Low Quality Ingredients?

I am one of those nerdy people who fill out the comment cards at Whole Foods. Today, I had a craving for a Kombucha, so I stopped in. As I left, I realized that they’d commented on one of my questions.

I’d asked why they stopped selling Chocolate vitamuffins. They used to sell them in the bakery section in individually wrapped packages. It was nice because it was bigger than the one that you’d get in the freezer section, but yet, you didn’t have to buy as many. (The freezer ones have 4 to a pack.)

Their response was that they weren’t allowed to sell them anymore due to low-quality ingredients. I found this kind of odd. I mean, I know they are processed and not the best thing for you, but WF has plenty of muffins and cookies and stuff. Surely they can’t be that much worse, can they? I decided to go on Vitilicious.com and find out.

I was specifically asking about the deep chocolate muffins and here’s what they are made out of:

Water, whole wheat flour, organic evaporated cane juice, egg whites, chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin added as an emulsifier and vanilla), cocoa (processed with alkali), soy fiber, erythritol, inulin, dried honey, wheat gluten, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, potassium bicarbonate),fruitrim (grapejuice, brown rice syrup), tricalcium phosphate, natural flavor, sea salt, xanthan gum, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid, iron, biotin, zinc. CONTAINS EGG, SOY, WHEAT

The first five ingredients look fine but then there definitely are some scary sounding ones. Wikipedia to the rescue.

Lecithin is regarded as a well-tolerated and non-toxic surfactant. It is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for human consumption with the status “Generally Recognized As Safe.” Lecithin is an integral part of cell membranes, and can be totally metabolized, so it is virtually non-toxic to humans. Other emulsifiers can only be excreted via the kidneys.
Lecithin is used commercially in substances requiring a natural emulsifier and/or lubricant, from pharmaceuticals to protective coverings. For example, lecithin is the emulsifier that keeps cocoa and cocoa butter in a candy bar from separating.
There are studies that show soy-derived lecithin has significant effects on lowering cholesterol and triglyceride, while increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels in the blood [1][2].

Erythritol ((2R,3S)-butane-1,2,3,4-tetraol) is a natural sugar alcohol (a type of sugar substitute) which has been approved for use in the United States[1] and throughout much of the world. It occurs naturally in fruits and fermented foods [2]. At industrial level, it is produced from glucose by fermentation with a yeast, Moniliella pollinis[1]. It is 60–70% as sweet as table sugar yet it is almost non-caloric, does not affect blood sugar, does not cause tooth decay, and is absorbed by the body, therefore unlikely to cause gastric side effects unlike other sugar alcohols. Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling requirements, it has a caloric value of 0.2 calories per gram (95% less than sugar and other carbohydrates), though nutritional labelling varies from country to country—some countries like Japan label it as zero-calorie, while European Union regulations currently label it and all other sugar alcohols at 2.4 kcal/g.

Sodium acid pyrophosphate is a GRAS substance for food use. It is used in canned seafood to maintain color and reduce purge during retorting. It is an acid source for reaction with baking soda to leaven baked goods. In cured meats, it speeds the conversion of sodium nitrite to NO2- by forming the HONO intermediate, and can improve water holding capacity. Disodium pyrophosphate also is found in frozen hash browns and other potato products, where it is used to keep the color of the potatoes from darkening[1]. In leather treatment, it can be used to remove iron stains on hides during processing. It can stabilize hydrogen peroxide solutions against reduction; it can be used with sulfamic acid in some dairy applications for cleaning, especially to remove soapstone. When added to the scalding water, it facilitates removal of hair and scurf in hog slaughter and feathers and scurf in poultry slaughter. In petroleum production, it can be used as a dispersant in oil well drilling muds.

Potassium bicarbonate (also known as potassium hydrogen carbonate or potassium acid carbonate), is a colorless, odorless, slightly basic, salty substance. According to The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), potassium bicarbonate is “generally recognized as safe”.

Tricalcium phosphate is used in powdered spices as an anti-caking agent.
Calcium phosphate is an important raw material for the production of phosphoric acid and fertilizers, for example in the Odda process.
Calcium phosphate is also a raising agent (food additives) E341. Is a mineral salt found in rocks and bones, it is used in cheese products.
It is also used as a nutritional supplement. There is some debate about the different bioavailabilities of the different calcium salts.
It is commonly used in porcelain and dental powders, and medically as an antacid or calcium supplement, although calcium carbonate is more common in this regard.
Another practical application of the compound is its use in gene transfection. The calcium ions can make a cell competent (a euphemism for “rip holes in its membrane”) to allow exogenous genes to enter the cell by diffusion. A heat shock afterwards then invokes the cell to repair itself. This is a quick and easy method for transfection, albeit a rather inefficient one.

In foods, xanthan gum is most often found in salad dressings and sauces. It helps to prevent oil separation by stabilizing the emulsion, although it is not an emulsifier. Xanthan gum also helps suspend solid particles, such as spices. Also used in frozen foods and beverages, xanthan gum helps create the pleasant texture in many ice creams, along with guar gum and locust bean gum. Toothpaste often contains xanthan gum, where it serves as a binder to keep the product uniform. Xanthan gum is also used in gluten-free baking. Since the gluten found in wheat must be omitted, xanthan gum is used to give the dough or batter a “stickiness” that would otherwise be achieved with the gluten. Xanthan gum also helps thicken commercial egg substitutes made from egg whites, to replace the fat and emulsifiers found in yolks. It is also a preferred method of thickening liquids for those with swallowing disorders, since it does not change the color or flavor of foods or beverages.

Above info is all from Wikipedia.

Fine, I guess Whole Foods does have a point. I just like the muffins! But I wonder why these ingredients are necessary. Do they have something to do with the low calorie and fat content? Would using more natural ingredients make the muffins not as “healthy?”

Okay, sorry, this was possibly the nerdiest post ever!


4 responses to “Low Quality Ingredients?

  1. this is really interesting!! I wonder why the sold them before. I mean they have been made with the same ingredients for what I am assuming is a long time now.

  2. homecookedem

    lol, if you’re nerdy, then so am I! 😉 I find this very interesting b/c I used to eat vitamuffins all the time! The only reason I stopped was the cost. I actually buy them in the freezer section at Kroger. They have limited flavors: cran bran, deep chocolate, and corn. My favorite is the triple chocolate chunk. I ordered it online. Oh crap, now I want one! lol

    In my opinion, vitamuffins are a better option than most when it comes to satisfying muffin cravings. To get any healthier, I guess you’d have to bake something up at home…

  3. angieinatlanta

    Oh man, I love VitaMuffins! But I too am trying to make the move to eating natural, whole foods so I guess I need to think before I chomp.

    I am totally one of those nerds, too! Except sometimes I don’t even leave a question, just some sort of random compliment, i.e. “Love the cookies!” I don’t know why I feel the need to do that.

  4. I love this kind of stuff, too! I’ve never had VitaMuffins, but that is interesting about the ingredients. I see them all over blogs so I assume they are “okay,” ya know? I guess if they’re pricey then maybe it’s good that I can’t find them ANYwhere!