simplest tricks (and hype them up with sneaky advertising).

    Consider, for instance, Hood’s Calorie Countdown dairy beverage.  (This product was originally sold as Hood’s Carb Countdown dairy beverage at the height of the low-carb craze; the subsequent replacement of the word “carb” with “calories” enraged fervent low-carbers!)

    Anyhow — notice the words “dairy beverage”?  They are very significant.

    As you clearly see, the packaging shows what looks to be a glass of milk, along with these statements:

    • 2% Reduced Fat
    • Vitamins A & D
    • Ultra Pasteurized

    Looks and sounds an awful lot like milk, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not, hence the legally-accurate “dairy beverage” term.

    What makes it a “dairy beverage” rather than “milk”?  The answer, as always, lies in the ingredient list:

    Water, Ultra Filtered Fat Free Milk, Cream, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt, Disodium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum, Sucralose (Splenda Brand), Acesulfame Potassium, Vitamin A Palmitate and Vitamin D3. Contains: Milk

    In essence, you are looking at watered-down milk with artificial sweeteners.

    You can pretty much make this at home.  Pour yourself a glass of fat-free milk, add water, and stir in some Splenda (alas, acesulfame potassium is not available in supermarkets).

    What a ridiculous product!

    First of all, rising obesity rates have very little to do with milk consumption (especially when you consider that, while obesity rates have risen, milk consumption has decreased).  The more pressing issue are the 500 calorie muffins consumed alongside a glass of milk!

    Secondly, a cup of reduced fat Hood Calorie Countdown has the same number of calories as a cup of “regular” skim milk.  Why not just drink that instead?

    Here’s a thought — if someone wants the “2 percent taste” in a 90 calorie package, how about simply drinking three quarters of a cup of the REAL thing?


    FNCE 2008: Diet Coke and Splenda Drop The F Bomb

    Fiber and whole grains were undisputed royalty at this year’s American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.

    Cereals, corn chips, crackers, cookies, and protein powders breathlessly advertised their inclusion in ingredient lists.

    I certainly was not expecting, however, to come across fiber in Splenda and Diet Coke.

    The Splenda folks — who, oddly enough, suggest sprinkling their non-caloric sweetener over fresh fruit — are making the case that this is one easy way for Americans (who are currently getting, on average, half of their recommended fiber intake) to boost their fiber consumption.

    With each packet containing 1 gram of fiber, two packets in your morning coffee and another over your breakfast cereal puts you at the 3 gram mark (as much as an apple, they exclaim.)

    Coca Cola, meanwhile, will be releasing Diet Coke Plus With Fiber around March or April of 2010.

    Apart from the vitamin and mineral combination found in Diet Coke Plus, this beverage will contain 5 grams of soluble fiber (all derived from corn) per 20 ounce bottle.

    Splenda and Coca Cola have their marketing pitch perfected.

    “We’re simply helping people get the amount of fiber they need!” they explain (with puppy dog eyes, I’m sure.)

    I’m not as optimistic.

    While the idea of including fiber in Diet Coke may appeal to some people, it serves as a complete deterrent to get it from unprocessed, whole foods that offer multitudes of other nutrients, phytochemicals, and health benefits.

    As much as Splenda wants to make the case that three packets of their sweetener contain as much fiber as an apple, it’s a meaningless comparison.

    An apple is more than just fiber in a round shape.

    It contains vitamin C, potassium, and a significant number of antioxidants, among them quercetin and epicatechin (the former has been associated with reduced cellular damage, the latter with improved blood flow.)

    By relying on fortified empty calorie foods for specific nutrients, you are missing out on hundreds of health-promoting components.

    What’s most mind-boggling to me is that these products give the false idea that fiber is just so gosh darn hard to find, that there’s no choice but to stick it inside a soda bottle.


    In The News: Just How Splendid Is Splenda?

    Not very, according to some Duke University researchers who point the finger at the artificial sweetener, accusing it of “contribut[ing] to obesity, destroy[ing] “good” intestinal bacteria and prevent[ing] prescription drugs from being absorbed.”

