Sunday, June 15, 2008


I went to the store the other day with the idea of trying to see how easily I could follow one of Michael Pollan's rules from In Defense Of Food. The rule of not buying anything with more than five ingredients. The concept is fairly simple, if someone other than you is mixing the ingredients it is in their best interest to ignore how healthy the food is. Adding lots of sugar or fat is both cheaper, and tastes better. Even most "health foods" are unhealthy processed foods with one or another vitamin added to try to cover up for what it lacks. For this reason another of his rules is never buy a food that has a health claim.

Anyways, with how I eat most of this is fairly simple. Fresh and canned vegetables and fruits fit fairly nicely under this rule. Same with beans and eggs. I was doing well until I got to the bread section. I always assumed that bread is all pretty much the same, assuming it is whole wheat and not white bread. Apparently not. It is pretty impressive how long the list of additives that goes into all bread is. For example usually with any product you can count on a product without corn syrup being somewhere. I don't think I found any.

It is not like it was an ingredient list of healthy sounding things either. Here is an example I found on a random blog that looks about like what I seemed to see:

Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, whole wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup. Contains less than 2% of the following: yeast, wheat bran, bleached oat hull fiber, vital wheat gluten, salt, soybean oil, dough conditioner, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, enzymes [amylase]), cracked wheat, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, caramel color (contains sulfites), refiners syrup, dried honey, mineral oil. Contains wheat.

Of course everything we eat is a mixture of chemicals, but if I had to bet I would say most whole wheat bread isn't a whole lot better than white bread. Looking at Wikipedia I found a page that sums up the situation pretty well. It is easy to manipulate recipes to make what isn't remotely whole wheat bread look and label like the real thing. For example the ingredient list above starting with enriched flour pretty much means it is not whole wheat bread.

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