Thinking Less Processed

By Dr. Katy Roberts, EdD, MPH, MCHES

People always ask me what type of diet I follow. It’s really quite simple, it’s a diet that is less processed. So any food made up of ingredients that are not made from nature, I avoid.

Since it’s the holiday season and there’s a lot of chocolate going around, let’s use the example of a Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss.  The ingredients are: sugar, milk, chocolate, cocoa butter, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanillin, artificial flavor. Sugar is the first ingredient, so that’s what the product is mostly made up of. And sugar is highly processed. Also, you’ll notice vanillin. This is not vanilla, from vanilla beans, but a highly processed synthetic (fake) vanilla, which is made from guaiacol or lignin, a petrochemical precursor and byproduct of the pulp and paper industry1. Not something that you want to eat. Then, there is soy lecithin, which isn’t available at your local farm since it’s not natural; chemical solvents are used to extract it from soybeans. Lastly, artificial flavor – do I need to say more?

Let’s compare these ingredients to those of a more natural chocolate that you can buy or even prepare at home: cacao butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, vanilla bean. None of these ingredients are highly processed. Yes, it’s going to spoil quicker and yes, it might be more expensive if you buy it with organic ingredients. But, yes, it is better for you! And yes, it’s better for the environment! There is truly no comparison.

If you’re looking for a chocolate that’s not highly processed, check out this brand in our Ironwill Health Approved section

Reference1. Kumar, R., Sharma, P.K., Mishra, P.S. (2012). A review of the vanillin derivatives showing various biological activities. International Journal of PharmTech Research, 4(1), 266-279.