    Interestingly, the study is financed by the Sugar Association.  I point that out no to discredit the study or the very real possibility that sucralose (the scientific term for Splenda) can wreck with our bodies, but rather because those first two conclusions could also apply to sugar.

    In fact, many foods and ingredients can feasibly be labeled as “obesity contributors” depending on consumed quantities.

    After all, obesity rates were much lower 400 years ago (when sugar was consumed), and it’s not as if a surge in obesity occurred when Splenda was unleashed to the public.  Then again, there is no doubt artificial sweeteners are by no means a holy grail.  Despite their ubiquity, obesity rates worldwide continue to soar.

    Here are my thoughts on the real issues at stake here:

    1) Is Splenda safe?

    We don’t really know.  Sure, we know you won’t drop dead after consuming an Atkins bar, but there are no long-term human studies on Splenda — after all, is less than ten years old.

    There is no research showing what 40 or 50 years of consuming Splenda on a daily basis does to the human body. A little tidbit to keep in your back pocket, particularly when these sorts of studies emerge.

    2) Does Splenda contribute to obesity? What about sugar?

    Well, sugar is the epitome of empty calories (you can down 500 calories of sugar water and not feel the least bit full.)

    And, since most sugary treats are also high in fat and overall calories, I suppose there is a “two degrees of separation” concept going on here. However, sugar was consumed long before obesity rates skyrocketed, so branding it a culprit seems wrong to me.

    As far as Splenda “contributing to obesity,” there are theories that it plays with our sense of fullness and appetite, thereby making its lack of calories a moot point.

    What I will say is that it can certainly provide a false sense of security.

    A slice of sugar-free cake (made with Splenda) is NOT calorie-free, although many people may inaccurately think so.

    The fact remains that sweetener consumption in the United States has grown exponentially over the past 20 years.

    Consequently, additional calories are being consumed from sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup.

    Sugar as a sole ingredient does not make anyone fat. Having endless grams (and calories) of sugar on cereals, cookies, frozen desserts, yogurts, and salad dressings, however, gets very problematic very quickly.

    Artificial sweeteners, meanwhile, continue to become more available in a wide variety of calorie-free foods.

    Completely absent from everyone’s diet fifty years ago, they are a relatively new piece to the public health nutrition puzzle.

    My suggestion? Scale back on both. You can’t go wrong reducing your intake of empty calories and artificial chemicals.  I personally condone the complete removal of artificial sweeteners from people’s diets.


    You Ask, I Answer: Seltzer Water

    I have a question regarding soda water and sparkling water: Is it as hydrating as regular water?

    I’ve never been a fan of carbonated beverages until I started drinking sparkling water and soda water.

    I work in a restaurant so it’s usually soda water out of the bar gun, or occassionally San Pellegrino.

    I drink water thoughout the day and was wondering if there are any negative effects to drinking 12-24 ounces of soda water each day.

    — Sue (last name withheld)
    Seattle, WA

    None whatsoever.

    I don’t see a single problem with enjoying up to 24 ounces of soda water each day.

    Well, I suppose I could see it as a potentially problematic mealtime beverage for someone who is very much below their desirable body weight and might eat less food as a result of feeling bloated from the carbonation.

    But, as far as everyone else is concerned, it’s an A+ choice.

    After all, it’s calorie (and sugar) free and, for many people, provides the little kick they feel is missing from standard tap or bottled water.

    I’m especially a fan of flavored seltzers, since they provide fizziness and fruity flavor without sugar or artificial sweeteners found in diet soft drinks (think aspartame, Splenda, and acefulsate potassium).

    And, yes, seltzer is just as hydrating as still water. So, sip to your heart’s content!


    In The News: Sneaky Sugar

    Earlier this week I spoke with Terri Coles of Reuters.com about the prevalence of sugar in the standard U.S. diet.

    In essence, my standpoint is as follows: sugar in and of itself in limited quantities is not a problem.

    What raises the red flag are the massive amounts being consumed — i.e.: a single muffin at Starbucks surpasses the daily maximum recommendation — partially because they contribute nothing but excess empty calories that do not satiate.

