Avoid These Unpleasant Surprises by Reading Labels

I bet, by now you have heard advice about reading food labels.Checking food labelling

Do you always follow it?

Probably not.

But you should.

Even if you buy organic food, do not assume that all ingredients are good for you.

Assuming the ingredients must be good will set you up for an unpleasant surprise or two.

To illustrate, let me give you an example.

Many fitness and health gurus suggest eating Peanut Butter, but which one?

A local grocery chain introduced a new line of organic peanut butter under their own label, i.e., the brand that belongs to that chain exclusively.

Problem is, they decided to make a ‘regular’ peanut butter and the ‘smooth or creamy’ one. Smooth peanut butter is a popular item with consumers who buy conventional / non organic peanut butters.  This peanut butter spreads better on your toast and has a more uniform texture.

 Now, one would think that peanut butter should have only one ingredient – Peanuts.

 OK may be two- Peanuts and salt.


Palm oil

To my surprise this peanut butter had 4 ingredients and the second ingredient was palm oil.  Which comprised 20 – 30 % by volume.

Palm oil, even an organic one, is a cheap industrial fat.   And it is a sure way to put on a few pounds. But to the manufacturer’s defense, adding palm oil to the peanut butter makes the peanut butter smooth, and easier to spread.

 But it didn’t stop there.



The third ingredient was sugar.  I think this is because palm oil is not very palatable by itself.  If you decide to spread palm oil on your toast, you will need to add sugar.  Otherwise it is not something you would enjoy.

Sugar is not the best ingredient, period.  And the combination of fat and sugar makes you put on pounds significantly faster. 1  It also makes you crave more of these types of foods. 2


Salt, Salt and more Salt

And of course more salt than usual.  This has two purposes:

One, it gently offsets sugar.  So we don’t taste sugar as much.

And second, remember that unpalatable palm oil, with a touch more salt (or more than touch) it makes it taste better.

Some experts claim that a combination of fat, sugar and salt will ‘Highjack your brain’ , so you will eat more 3.   Isn’t that great?  For the manufactures of course.  Not for the consumer.


 It doesn’t always stop there either

I have seen that on occasion manufactures add an ingredient or two to hold other ingredients together, so they don’t separate in layers.



What is even more amazing, the price is the same for regular peanut butter and for the smooth one.

Palm oil is a cheap industrial fat.  It is much cheaper than peanuts.  So the manufactures and the stores can make a bigger profit on the consumer who likes a smooth peanut butter.

How does this make you feel?


 To Summarize

You are consuming more sugar.

You are consuming more salt,

You are consuming a cheap industrial fat – palm oil.

You are probably gaining weight and

You are paying more for it.

All for the convenience of a more spreadable peanut butter. Or for the convenience of not reading the label.


 Read the Labels

Read the labels, ask questions, and eat better food.

Read the label of the actual product, even if you know the company well. The above peanut butter manufacturer  has a similar product that looks and is priced the same.  The only difference is that this other peanut butter has only one ingredient: peanuts.

Just because it is organic, doesn’t mean you are getting the best of the best.  There are many organic junk foods on the market.


 Are you watching your..

Are you watching your salt, your sugar, your calorie intake or your budget?

Perhaps reading the label of smooth peanut butter can help :)

Questions, Comments, Suggestions? Please leave a comment below.



1 http://www.nifes.no/index.php?page_id=329&article_id=2695&lang_id=2

2 http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-04-27/news/36916774_1_ingredient-labels-kessler-food-industry

3 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124084009832659309.html



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