Which is Healthier – Salmon or Spam?

Which is healthier - Spam or salmon?

Apparently, 3 out of 10 people guessed Spam. Before you scoff, know that you could have been one of those 3 people if, instead of seeing the package, you would have only been allowed to view the nutrition facts panel.

In an interesting study conducted at the University of Houston, 300 college students were shown sets of 2 nutrition labels and had to specify which of the two products in each set was healthier. When shown the nutrition labels of Coke vs. Orange Juice, 9 in 10 made the correct choice. Same for carrots vs. potato chips.

When comparing Raisin Bran to Frosted Flakes, over half the respondents thought that sugary Frosted Flakes were healthier! The reason for the mistakes is the multiple data points a consumer is required to process in order to assess the nutrition of one product relative to another. Frosted Flakes is lower in calories compared to Raisin Bran, but that’s because the serving size is much smaller (half by weight). Raisin bran has more sugar, but most of the sugar in Raisin Bran is from raisins, not added sugar.

The study was conducted by Dr. Temple Northup, an Assistant Professor at the School of Communication, University of Houston, whose goal is to “further discussion about the way food is marketed to consumers and how this may be contributing to their consumption of unhealthy foods.”

In another part of the study, Northup shows how consumers are “primed” by key words that appear on packaging: Organic, All Natural, and Whole Grain, for example. Students were divided into 2 groups and randomly shown a product package. In group A, the product had a descriptor that the manufacturer selected. In group B, Northup Photoshopped the descriptor out. In the applesauce example below, 72.5% considered it healthy when shown the version labeled “organic”, compared to 59.5% when “organic” was omitted.

Apple sauce - 2 versions

image: Temple Northup

What can we take away from this study? Never, ever rely on health claims and buzzwords on the front of a packaged product. Learn to read ingredient lists and nutrition labels, so you’ll be able to make the right decision. If you need help, the Fooducate app can analyze over 200,000 foods for you. Download the Fooducate app for free! (iPhone, Android)

  • Stardust

    This may seem kind of OCD, but at the end of the article you used an extra comma; “If you need, help,”; Grammar mistakes really irritate me lol!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Fixed, thanks! Our editor is on vacation.

      • Malerie

        I hope the editor is having a great vacation!!

    • Rainbow

      There were a TON in this article. :(

      • AdoptiveMum2Seven

        It seems to me as though the editor has been on vacation a long, long time…

        • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

          Thanks for your CONSTRUCTIVE criticism :-)

      • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

        Thanks for your CONSTRUCTIVE criticism!

  • RunnerandNommer

    It’s so annoying how businesses try to maximize their profits by misleading people. One time my dad asked if I thought a Popsicle was healthy. When I responded with no, he claimed that the low calories would prove otherwise. For me personally, something poses a problem when it doesn’t have calories that it should. Eat less processed food and don’t be afraid of the calories.

    • Nini

      Thanks for all the good 411compared to the errors and the information it’s educational. We all win.

  • DeansCabbage

    All I can do is LOL when I see grammar police post comments about grammatical errors. It’s a free app, not a school textbook. For the sake of the other humans on this planet, please lighten up. : )

    • Stardust

      Well, I’m glad I could give you a laugh…..

    • pam

      Thank you! Agree

  • Dmb159

    So which one is better?!? Spam or salmon!?!?

    • Audrey

      Is this a joke?

      • Dmb159

        No joke but it’d be nice to see the labels because that was the headline that got me to read the article!!

        • lauren

          I agree. They barely mentioned it. Clearly fooducate doesnt understand how to use an appropriate title.

  • tennysmom

    O…m…g…who cares if the grammar isn’t perfect! What is wrong with you people?! I totally agree with deanscabbage! Just read the damn article!!!

  • joie77

    Mislabeling on purpose really irritates me. I need to avoid certain things for the health of my family and manufacturers are lying to me!

    • Randee23

      Oh for Pete’s sake, get OVER it! If you can’t get past mistakes go read the dictionary!

      • Audrey

        This is irrelevant to the comment, he was referring to front of package mislabeling, not grammatical errors.

  • missesue 1128

    So, which is healthier? Spam or salmon?

    • CamarilloLady

      My guess is Salmon

  • FoodJunky

    Depends on if the salmon is processes or not, if it’s not, it’s much healthier

  • Kathleen

    Spam or Salmon ?

  • mfp142

    I just fell for a trick too! “No Added Sugar” mandarin oranges from Great Value/Walmart has sucralose! Aaargh! I usually catch that one!