    It’s a simple concept — the less satiated you are after a meal, the sooner you will feel hungry and want to consume more calories.

    Unfortunately, keeping added sugar intake to recommended levels is difficult since food manufacturers like to put it in everything (especially in its ultra cheap form — high fructose corn syrup).

    When consumed in moderate amounts, I don’t have a problem with sugar (remember, “sugar” means regular white sugar, brown sugar, honey, evaporated cane juice crystals, or any other fancy synonym).

    It is an ingredient that has been consumed for tens of thousands of years.

    I definitely consider it safer than Splenda, aspartame, or any other Franken-sweetener concocted in a laboratory.

    In fact, I never understood sugar phobia.

    The fact that some people refuse to eat fruit (due to the naturally occurring sugars), but have no problem eating a bowl of heavy cream sprinkled with artificial sweetener absolutely blows my mind.

    Before I started studying nutrition, I experimented with Atkins.

    Their bars — which use sugar alcohols as sweeteners — not only taste awful, I also remember the not-so-pleasant gastric side effects.

    These days, I’ll gladly take three Hershey’s kisses over any low carb faux sweet treat.


    You Ask, I Answer: Splenda

    [I just read your posting on sorbitol and am wondering:] what about Splenda?

    I have about a tablespoon (not full) a day with coffee.

    Is it just better to have sugar and forget about it?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    Splenda — the brand name for sucralose — was first launched during the peak of the Atkins revival in 2004.

    Originally appearing in low-carb sweet treats like granola bars and ice cream, it was launched in supermarkets across the country for at-home beverage sweetening and baking.

    So, how safe is it?

    Well, on the one hand, the Food & Drug Administration has approved it as a GRAS (generally regarded as safe) food additive.

    As I mentioned in a December 2007 posting about fat-replacer Olestra, though, the FDA seal of approval isn’t always the most reassuring.

    All we know for sure at this point is that Splenda doesn’t appear to cause immediate harm.

    Since it is a relatively new mass-consumed alternative sweetener, there are no long-term studies indicating what happens if it is consumed every day for 20 years.

    There isn’t even a study detailing the effects of regular Splenda consumption over a FIVE year period.

    Interestingly enough, the Japanese Food Sanitation Council reported that some sucralose is actually absorbed by the body and hones in on the liver and kidneys. Consequently, they theorize that regular intake of Splenda could result in the enlargement of these organs.

    My strategy with sucralose is to tread cautiously.

    Having three cups of coffee with two packs of Splenda in each day in, day out is not the smartest of choices.

    However, having two teaspoons with your morning coffee each day — and no additional amounts in other foods — doesn’t strike me as particularly alarming.

    Keep in mind that obesity rates and ridiculously high sugar intakes in the United States are not coming from people stirring a teaspoon of sugar in their latte every morning.

    Rather, they are the result of the cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, flavored lattes, and monstruous ice cream sundaes that are constantly available to us.

    Your overall goal should be decrease your sugar consumption to roughly 30 – 40 grams a day (one pack of sugar contains four), not to replace high sugar intake with high artificial sweetener consumption.


    ADA Conference: Hot Import

    One of the hottest new food products in Australia — Sippah milk flavoring straws — has arrived to this side of the Pacific Ocean.

    It’s all quite ingenious, really. Here’s how they work.

    Each straw — designed to flavor exactly one cup of milk — contains patented flavored beads that dissolve as milk travels up. The result? Flavored milk containing only two grams of added sugar (half a teaspoon) and a mere 15 calories.

    Mind you, part of the reason for the low sugar and calorie numbers is that these straws contain a little sucrose (table sugar) and some artificial sweeteners. I’m not a big proponent of young children having Splenda. Occassionally? Fine. Every day? Not the best idea.

    Down under, straws are available in are chocolate, banana, strawberry, cookies and cream, chocolate mint (eek), and green apple (double eek) flavors. So far, the United States market is offering the first four flavors.

    I taste-tested the chocolate, banana, and strawberry straws and can see this becoming a surefire hit with young kids.

