Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, January 25, 2010

Will you eat anything?

In my last blog, I expressed my desire to stay away from processed foods.

Today we will take a quick look at the ingredients in my favorite cereal (about the only processed food in our house). I won't tell you the name of this cereal, but it's very popular, so you've probably had some yourself. I was surprised to see how long this list was:


Ingredient
Meaning
Whole Grain Oat flour
primary ingredient
Sugar
sweetener
Corn flour
adds a bit of flavor, nutrition and color
Whole Wheat flour
adds nutrients, color and structure to a product
Rice flour
thickening agent, also adds taste
Salt
flavoring and preservative
Calcium carbonate
calcium mineral supplement; it's what makes your water "hard"
Disodium phosphate
keeps powders from caking; used in laxatives!
Reduced iron
nutritional supplement for iron
Niacinamide
B vitamin
Zinc oxide
nutritional supplement for zinc
BHT
Butylated hydroxytoluene - antioxidant to keep fats from going rancid
Yellow color 5
also called Tartrazine; a very commonly used food coloring
Yellow color 6
also called Sunset Yellow; an artificial coloring with an orange hue
Thisamin mononitrate
B vitamin
Pyridoxine hydrochloride
B vitamin
Riboflavin
B vitamin
Folic Acid
B vitamin
Cinnamon flavored adds
a few more ingredients:
Cinnamon
spice made from ground-up tree bark
Caramel Color
coloring made by heat-treating sugars
Dextrin
carbohydrate derived from starch; contributes flavour, colour and crispness
Red 40
petroleum derived food dye also called Allura Red AC
Blue 1
also known as Brilliant Blue FCF
Natural Flavors
Our government says this about labeling food and natural flavors: the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.


There have been many other flavoring variations of this cereal, in addition to the basic formula. They include Cinnamon, Raisin, Honey Graham, Vanilla Yogurt Crunch, Chocolate Oat Crunch, Maple and Brown Sugar, Multigrain and Baked Apple. Of course, each contains a few (or a lot) more ingredients.

WHERE'S THE MATH?

Here it is. A new website called THE GOOD GUIDE is researching the contents of products and rating them on a variety of scales. This gives us a numerical value (MATH!) for comparing foods.

The cereal described above receives a 7.2 rating which places it near the very top in cereals. It's good at nutritional performance. Sadly it also contains a few food dyes that we could argue are unnecessary.  Of course we haven't seen the cereal in its native color! These dyes are permitted here in the US, but are banned or being phased out in some other countries.

The Good Guide's very top rated cereal gets a score of 8.0. It contains:

Ingredient
Meaning
Organic puffed millet
an edible grass seed commonly used in bean bags, hacky sacks, pillows and bird feed

Frankly, that doesn't sound very tasty to me! But people have been eating it for more than 10,000 years. We now harvest more than 30 million tons of millet a year - the largest producers being India, Nigeria, Niger and China.

The nutritional value of millet is similar to wheat, with about 11% protein. Dough made from millet won't rise, so it's used for flat breads or mixed with other grains.

People used to say "Mikey will eat anything" but I'm not sure he'll eat puffed millet ...