Three Dirty Little Secrets

For today’s That’s Not Food, I share with you three things, some or all of which you may know, but forgive me, as my informal poll shows they are not common knowledge.

1. The food ingredient called “cellulose” is generally another word for sawdust. Often found in pre-grated cheeses (especially the parmesan), and sometimes listed as an “anti-caking agent” it helps keep your powdery foods fluffy and not chunky. Incidentally, it is also an easy way to put less cheese, and more wood, in your little green can, which means more $$$ for them.

Usually, freshly-grated deli cheeses, like those at Trader Joes, don’t try to get away with this. And of course, you can always grate it yourself, it’s yummier and takes 15 seconds or something if you can spare it. (I, for one, cannot.)

Cellulose is the fiber that makes up the cell walls of most plants, it is indigestible to humans but is good for the digestive tract. However, the plants generally used for commercial cellulose are not food plants, but plain old wood. Sorry, not food.

2. The new hot trend in cutting corners in the commercial food industry is inefficiency. I’m talking now of brown sugar. If you buy a bag of C&H brown sugar, the ingredients are listed: “Brown sugar.” If you buy a bag of store-brand brown sugar, say, at Target, the ingredients listed will be: “Sugar, molasses.” “Who cares?” You say. You should.

You may know that white sugar is simply brown sugar with the molasses removed. Molasses being all the vitamins, minerals (especially iron) and distinctive flavor found in natural cane juice. The process of making white sugar white requires a great deal of refinement involving several (not food) chemicals.

The twisted chain of agribusiness has now made it cheaper to add molasses back into white sugar rather than just leave the brown sugar alone. The texture and even taste is slightly different and inferior to the real stuff–go Pepsi Challenge it yourself. But the tasteless part is the fact that most of the benefits of brown sugar–a less refined, un-chemically processed food, are now moot. It’s brown sugar made white and then made brown again.

White sugar deserves it’s own post, new articles are saying that if it was proposed as a new food now, it wouldn’t pass the FDA (and that’s a low standard) because of it’s direct contribution to diabetes. That is completely speculative and I don’t believe it, but that doesn’t keep me from perpetuating the information.

Natural substances mega-refined by unnatural chemicals to be made to look like natural substances: not food.

3. On the same topic as sugar, let’s all be aware that the term “honey” in commercially-produced food generally means high-fructose corn syrup. This is becase honey is expensive, and high-fructose corn syrup flows in vast rivers in the midwest. Raw honey can help allergies, is a powerful anti-microbial, acts as a preservative and antiseptic on wounds, and acts as a fabulous cough syrup, among other things. High-fructose corn syrup is a super-mega refined derivative of corn that nature never intended humans to guzzle down by the barrel and brings us snowballing diabetes, obesity and organ damage. Just start checking your “Honey Whole Wheat Bread” is all I’m saying. Read enough labels, it’s enough to get you to start grinding and baking. (And, as a sidenote, wheat starts losing it’s nutritional value within days of being ground–how long has that bread been on the shelf?)

And don’t get me started on the “honey sauce” packets the restaurant industry is trying to pass off these days. You can guess the main ingredient, and it’s not honey.

Forgive my weekly angry rants–I love food, but am falling out of love with the commercial food industry. Darnit! Sawdust, processing chemicals, and mega-refined mutations of nature–NOT FOOD!

2 replies
  1. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    thanks for the learning opportunity… I knew most of your sugar info… but not the green can of cheese info… so tired of reading labels when I go shopping.. half of shopping time is reading labels these days… more informed yes.. that is a good thing… but why must me HAVE to read labels just to eat better.. grr.
    thanks for your work in getting the info to us each week.

  2. Michele
    Michele says:

    I love sawdust. It’s delicious. Wait, no . . . I must be confused by the copious amounts of corn syrup being snuck into my food – no more snacks on the plane for me.


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