Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Green Shopping - What Do Advertisers Focus On

Howdy folks,

Every so often I really sit up and take notice of an advertisement that rings a warning bell in my brain. Recently I wrote about the whole issue of 'food grade white distilled vinegar' being made from petroleum.( Click here to read that post if you don't see it on this front page.) I learned about that from an ad for Heinz vinegar touting their made from real food vinegar and of course did some research.

Here is another one of those ads that got me checking. Total cereal was comparing itself to Kashi Go Lean, as having 100% of a bunch of vitamins, and that Kashi had virtually none. WELL, since I like Kashi as one of my cereal choices, and since Total is a long time favorite of many folks (not me, but that is just taste preference) I went researching and what did I find?

It is true that Total has more 100% of certain vitamins and minerals, HOWEVER, there is little else to redeem it when compared to Kashi (with one exception, and I will discuss that).

First a little nutrient math.

Calorie intake recommendations for a woman (2000 calories) or a man (2500 Calories) require a certain amount of protein and fiber each day to maintain optimal health (brain function, tissue maintenance and digestive tract health, among other things), plus of course many other elements like vitamins and minerals. For the sake of this post I'm dealing only with the protein and fiber, since without them vitamins and minerals would be useless. A person consuming 2000 calories a day needs 60 grams of protein and a 2500 a day calorie diet requires 65 grams of protein a day. Each needs about 25 grams of fiber a day. If you have not caught all the discussions about fiber, it is a two-fold requirement of our bodies -- it keeps the digestive tract working properly without laxatives and it also keeps cholesterol and blood sugar at good levels.

Since most folks give a decent breakfast only a nodding acknowledgment, cereal is the choice of many people.

Adela Davis, one of the early promoters of better eating (she had her detractors - but over all her recommendations were very sound) said to, "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and eat dinner like a pauper." Farmers and ranchers tend to follow this regime with huge breakfasts followed by lighter lunch and dinners.

If you take the protein and fiber requirements of each meal - simply dividing 3 into the protein and fiber gram recommendations) you come up with each of our typical 3 meals a day should have 20-22 grams of protein and 8-9 grams of fiber, give or take.

In looking at Total's nutrient chart - the side of the box label - what you are really consuming with a bowl of total cereal - aside from the milk - is a multi-vitamin pill - in fact one buyer of Total through grocery section suggests that is why they choose Total -- they don't have to take a pill!

Well how about the math? Good Apple in Apache Junction (an independent health food/supplement store) sells a high quality 1-a-day multi-vitamin/mineral called "Little Super 1 Daily) and each pill costs about 7 cents - a day. Total cereal is about 27-35 cents per bowl. If you want to take a multi-vitamin I think the pill (as long as it is a superior quality) is the better economy.

Here is how the numbers work out.

Kashi Go Lean - Honey Almond Flax

Calories 200 (1 cup)
Protein 9 Grams
Fiber 8 Grams
0 cholesterol

Total Cereal

Calories 100 (3/4 cup)
Protein 2 grams
Fiber 3 Grams
0 cholesterol

Add 1/2 cup of milk to each cereal for 4 grams of protein, and you can see that where a meal that is supposed to get you going for the day and keep you satisfied until lunch, will be way under-performing if you rely on Total.

What is the one exception of Kashi superiority over Total? Sugar - but wait there is more. First the stats. A bowl of Kashi (before milk) has 12 grams of sugar, and a bowl of Total (before milk) has 4 grams of sugar. The USDA recommendations for both carbohydrates and sugar are that total carbs should be approximately 50% (250 grams) to 60% (300 grams) of your total calorie intake and of that sugar should not exceed 40 grams per day.

Keep in mind real sources of fat and sugar are not enemies unless you over indulge and I don't have to explain that to you -- we all know what over indulging is - when we know what we are eating.

Not all sugars are equal - no pun intended. Tops on my favorite mis-leading advertisers and claims are all the mis-direction about corn syrups, particularly high fructose corn syrup as opposed to cane sugar.

The research keeps piling up about the serious down-side of the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. The latest is from the Journal of Clinical Investigation read here . Lot of techno-stuff which probably appears like babble but here is the gist of it -- HFCS is a super processed 'sugar' which does not have the shut off signal (leptin) which cane sugar (or real fruit sugars) has, in fact it actually has a signal (ghrelin) which tells the body eat more, the more HFCS you eat the more your body craves it. This new study has some additional findings which go to heart-disease increased risk - not just obesity, but that is a big factor. It is about where the body tends to deposit that extra fat, in the abdomen, which research is showing has a direct correlation to heart disease.

The grossly-misleading ads by the corn syrup producers that 'when consumed in moderation' completely ignore the research showing someone consistently taking in these products CAN'T stop consuming because their bodies won't let them. (Will-power and self-control aside - if your body is telling you eat, busy people tend to follow that directive.)

The challenge becomes one of 'what are we eating' that we don't either know about or don't understand.

Kashi Go-Lean Honey Almond Flax is made with evaporated cane sugar, brown rice syrup and honey and contains 11 different grains, seeds and nuts. Kashi is owned by Kellogg Company.

Total Whole Grain Cereal is made with sugar (not specified as source) and corn syrup and 1 grain - whole wheat. Total is owned by General Mills.

Large corporations tend to give customers what they ask for, so we as consumers have to be careful what we want and how we define the need. Are you like the reviewer of Total Cereal on Amazon's grocery site who said that what s/he really wants is a substitute for a pill -- oh my goodness! Or do you want real food, with real benefits and less mis-directing hype?

Don't take either my thoughts or my suggestion of Kash cereals as the only way to go. Go out and do some 'marketing / benefit' research yourself.

One last note and reference. In November 2008 I posted a blog on nutrient density and an easy formula to use to compare processed/manufactured foods. Read it here - I showed you how to use a simple math formula totaling fiber and protein grams and dividing that into calories for an optimal target 'factor' of 20, the lower the factor the more nutrient dense the food item.

Using that formula here is how Kashi and Total compare.

Kashi 9 protein and 8 fiber total 17 divided into 200 = just under 12.

Total 2 protein, 3 fiber total 5 divided into 100 = 20.

Now my target maximum factor is 20, the lower the factor the better the nutrient density. While Total squeaks by with a factor of 20, if you were doing comparisons which would you choose?

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady