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A Smarter Start: Ignore the front cover, focus on the ingredients list!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

the-ingredients-list

I was reading one of my favorite new books, Pandora’s Lunchbox, and getting a serious education on the synthetics contained in most breakfast cereals, when the author mentioned Kellogg’s Smart Start.  It sounds so healthy, and who wouldn’t want a smart start when the box looks so appealing?   Really, what’s not to like?  To find out, I turned to my old friend, Wikipedia, which very conveniently lists ingredients for many common packaged foods.  In fact, if you hate the idea of standing in the grocery store aisle trying to make out the fine print, try Wiki first and save yourself some shopping time later.

While Wikipedia did contain some interesting facts on Kellogg’s,  including lots of product nutrition label information, they didn’t list the ingredients for Smart Start.  Fortunately, it was easy to find several credible online sources that did.  I can skip the hyperbole here because this list speaks for itself:

OAT BLEND (WHOLE OATS, OAT BRAN), RICE, SUGAR, MAPLE AND BROWN SUGAR FLAVORED OAT CLUSTERS (SUGAR, TOASTED OATS [ROLLED WHOLE OATS, SUGAR, CANOLA OIL WITH TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS, MOLASSES, HONEY, BHT FOR FRESHNESS, SOY LECITHIN], WHEAT FLAKES, CRISP RICE [RICE, SUGAR, MALT, SALT], CORN SYRUP, POLYDEXTROSE, HONEY, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, CINNAMON, BHT FOR FRESHNESS, ARTIFICIAL VANILLA FLAVOR), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, MALT FLAVORING, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, SALT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, BAKING SODA, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), NIACINAMIDE, ZINC OXIDE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN D, ALPHA TOCOPHEROL ACETATE (VITAMIN E), BHT (PRESERVATIVE), PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), BETA CAROTENE (A SOURCE OF VITAMIN A), FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B12.

Note the 5 kinds of sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, swirling amidst a cocktail of chemicals to keep any natural side effects that might hinder product performance at bay.  This product will not change in color, shape or crispness for years, far beyond the expiration date in case you’re wondering, thanks to the helpful preservatives (“To Preserve Freshness”, duly noted).

I found the way the vitamins were listed even more interesting.  The natural vitamin is listed in parenthesis next to the synthetic version replacing it.   For example “THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (B1)”.  It sounds like thiamin hydrochloride is another name for B1, but it isn’t.  It’s this:

Thiamine hydrochloride is a hydrochloride salt form of thiamine. It is a white, hygroscopic crystal that is soluble in water or ether.

Thiamine hydrochloride also seems to be used frequently in veterinary medicine from the search results I found.  I had to wonder, why would it be added to Smart Start breakfast cereal?  Perhaps because I don’t eat it, I’m not smart enough to figure it out.  But enough with the cheek, back to the ingredients.  What they don’t mention is that one of the artificial colors they use is Yellow #5, which among other things, is linked to hyperactivity in children.  Manufacturers are not required to list individual artificial colors and flavors, so they generally don’t.

Without further analyzing the rest of the list to make a point which is by now becoming obvious, it’s clear that many of the ingredients are not part of a healthy diet.   Smart Start may be a smart choice under certain circumstances, like if you had no other options, but for most of us this isn’t the case.  In Beanalicious Living, I cover the importance of reading ingredients lists and what to look out for in more detail, yet the Smart Start list warrants little further investigation if you’re attempting to make healthy food choices.

Of course there are smarter alternatives in breakfast cereals to be sure, but they’re among the minority and not always so obvious.  And you always need to look past the promising claims on the front of the package to find them.  Terms like “smart”, “natural” or “healthy” are all very relative in cereal land.  It’s actually smarter to choose breakfast products free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, and to watch out for too much sugar.  If it’s listed in the first five ingredients in any form (corn syrup, honey, sucrose, cane sugar), you may want to rethink that purchase.

When you make informed decisions and shop with a plan, you enhance the health of yourself and your family dramatically.  It can be a major ordeal to upgrade your diet with toxin-free foods, so you may want to take it one step at a time.  Try starting with breakfast, replacing overly processed with foods less refined to detoxify your diet for amazing results.  And here’s a noteworthy bonus: women who read nutrition labels weigh an average of 8 pounds less.  Discover the difference for yourself, starting today!

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