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),
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.
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.