What’s the deal with Hamburger Helper?

General Mills

Source, copyright: General Mills

You’ve probably got an inclination that this article is not going to espouse the helpfulness of Hamburger Helper.  Let’s take a look at what’s gone wrong here.

Hamburger Helper is a pretty standard American food.  It’s been around for a while and millions of us have consumed it.  Just by its popularity it’s an almost innocuous member of the grocery store.  But once you learn to fear the middle aisles like I have, you stop trusting garbage like this.

Let’s get right to the ingredients list.

INGREDIENTS: ENRICHED PASTA (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID),

So what is “enriched” pasta?  I don’t recall a recipe for it in my grandmother’s cookbook.  Enriched flour comes when the flour has been so over processed with high temperatures and strange chemicals that none of the original nutrition (vitamins, minerals, etc) remains.  The nutrition level is so low and the flour is of such low quality that it might not pass inspection, so they add synthetic vitamins into the mix.  And as we know, our bodies can’t digest synthetic vitamins nearly as well as vitamins from whole foods.  It’s a sham.

CORN STARCH, MALTODEXTRIN, SALT, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID),

Translation: sugar, sugar, salt, more garbage vitamins.  You know how I feel about sugar and salt.

HYDROLIZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (SOY, CORN, WHEAT), ONION POWER, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE,

This is tricky and terrible.  Thankfully, they did print “monosodium glutamate,” which is the proper name for the neurotoxin MSG.  Sadly, as I noted in a recent article, MSG regulation is so lax such that “hydrolized vegetable protein” ALSO contains MSG.  So might the “natural flavor” later on down the line.  MSG is connected to behavioral issues in children, headaches, brain damage, and a litany of other problems.

And there is onion powder, the closest thing to a food so far (though don’t let me give you the impression that onion powder is a health food–it’s not).

COLORS (CARAMEL COLOR, YELLOW 5 LAKE, YELLOW 5),

There has been a lot of research indicting yellow 5 as a cause of ADD in children, as with MSG.  Some governments are trying to remove common food colorings from the food (and many have already made MSG illegal).  It is obvious to me that we shouldn’t be feeding these chemicals to our children.  There have been no good safety studied conducted, but there have been studies showing cause for concern.

Though we often don’t think twice about food colorings, one of the reasons we ought to be concerned is their history.  Do you ever wonder what happened to yellow #4?  Along with 3, 2, and 1, it has been banned.  I think it’s just a matter of time before the current colorings are banned as well.

PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND COTTONSEED OIL,

Again, this is tricky.  The label says there are zero grams of trans fat, but here in ink: partially hydrogenated oils.  Partially hydrogenated oil is by definition trans fat, and food producers can lie on the nutrition information because of the lax regulations I have discussed in my peanut butter article.

SPICE, NATURAL FLAVOR,

What spice?  I have no idea.  What natural flavor?  Who knows?  Again, lax labelling practices have terrible consequences.  Natural flavors are chemicals, plain and simple.  Food producers don’t have to list which chemical, and they probably don’t want to.  It could be a flavor enhancer like MSG, as described above.

MONOGLYCERIDES,

These are fats that act as emulsifiers.

SUGAR, BEEF STOCK, YEAST EXTRACT,

This is pretty honest.  Beef stock is alright, yeast extract shouldn’t be a problem for most people, and there’s much more flour than sugar anyway.  Remember that simple carbs and sugar are the same as far as how they impact your health.

DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE, SULFITING AGENTS,

Three strange chemicals.  Disodium guanylate apparently isn’t safe for babies, asthmatics, people with gout, and vegetarians (as it is produced from fish).  It is often used with MSG.  Disodium inosinate is another flavor enhancer commonly used with MSG.

Sulfiting agents are a bit scarier.  It seems that one percent of us is allergic to sulfites, and they may cause severe allergic reactions.  Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any answer definitively showing sulfiting agents to be healthy or not healthy.  You can guess where I stand on eating sulfiting agents.

EGG, NONFAT MILK

Not a bad ending here.

