A couple of weeks ago, I blogged an article in the New York Times about food manufacturers returning to the use of cane sugar in their foods and then touting these products as being more healthful than foods produced with high fructose corn syrup.
And, in my post, I noted that while high fructose corn syrup -may- be metabolized a little bit differently in our bodies than cane sugar, it doesn’t make cane sugar a health food. Large amounts of any kind of sugar in anyone’s diet is going to cause health problems, including weight gain and metabolic imbalances such as diabetes and hyper or hypoglycemia–not to mention higher levels of tooth decay.
Today a similar article can be found in the Washington Post, outlining how food manufacturers are now advertising products with short ingredient lists–such as Haagan-Daz’s vanilla ice cream–as being somehow more healthful and pure than other foods which have longer ingredient lists that include unpronounceable preservatives, colorings and flavorings.
But when we are talking about ice cream and potato chips, the fact is–the short ingredient list is nice and yes, I would much rather eat something with fewer ingredients which I can identify as being real, live foodstuffs than something that sounds like a Chemistry 101 experiment gone awry, but people–junk food is still junk food. Ice cream is still high in fat, sugar and calories, and potatoes are still high in fat, salt and calories, and both of them are still low on nutritive value, no matter if they are made with artificial flavors and colors or not.
Now don’t get me wrong–I love me some ice cream and potato chips, and I do eat my fair share of both, but not on a daily basis. And I am under no illusion that when I do eat these foods that I am eating anything that is intrinsically healthful. No, when I eat ice cream and potato chips, I am not thinking of my health at all–I am eating them because they taste good and I want to eat them for the pleasure of it.
Both of these items are high-calorie investments, and so when I do eat them and take the caloric hit, I have decided to eat the very tastiest versions of these foods that I can get my hands on. Which means I eat Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (when I am in Columbus) or Haagan Daz when I am at home and cannot get Jeni’s handmade creations. Both of these ice creams have short ingredient lists–and that is why they have amazing flavors and creamy, velvety textures-because they are not filled with artificial flavors and stabilizers like many other brands do.
And when I eat potato chips, I tend to eat Kettle brand–even their flavored chips have short ingredient lists filled only with stuff I can recognize as food. And they taste great–potatoey-crispy with just the right amount of salt or natural flavorings to enhance the potato flavor.
And the fact that the ice cream and potato chip brands I eat also happen to have short ingredient lists has nothing to do with my belief that I am eating healthier junk food–it has to do with the fact that these high calorie snacks taste better.
I mean, if I am going to eat junk food–let it taste good enough to be worth the extra calories!
So, yeah, I guess it is nice to see manufacturers taking note of the fact that people want to eat more simply and thus are touting their short ingredient lists as proof of the purity of their products. But to lead people to believe that these foods are healthier just because they have a short list of “all natural ingredients” is misdirection at best.
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