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The Demise of the Twinkie

By Gary F. Zeolla 

Hostess® is going out of business due to labor disputes with its baker's union. Since this is fitness Web site, I won't go into the issue of labor unions and the problem of their practices driving a business out of business. But I will say that the loss of 18,500 jobs is tragic. But what is not tragic is the loss of snack foods like Twinkies®.

Now I know many are decrying the demise of the Twinkie and the other assorted snack foods made by the Hostess Company. When the company announced it was liquidating, the news was all over the TV, radio, and internet. And it seemed that most everyone mentioning about it was sad for the loss of these snack foods. But I say, good riddance.

It is possible that Hostess will sell its brands to other companies, so Twinkies and the other snack foods made by Hostess may not be disappearing for good. And even if these exact snack foods are not reproduced, there are many other similar items on grocery store shelves. So it would be good to look at exactly what is in such snack foods and why they are so unhealthy. This article will use Twinkies as an example. But most of what is said would apply to most other pre-packaged, bakery-type snack foods as well.

 

Nutrition Facts

 

The first thing to look at is the "Nutrition Facts" of one Twinkie: 

Nutrition Facts:
Calories – 150
Calories from fat – 41
Total Fat  – 4.5g  – 7%
Sat. Fat  – 2.5g  – 13%
Trans Fat  – 0g
Cholesterol  – 20mg  – 7%
Sodium  – 220mg – 9%
Total Carbs. – 27g  – 9%
Dietary Fiber  – 0g  – 0%
Sugars  – 19g
Protein  – 1g
Calcium  – 20mg 

Now 150 calories does not sound like a lot. But the problem is, most people do not stop with just one. Twinkies were often sold in packages of two, so most people probably ate both. So that's 300 calories. Still not an earth-shaking amount, but significant.

But 41 calories of fat, or 27% of the total calories is significant, especially since these fat grams are unhealthy forms of fat. As can been seen, of the 4.5g of fat, 2.5 are saturated. This is the type of fat that will clog arteries. And just one Twinkie contains 13% of all of the saturated fat a person should eat for an entire day. So eat two Twinkies, and that's over a quarter of your daily limit.

Now the Nutrition Facts says there are 0 grams of Trans fat. But this is a misnomer, as the food contains hydrogenated oil, as will be discussed shortly. And hydrogenated oil always means Trans fat. But a loophole in the labeling requirement is that if a food contains less than half a gram of Trans fat, it can be listed as zero on the label. So a food can contain as much as 0.49 g and it still be listed as 0. And I suspect that is what is happening here. There is some Trans fat, but less than 0.5 grams. This is significant as any amount of Trans fat is unhealthy.

20mg of cholesterol and 220 mg of sodium are not that significant, but again, if you eat more than one, then these numbers will add up. As can the number of sugar grams. 19 grams is rather significant by itself. And eat two, and that's almost 40 grams. That's a lot of nutritionally worthless sugar.

But what is most significant is what is missing. Just one gram of protein, a measly 20 mg of calcium, and zero grams of fiber, and not enough of any other nutrients to even list them. And that is the biggest problems with foods like Twinkies. They contribute calories, bad fats, and sugar to the diet without providing any nutritional value. So what you end up with is people who eat too many calories but who are deficient in many nutrients.

 

Ingredients

Just what is in a Twinkie? The following are the ingredients:

 Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable and/or animal shortening – containing one or more of partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed and canola oil, and beef fat, dextrose, whole eggs, modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, dextrin, calcium caseinate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, calcium sulphate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, yellow No. 5, red #40.

 Enriched wheat flour is the first ingredient. Enriched wheat flour is another name for refined white flour. It is devoid of any nutritional value beyond calories. The "enrichment" process does add back some nutrients, but there are many more nutrients in whole wheat flour that are not replaced in the enrichment process. I discuss this difference in detail in my book God-given Foods Eating Plan, so I won't go into details here.

