Behemoth food processor Sara Lee announced yesterday that it will cease using high fructose corn syrup in its Soft & Smooth and 100 percent Whole Wheat bread lines. The reason – consumers, especially moms, have asked the company to make this change. But will this change make the bread any healthier?
Most dietitians and health professionals agree that HFCS and sugar are equally bad in the amounts being consumed by the average American today. There are a few studies showing that excess fructose may lead to health problems. But both sugar and HFCS contain fructose in similar amounts. Agave nectar is almost all fructose, yet enjoys a health halo.
So the issue here, for the most part, is not scientific, rather market based. Many parents don’t buy products with HFCS because of what they symbolize – highly processed junk food. Sara Lee, like many other food manufacturers in the past few years, is wise to disentangle itself from such a negative ingredient.
That said, there are a lot of REAL improvements Sara Lee can make to improve the nutritional value of their breads. Let’s take a look at the newly formulated Sara Lee Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White Bread…
What you need to know:
1. Sugars. The serving size of 2 slices is 150 calories. With it comes 4 grams of sugar (1 teaspoon). In this version they are from table sugar. In the previous version of the product they came from HFCS. Why sugar in bread? Dump it all together.
2. Fiber. The fiber count is important; after all the company claims the bread is an Excellent source of whole grain (This product contains 35% of its grain as whole grain and provides 10 g of whole grain in a 2 slice serving. USDA recommends consuming 48 g of whole grain every day). Unfortunately this only translates to 3 grams of fiber (12% of the DV). On the bright side, it is 50% more fiber than the product had in its previous incarnation.
3. More Whole Wheat. Here’s the full ingredient list:
Enriched Bleach Flour [Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, Whole Grain [Whole Wheat Flour, Brown Rice Flour (Rice Flour, Rice Bran Including Germ)], Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Cellulose, Contains 2% or Less of Each of Following: Calcium Sulfate, Soybean Oil, Salt, Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of the Following: Mono- and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Peroxide, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Enzymes), Guar Gum, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Distilled Vinegar, Butter (Cream, Salt), Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate and/or Calcium Carbonate), Corn Starch, Natural Flavor, Vitamin D3, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour.
It tells the real story – whole grain is the THIRD ingredient, only after the processed, fiber poor “enriched flour” which makes up most of the product.
Sara Lee should avoid confusing their loyal consumers by naming what is basically a white bread as whole wheat (Sara Lee Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White Bread).
What to do at the supermarket:
When choosing bread, go for those marked as 100% Whole Wheat. You’ll get a better deal on the fiber. Sugar should be zero or close to it. And the shorter the ingredient list, the better.