Kraft Foods has announced that they are going to cut salt in all of its foods sold in North America by an average of 10% over the next two years. Specifically the move will reduce the sodium in Oscar Mayer Bologna by 17% and Easy Mac Cups by 20%. This move is likely in response to the recent push to begin to reduce the overall salt consumption by Americans.
While I think this is a noble effort by Kraft Foods, they continue to bark up the wrong tree. It’s not the fact that people are eating Easy Mac loaded with salt that is making America unhealthy. It’s the fact that they’re eating Easy Mac in the first place! You can’t blame Kraft Foods for this. They are a business and have every right to produce a product and try and make a profit. The problem is that by reducing the salt content a large portion of the population will begin to see their Oscar Mayer Bologna sandwich as less detrimental to their health. Reducing its salt content does not make it significantly better for you.
While Kraft Foods is trying to get healthier, they are also trying to increase their business by trying to appeal to people that are more “health conscious.” This is evidenced by their own words.
“We are reducing sodium because it’s good for consumers, and, if done properly, it’s good for business,” said Kraft executive Rhonda Jordan. “A growing number of consumers are concerned about their sodium intake and we want to help them translate their intentions into actions.”
Again, it isn’t the salt in the foods that are making them unhealthy. It is the foods themselves. Easy Mac, for example is loaded with simple carbohydrates and when eaten regularly contributes as much to heart disease and diabetes as McDonald’s french fries. It is also loaded with ingredients that most of us cannot pronounce and exist exactly nowhere in nature. Let’s start out by looking at the ingredients for in one Easy Mac Cup.
Ingredients: ENRICHED MACARONI PRODUCT (WHEAT FLOUR, GLYCERYL MONOSTEARATE, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE [IRON], THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SALT, MALTODEXTRIN, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, ACETYLATED MONOGLYCERIDES, MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES, APOCAROTENAL (COLOR), CHEESE SAUCE MIX (WHEY, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, PALM OIL, MILK, MILKFAT, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE, MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES, NATURAL FLAVOR, CITRIC ACID, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, LACTIC ACID, GUAR GUM, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, MILK, DRIED ONIONS, YELLOW 5, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, YELLOW 6, ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE).
The first ingredient, “enriched macaroni product” is called so because they enrich it with B vitamins. They know people will not consume something that doesn’t have at least some nutritional value (or most people won’t) so they enrich their pasta with B vitamins to make it more appealing.
It also contains monosodium glutamate or MSG. MSG is a flavor enhancer but it is terrible for your health. MSG is an excitotoxin which means that it binds receptors in the brain and excites neurons to death. Children are particularly susceptible and they just happen to be the target audience of Easy Mac. Russel Blaylock is a neurologist who has studied MSG and says it may aggravate many neurological conditions. His book called Excitotoxins the Taste that Kills is a good book and if you have questions regarding MSG you should read it.
The rest of the junk in there like “yellow #5” and “yellow #6” and “artificial flavors” are also horrible for your health. There are also a bunch of unnatural preservatives so it can sit on your shelf for 6 months and you can still eat it. Here is a good rule of thumb. If you can’t picture the ingredient in your head in its natural state, you shouldn’t eat it.
Now the “nutrition” in this isn’t good either. The carbohydrate count in one Easy Mac Cup is 39g. This roughly the same as consuming 8 teaspoons of sugar. Remember, for every 5 grams of carbohydrate you consume it is equal to one teaspoon of sugar. Would you eat 8 teaspoons of sugar for dinner? If you answered ‘no’ then you shouldn’t eat an Easy Mac Cup for dinner either. The sodium is quite high, but if you aren’t eating junk food like this all the time, you don’t need to worry about your sodium intake. If you continue to eat processed foods you will over consume sodium….and carbohydrates, and artificial dyes and chemicals, and a lot of other things that aren’t good for you.
Don’t be fooled by the hype of salt reduction in processed foods. It doesn’t make them any better for you. They are still loaded with simple carbohydrates which are a major contributor to disease in this country. They are also still loaded with chemicals and preservatives. If you’re going to eat macaroni and cheese (and I don’t recommend it often) eat it as naturally as possible. You could make a great mac and cheese with 3 simple ingredients. Whole wheat macaroni, milk and cheese. Spice it to your taste with salt, pepper or garlic. The downfalls of eating pasta are many, but once in a great while of OK. Do yourself a favor if you’re going to eat it and don’t eat it from a plastic cup.