February 28, 2010

CSPI's Whole Grain Finds & Frauds

The Center for Science in the Public Interest publishes the Nutrition Action Health Letter, the "World's Largest Circulation Health Newsletter". At $10 for a yearly subscription, the newsletter is an outstanding deal if you are interested in nutrition and enjoy humorous takes on the topic. The newsletter summarizes nutrition-related research, advocates for stricter nutrition labeling laws and regularly exposes unhealthy products masquerading as health foods. The CSPI folks are the self-proclaimed "food police" - and their Washington, DC based think-tank are responsible for:
The "Whole Grain Finds & Frauds" article in the March 2010 Nutrition Action Health Letter delves into new whole grain products and whether or not they deserve to carry the "whole grain" title on their packaging. The products that the authors maintain are Whole Grain Finds, include:
The Whole Grain Frauds the article identifies, include:
  • Cheez-It crackers "made with 5g of WHOLE GRAIN per serving" - but since each serving is 30-grams (27 crackers), that doesn't mean much
  • Kellogg's Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts tout "20% daily value for Fiber" - this fiber comes from inulin, which is an isolated fiber which may not have the same health benefits as fiber that occurs naturally in foods - not to mention each pop tart has three teaspoons of sugar per serving
  • Hamburger Helper has a "wholesome" line - claiming 8 grams of whole grain, but an undisclosed amount of refined grains
  • Lance's Whole Grain Sharp Cheddar Cheese crackers (found in vending machines) may say they're whole grain, but the first two ingredients are white flour and oil, making them a low fiber whole-grain fraud
The article stresses the importance of looking at order of ingredients when trying to identify good sources of whole grains. For bread products, look for "whole wheat flour" to be listed ahead of "enriched wheat flour" for your best bet in identifying Whole Grain Finds.