The Nutrition Facts say it all.  This product contains very little calories (there’s hardly any food in there), tons of carbs, almost no fat or protein (though eating fats helps slow down our digestion of all the carbs, preventing weight gain and type 2 diabetes), and a monstrous amount of salt.  Wash that down with a bunch of chemicals and fake vitamins.

There’s hardly anything in the product at all that even resembles food.  Though if you were to eat it, you would certainly feel full.  You might even feel good about what you ate.  Chemicals have tricked us into seeing processed foods as normal, but that doesn’t mean they are nourishing us.

If you want to stay healthy, avoid cancer, take off weight, not get diabetes, etc., start eating real foods like organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef, free range poultry, nuts, yogurt, etc. Stay out of the middle rows of your grocery stores.   Eat fresh, living foods only–foods that go bad, that your great grandparents knew about, and that aren’t actively involved in destroying your health.

P.S. Did anyone notice that nowhere in the ingredients for this beef pasta can you find “beef?”

Take care everybody.

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14 responses to “What’s the deal with Hamburger Helper?

  1. Thank you for the telling article once again that digs up and tells the truth about the crap that people are allowed to sell us and we haven’t a clue how bad they are for us. But do tell WHICH of your grandmothers EVER made pasta enriched or not?? LOL. I guess this means that you are NOT making me hamburger helper for dinner tonight right? Thank Goodness! Almost as revolting to me as SPAM.

  2. Not to dig up an old post, but…vegans and vegetarians ‘get’ cancer and even die about a

  3. …as much as everyone else.

    Food health is idealism: as a race we live longer healthier lives than ever before. Your and your readers great grandparents (along with mine) struggled with disease and borderline famine at times, lived hard lives, and died probably a lot younger than you will.

    Anyway, I gotta go eat my dinner (HH on rice with veggies)…

  4. Write your food companies, question their labels. That was the only way we ever got anywhere with our organic standards in this country. Ask that they be more descriptive and again ask lots of questions. Food companies are adding these synthetic flavors for YOU! They think it’s what YOU want. And if people keep buying them, that’s sending a message that you like it and they will keep on making it. Let them know you are suspicious and demand answers. If they get enough questions, they will eventually change to please who they know keeps their business going, YOU.

  5. Beef isn’t on the label because you’re supposed to buy a pound of ground beef separately to cook with the pasta….

  6. Let them rid the world of all processed foods do the holier than thou “organic” companies can charge 5 times the amount for their “better” food.

  7. Sorry but corn starch is a carbohydrate not a sugar…

  8. All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in your body. The scariest thing by far is the trans fat. It’s not real food it’s like basically eating plastic that builds up in your arteries. Yes we all die of cancer or something eventually the point is you prolong that death. The main thing to do is exercise and stop being so fat.

  9. P.S. – You have to buy the beef separately, which is why it is not mentioned in the ingredients.

  10. Pingback: A Tuna Turn On | Good Food St. Louis

  11. bybynancygrace43

    This cant be true about all processed food i have eaten all kind of these and have not had any health problems and still going strong. Im worried about the additives in meat and sodapop and milk

  12. Not much science in this article. “Strange chemicals”? Is that your own technical term for them, or is that just part of your fear mongering propaganda? “Eww, I don’t know what that is, so I’m going to say it’s bad.” Uh huh. Smell what you’re shoveling.

  13. Anna Y Moss

    You have to add the beef lol

  14. Fear-mongering propaganda?? Ha! Though it is not detailed or thorough, there is nothing misleading about this article and it is not for a political purpose, it is purely to help others, to educate, to wake up complacent eaters of dangerously unhealthy food. The packet of crap is not food – anyone can see that; it’s poison. Well done bringing it to people’s attention. If anyone took the time to look up all the ingredients, they would find related research which is informative and important. We shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and say “well I’m real healthy and I haven’t got cancer [yet], so there can’t be anything wrong with it.” This sort of food is making SOME people very ill and killing us and these sick folk take up so many health resources. And we can take steps to avoid it. It’s not our fault because we are being fed lies and fed these diseaes-giving foods. BUT if we are made aware that we need to make more sensible food choices and we are enlightened by articles like this, and still choose to indulge in this quick fix crap, well… let’s hope there are enough of us to make a difference by stopping buying it.

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