If you got around to reading my “healthy living: knowledge is power” post from last week, then you know I am fully immersed in the search for what being healthy really means, which goes beyond just ‘eating right’ and exercising in today’s world. As I dig deeper, I discover more and more about the tricky tactics being used in America’s food industry among everything from disguising harmful ingredients to false advertising on packaging — ultimately making it a painstaking challenge to eat truly healthy. Sad, huh? And although I am well aware of the industry’s sly ways (and have been for a while), even I was recently duped. Here’s how it went down…
Lately I’ve been on a documentary kick (they’re surprisingly addicting), and my latest sit-down was with ‘Hungry for Change.’ There is a brief portion of the film that emphasizes the addictive properties of MSG and free glutamates (now used in about 80% of all processed foods for that reason) and their ability to make us fat over time. I immediately thought, “Whew, good thing I don’t have to worry about that since I steer clear of those kind of junky, overly-processed foods.” However, the film revealed shortly thereafter that those particular ingredients often go unnoticed on food labels because they are disguised with different names such as hydrolyzed soy protein, free glutamic acid, sodium caseinate, citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, monoammonian glutamate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and autolyzed yeast extract. (Does any of that sound even remotely natural to you?!)
As the names rolled across the screen, one all-too familiar ingredient immediately caught my eye: soy protein isolate, also known as the second ingredient in the Clif bars that I’ve consumed on a regular basis for years. I quickly looked up ‘soy protein isolate’ online, only to find that it’s a highly refined form of soy protein made from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defatted. (And let’s not forget to mention that soybeans are one of the most genetically modified foods in our country). I felt cheated, but mostly foolish for not realizing this sooner. The part of Clif’s packaging that says, “contains 70% organic ingredients” had me coerced into thinking it was a healthy bar (minus the rather high sugar content, of course) and for that reason reached for them as pre-workout fuel and quick breakfasts on the regular.
I then figured that I might as well take a look at the ingredients on my Luna bars since they’re a Clif-owned product. Of course I found the same exact thing: soy protein isolate (but listed as the first ingredient instead of the second!). Since I was on a roll, I grabbed for my chocolate whey protein powder that I frequently buy at Whole Foods. What do you know – whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey protein isolate, ion-exchanged whey protein isolate – all right before my eyes.
Now that I’ve been enlightened with this information, I’ve decided that these products no longer have any business with me, that’s for sure. (You hear that Clif? We’re done. Over. I’m leaving your processed protein ass for KIND and LÄRABAR. Sayonara, sucker!)
But let’s take a step back for a minute. Although I realize I am sounding rather harsh, let it be known that I am not saying Clif is a “bad company” and one to completely avoid by any means (they do use 70% organic ingredients in many of their bars after all, and they even make a few 100% organic bars such as ‘Clif Kid Zbar’ and ‘Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit + Nut bar.’ They also strive to help the environment which is great), but what I’m really trying to get at here is this: KNOW what you are putting into your body – don’t let things like “contains organic ingredients” fool you like I did, or think that just because you bought it from a co-op or health foods store that you’re automatically in the clear. If you aren’t sure what an ingredient is or if it sounds fishy, look it up or better yet – simply pass on that item. All in all, the more clean, whole and organic foods you are eating (mostly ones that don’t require an ingredients list at all) – the healthier you will be and the less scrutinizing of ingredients you will have to do — win, win!
Are (or were) you a Clif bar fan?