November 6, 2008

Survey Results: Label Detectives

The latest Small Bites survey asked visitors to identify particular ingredients they consciously try to avoid when purchasing food.

Partially hydrogenated oil (44%) and high fructose corn syrup (43%) led the pack, while artificial dyes seemed troublesome to less visitors (9%).

MSG, meanwhile, received 24% of votes.

Three percent of respondents weren't fazed by any of those ingredients, while 38% do not feel comfortable consuming any of them.

The #1 enemy on that list is certainly partially hydrogenated oil.

There is clear evidence showing the harmful effects it has on lipid profiles and, consequently, heart disease risk.

The high fructose corn syrup situation goes beyond nutrition. Although it contributes as many calories to food as sugar (16 calories per teaspoon), its environmental effects are far worse.

Additionally, because it is such a cheap ingredient, companies liberally include it in a variety of processed foods, in turn increasing total calories.

It also doesn't help that it is in everything from bread to Gatorade to pasta sauce.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the more of these ingredients you see on a nutrition label, the more processed -- and less nutritious -- a given product is.

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