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Monday, March 28, 2011

Let's Learn How to Interpret a Dang Ingredients Label, Shall We?

Of course we shall. I have repeatedly been struck by the number of people that think they're eating or drinking something good for them, but are actually consuming utter garbage, and I am convinced that often it's because they either have not looked at the label or have no idea what it means. So let's take a look, at, say, the label for a certain popular, allegedly healthy drink, which shall remain nameless except that I've got a family member that thinks it's the bomb. I have to admit that I don't have a bottle of the stuff in front of me, but I did read the ingredients label last time we had some in the house, so I swiped the following from a website elsewhere once I recognized it. I'd link, but that would involve identifying the drink, and I'm more interested in learnin' ya somethin'.
Filtered water
Concentrated Fruit juices (pineapple and mango)
Malic Acid
Concentrated Purple Carrot Juice (Color)
Natural Flavor
There is also a separate part of the label that shows "medicinal ingredients":
41mcg Chromium Polynicotinate
137mg Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
450mg Garcinia Cambogia Rind Extract
Okay, the first thing you need to know is that by federal law, an ingredients label lists ingredients in descending order, that is, whatever's listed first is what it has the most of, and so forth.

What's listed first on this "healthy" drink?

Oh, that would be "water." More water than anything else.

Then "concentrated fruit juices." How much? You don't know, do you? But I would suggest to you that anything that pours out of the bottle with the consistency of water, as this drink and so many like it do, doesn't actually have a boatload of fruit juice in it. I mean, you've seen fruit juice pour out of a bottle, haven't you? Looks a little bit thicker than water, doesn't it? This stuff ain't like that. It's very thin. Probably not much fruit juice in there.

Then there's "Malic Acid." It does occur naturally, but bank on it, when it's added to food, it's being done so that it has a tartness to it. How do I know? Simple. Googled it.

Then there's a little bit of color. How much does it take to color a bottle of what is almost certainly mostly water? Probably not much.

Then there's "natural flavor." What the heck does that mean? No one knows!

Then there's Acesulfame-Potassium. You thought it was some sort of vitamin or mineral additive, didn't you? 'Cause it said "potassium?" Got ya. This is a sweetener. It is abundantly sweeter than regular sugar, but apparently there hasn't been all that much testing done on it. Again, how do I know? Googled it.

Then there's sucralose. What the heck is that? Mmmmm--basically chlorinated table sugar.

Okay, so far, we've figured out that this stuff is basically heavily diluted fruit juice with some "natural flavor" and artifiical sweeteners. Remember, they're marketing this stuff as somehow being healthy. What makes it healthy? The diluted fruit juice? The coloring? The tartness? The "natural flavor?" The artificial sweeteners?

Probably not. Maybe it's the "medicinal ingredients?"

What the heck is the chromium polynicotinate doing in there? Well, apparently chromium is supposed to play a role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and some people think it might help you lose weight. The science is inconclusive, to say the least, and if you're trying to lose weight, I'd suggest that you focus heavily on what this guy has to say instead of trying to do it by adding more chromium to your diet than your body is likely to be able to use.

Now: vitamin c, or ascorbic acid. 137 mg of the stuff. Well, vitamin c is good, isn't it? True dat. It's also cheap, which makes it popular with people trying to make their products sound healthy. 137 mg is also about what you would get eating two cups of cantaloupe. Now, let me ask you: do you really think that God designed your body to need the amount of vitamin C you get in two cups of cantaloupe every time you drink a bottled beverage? Probably not? I would certainly suggest not. And since what vitamin C your body doesn't absorb exits your body pretty quickly, this is, frankly, pretty much a waste of space. The only reason it's there is to sucker you into thinking you're drinking a vitamin pill.

Okay, what the heck is the last thing, garcinia cambogia rind extract? An alleged appetite suppressant, that's what it is. Saying that appetite suppressants are probably not the best way to lose weight is understating the matter considerably.

And you're paying a buck and a half per bottle for this stuff at the convenience store? In the name of health?

Cheez louise. Develop some curiousity and learn how to read a label. Consider this an introductory lesson.

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