With Purim on its heels, Pesach is now officially the next holiday in line. In fact, there are exactly 22 days until Pesach. That will give us plenty of time to discuss sugar and try out some new approaches before the onset of the holiday of freedom.
Previously, we covered how much sugar is optimal for the body. Now we will discuss how one of the biggest challenges as a consumer, is how sugar is often times "made" to look healthy. Instead of asking which one of us has fallen for this gimmick, the real question is which one of us has NOT fallen for this old trick.
We will talk about food politics more in depth in a different post, but on this topic it is important for you to know about the Sugar Association (SA). They are the voice of the U.S sugar industry, specifically the "scientific voice." This has two ramifications for us consumers: (1) research being funded by the SA has the potential to be biased and (2) they are constantly in touch with the U.S sugar industry to figure out ways to further improve sales (because ultimately that creates more revenue). Some common examples of ploys for purchasing seen on food or snack items are:
"Made with real fruit juice"
"Contains a serving of vegetables"
First of all, lets take a step back- do gummy bears made with vegetables sound tasty or gross?? I just wanted to put that out there as "food for thought." Second, even if a particular product is advertised in this way, as an educated consumer it is imperative to check the ingredients. Even if added nutrients are in the item at hand, it doesn't mean that the amount of sugar is reduced. In fact, in most cases they stay the same. These additional items (vitamins, vegetables, fruits) have been added to help consumers feel like they are choosing a more healthful option.
This leads us to our question of the hour: do these additional ingredients make desserts/candy or other sugar filled snack options healthier?
Here's what happens, as soon as nutritional substance is added to a dessert/candy item it blurs the line between dessert (meaning eaten on occasion or in smaller quantities) and nutritionally beneficial food item. Furthermore, with the way some items are advertised, a consumer might end up eating cereal bars because they contain vegetables as opposed to really eating vegetables. Don't let yourself be fooled! And of course eating the real nutrient itself (i.e fruit or vegetables) is much more beneficial to the body and contains way more nutrients than a supplemental powder or additive put into a piece of candy/dessert.
The truth is and always will be that a marshmallow bar is a just that, a jelly bean is a jelly bean, and a doughnut is a doughnut. I don't care that the doughnut is red because it has beet juice. Or that the marshmallow bar is green because it has parsley in it. Or even that the jelly bean is multi-colored for all the vitamins that it contains. Call it what it is. Treat it like it is and make sure that you are relying on the real source for fruits and vegetables called...fruits and vegetables.
Would I personally eat a red doughnut because it contains beet juice? If I was in the mood for something sweet I would probably try it. But note, I would be eating it and treating it like a dessert - not a vegetable. That is the key. Food companies love when consumers are confused because it is harder for them to make informed decisions.
I hope that with this information you will be able to see through false and misleading advertising and make more informed decisions as a consumer. Eat food for what it is and NOT what it's not!