    Not only do the see-through straws make it to fun to drink milk, they also provide flavor without all the sugar and calories in ready-to-drink bottled flavored milk. Consider that a cup of chocolate Nesquik adds 110 calories and 17 grams of sugar to a cup of milk.

    I do have one bone to pick with Sippah’s website. They refer to plain milk as “boring white milk.”

    While I understand they are talking to their target audience with those statements, I also think it’s important for young kids to know that regular milk is also tasty (for instance, by using it as the base for a banana and peanut butter smoothie).

    I also wish Nestle — the company behind these straws — would market Sippah as a treat rather than a daily addition to regular milk. I wouldn’t oppose to a young child having two of these straws a week as a “special snack”, but I would definitely have a problem with a parent allowing their child to flavor two daily glasses of milk with artificial sweeteners.

    Anyhow, a box of 10 straws retails for $3.79. I’m interested in knowing if any readers with children have bought these, and, if so, what the children thought.


    You Ask, I Answer: Calorie-Free Dips

    What’s your opinion on the Walden Farms calorie-free dips like the chocolate one?

    — Anonymous

    I don’t particularly have an opinion either way.

    While they are calorie-free (since they are sweetened with Splenda), they are also nutrient-free.

    That being said, if a small amount of Walden Farms calorie dip is what it takes for a “fruit-hater” to eat two apples a day, I don’t really see the harm (although I would hope they would eventually wean themselves off the dip and learn to appreciate the naturally sweet taste of fruit).

    It goes back to what Marion Nestle recently said in her interview with this blog: “I like to ask: why do all foods have to be sweet? Foods have so many marvelous flavors and textures. It’s a shame that the only thing food marketers can get anyone to buy is cloyingly sweet (or salty).”

    As an occasional snack, while I myself wouldn’t have it (I find the flavor too artificial), there are worse things you could choose.


    Five Diet Faux Pas

    Are you sabotaging your own healthy eating? You might be, if you’ve fallen prey to these five common diet mistakes.

    Leaving Out the Yolk

    THE MISTAKE: Getting an omelette sans yolk deprives you of vitamins (folate, vitamin D) minerals (zinc, phosphorus, calcium) and carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin). Additionally, an egg-white omelette (which is naturally fat-free) will not satiate you as well as one utilizing the entire egg. The longer you remain satiated, the fewer calories you consume.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Rather than getting an egg white omelette with cheese (a source of saturated fat and sodium), go for a regular omelette with three or four different color vegetables.

    Fearing Fat

    THE MISTAKE: Ordering salads or steamed vegetables and accompanying them with fat-free dressing is a waste of nutrients! Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and, therefore, need to be consumed with fat in order for our bodies to absorb them.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Replace fat-free dressing with an oil (preferably olive) based vinagreitte. If you absolutely love the taste of a certain fat-free dressing, add avocado, almond slices, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds to your salad.

    Forgetting Fiber

    THE MISTAKE: Snacking on rice cakes, pretzels, and crackers might sound healthy, but they aren’t your weight-loss allies. The reason? They are missing fiber, which is essential for a feeling of fullness.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Include high-fiber snacks into your diet: boiled edamame, fresh fruit, red pepper strips with hummus, plain popcorn, and high-fiber crackers (ie: Kavli, Triscuit Finn Crisp, etc.)

    (Artificially) Sweetening The Deal

    THE MISTAKE: Sugar-free pudding, ice cream, candies, sodas, and chocolates contain fewer calories than their regular counterparts, but they are still mostly devoid of nutrition. Plus, since the artificial sweeteners used are hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar, often leading to more cravings.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Instead of replacing highly caloric sugary items with ones made with saccharine or Splenda, substitute them with real food. Replace a diet popsicle with an actual piece of fruit. You’ll get more nutrition — and real taste!

    Leaving Exercise Out of the Equation

    THE MISTAKE: Eating fewer calories isn’t the one and only diet solution. For optimal weight loss and maintenance, you should engage in physical activity at least three times a week. Remember, our bodies need to work hard (aka, burn calories) to sustain muscle.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: If you are only doing cardio, add a 15 or 20 minute weight-bearing workout. Not only are you helping your bone density, you’re also helping your body shed the pounds faster.


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