Lessons from Granola #3

Dietitians recommend oatmeal. Doctors recommend the gummy stuff too because it is good for your heart and an excellent source of nutrition. Oatmeal is one of the ancient recipes that reaches back into the Medieval Period if not earlier, making oatmeal one of those more primitive and therefore more unadulterated recipes that excites food purists. The ancient history is correct but the recent history is a bit more convoluted. I am not sure your ancestors four or five generations back would be pleased with our oats.

The ingredients listed on the round container of Quaker Oats, a subsidiary of Pepsico:

WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, SUGAR, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, GUAR GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, NIACINAMIDE*, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, RIBOFLAVIN*, THIAMIN MONONITRATE*, FOLIC ACID*.

Compare and contrast with a more expensive brand of rolled oats, Bob’s Red Mill:

WHOLE GRAIN OATS.

The irony of this comparison is that the more expensive brand has only one ingredient. There are fifteen ingredients in the cheaper brand and some of them are nearly unpronounceable unless you are a practicing chemist. Why fifteen ingredients?

Quaker Oats is a highly processed product. A byproduct of manipulating the oats in the production process is the loss of nutrients. The more processing, the more loss. The manufacturer adds synthetic nutrients back into the oats to compensate and can actually add more to boost the nutrition claims. There are no impartial definitive studies that prove that the human body ingests synthetic nutrients in any significant quantities although there are studies that we do not absorb all of the synthetic nutrients, purging them from our bodies in our urine. These additives serve another purpose than health though. Food manufacturers are often called out for manipulating the nutrition labels on the side the packaging, trying to fool the consumer into believing that the product is healthier than it actually is.

For consumers the idea of eating whole foods such as WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS is to eat minimally processed foods. A basic formulation of rolled oats is processed to a small degree – oats on the plant are not flat. Health conscious consumers want minimally processed foods. In contrast, a manufacturer wants to increase market share by having more consumers purchase their product and by having the dedicated customer buy more of the product. These two different agendas do not have to be in opposition but overarching greed is enough incentive for a manufacturer to take advantage of the relationship between producer and consumer.

The usual method for increasing sales is not price. Price is a one-shot proposal for coupon-cutting budgeteers. Increasing sales on a broader scale usually means adding salt, fat and sugar. Notice that sugar is second and salt is fourth on the Quaker Oats listing of ingredients. However, there is another powerful weapon for promoting appetite for a product: monosodium glutamate otherwise known as MSG. MSG is flavor and it is addictive. There are four ingredients on the label that definitely contain MSG and a fifth that probably does. The four definite items are natural flavor, artificial flavor, guar gum and caramel color. The probable fifth is salt. MSG is intimately connected to significant and sustained weight gain.

The first and largest ingredient in my granola is oats, and already the recipe is landmine for the unwary. By choosing the wrong manufacturer, you lose nutrition and you gain weight. A bag or a box of ROLLED OATS should be just one ingredient, rolled oats.

Next Episode: Salt Ain’t What It Used To Be

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