But I will say is what white flour does is spike the blood sugar. And this spike in blood sugar is followed by a crash of blood sugar. This spiking and crashing would especially be a problem with a food like Twinkies because of them being so "fluffy." That enables them to be digested very quickly. This is why they are not very filling for very long. An hour or two after eating such a snack food, the person most likely will be hungry again and reaching for another one. And this is the biggest problem with such snacks foods. They encourage overeating.

Next in the ingredients list is sugar and corn syrup. Then later is high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup solids. These are just different forms of sugar. And if you were to add up all of these forms of sugar, they would probably weigh more than the flour and thus sugar would be the first ingredient.

For those who don't know, items are listed in an ingredients list in order of decreasing weight in the food. But by using four different forms of sugar rather than just one, then it makes it appear like flour is the most predominate ingredient. But looking back at the Nutrition Facts, it can be seen there are 27 grams of total carbs but 19 grams of sugar. So there is actually more sugar than other carbs in the food.

All four of these forms of sugar are "empty calories" meaning they provide calories but no other nutritional value. And that is why such snack foods are nutritionally worthless.

Another problem is that all of these sugars are about 50% fructose. Fructose is the type of sugar that is most likely to end up stored as body fat. I discuss this in detail in my Eating Plan book, so I won't pursue it here. But suffice it to say, a diet high in this kind of sugar will very likely lead to a gain in body fat.

                The next ingredient is vegetable and/or animal shortening. This is where the saturated fat and Trans fat comes from. As can be seen, the food contains "one or more" of a variety of "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oils. That is why I said there must be some Trans fat. The beef fat and whole eggs contribute the saturated fat. The whole eggs also contribute the cholesterol. All of this leads to the accumulation of plague on arterial walls.

                Next worth noting is the long list of chemicals: sodium acid pyrophosphate, soda, monocalcium phosphate), mono and diglycerides, polysorbate 60, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium sulphate, artificial flavors, caramel color, yellow No. 5, red #40.

                This is par for the course of most any pre-packaged food, but especially for snack foods. Now is this a problem? All of these chemicals are FDA approved. But as I argue in my Eating Plan book, none of them are "natural." Are bodies simply were not made to be fueled by such artificial ingredients. And they can cause problems for people who are sensitive to them, such as myself. Many people have seen health problems disappear by eliminating all such artificial ingredients from their diets.

 

Corruption of Taste Buds

 

                Probably the biggest problem with eating pre-packaged snack foods is how they corrupt the taste buds. By this I mean that eating such foods on a regular basis will alter one's taste perception. This is due to the mixture of fat and sugar and the presence of the artificial ingredients. As a result, natural, wholesome foods like plain vegetables don't taste "right" anymore. This is why so many people don't eat vegetables claiming they don't like them.

                However, by the same token, it you go a long time without eating pre-packaged snack foods and stick to eating wholesome, natural foods, you will lose your taste for processed "junk" foods. I know this is the case. I cannot even remember the last time I ate a Twinkie or anything like it. As such, I have no cravings for such foods. But I find whole, natural foods to be very satisfying.

                That is why my eating plan provides my body with all the nutrients that it needs. And why my blood lipid levels, blood sugar, blood pressure, and bodyweight are just fine, even though I am in my 50s.  But many who are my age suffer from high cholesterol or triglycerides levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. And the consumption of pre-packaged snack foods is a contributing factor in such problems.

 

Conclusion

 

                Take the demise of Twinkies and other Hostess snack foods as a chance to wean yourself off of such processed snack foods altogether. By doing so, you will probably see an improvement in your health, an improvement in exercise performance, and a loss of body fat. And as your taste buds adjust, you will probably find you actually like vegetables and other natural foods. And your long term health will also benefit as a result.

                For help and incentive in switching from a processed foods diet to a natural, wholesome eating plan, see my God-Given Foods Eating Plan book.

 

The Demise of the Twinkie Copyright © 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Disclaimers: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet, exercise, or health improvement program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

The above article was posted on this site November 17, 2012.
It originally appeared in the free email newsletter FitTips for One and All.

Nutrition
Nutrition: Specific Foods and Food Ingredients

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