Easter Hunting Healthier Treats

Happy Easter Day! The coming of Easter Day on the 27th March this year allows Christians far and abroad to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from his crucifixion which was honoured and remembered by on Good Friday. [1] But what goes on in the commercial side of this holiday? From bright coloured eggs and marshmallow chicks to a rich supply of sweet and flavourful jelly beans, we all know that these treats should be consumed in moderation but why should we do so?

The signature ‘Milk Chocolate’

Let us first talk about Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate before moving on to the iconic ‘Cadbury Creme Eggs‘. Dark Chocolate differs from Milk chocolate in 3 factors, the Cocoa content, Milk solids added and Sugar. Cocoa solids are significantly important in the health benefits of dark chocolate due to the presence of various flavonols and anti-oxidants polyphenols. These compounds combine to help combat inflammation, enhance heart health (by relieving blood pressure) and can even protect against cellular and DNA damages. Theobromine a compound similar to caffeine found in chocolate, can help improve mental alertness as well. [2]

Milk chocolate have lesser cocoa solids than dark chocolate (less than 50% usually) and thus have lesser nutritive properties (They are removed due to the bitter taste of the flavonols in cocoa). In addition, milk chocolate contains milk solids that actually inhibits the anti-oxidants in cocoa. [3] The chocolate itself usually contains more sugar than dark chocolate so as to increase its sweetness, what it makes up in taste, deteriorates consumer’s health as the liver, pancreas and body are taxed as discussed from this article.

Cadbury’s Creme Eggs

20160326_161903

Ingredients: Sugar, Milk, Glucose syrup, Cocoa butter, Invert sugar syrup, dried whey (from milk), Cocoa mass, Vegetable fats (palm), Emulsifiers (E442), dried egg white, Flavourings, Colourings (Paprika Extract)

 

I am not going to lie, these chocolates egg were pretty tempting (the wrappings especially) and there holds a turf war on the grocery aisle between Cadbury, Mars, Hersheys and Lindt & Sprungli over who possesses the best milk chocolate.

In the ingredients listed above, we can see that sugar, milk and glucose syrup holds the top 3 positions which determines their dominance in the product [4], with cocoa butter and cocoa mass falling short behind. Clearly, this was meant to be a treat and not intended for nutrition whatsoever and this means that most of the creme egg’s harm lies in the large proportion of sugar, a sugar egg.

Artificial Colourings

A peep
Dark Chocolate Peeps

Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa butter, Milk fat, Soy lecithin, Artificial Flavour), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Cocoa Processed (with Alkali), Gelatin

Ingredients containing less than 0.5%: Whey (Milk), Invertase, Natural & Artificial Flavouring, Soy Lecithin, Yellow 5 (Tartrazine), Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)

The focus of this section would be more towards the bright coloured marshmallow peeps underneath the chocolate coating, which shares the same story as the creme eggs in prioritising sugar above cocoa. Side note: the partially hydrogenated palm oil here leads to some trans fat present in this product due to the hydrogenation technique to improve shelf stability or taste [5].

What is Yellow 5 or Tartrazine? Tartrazine is an azobenzene artificial dye that has two hydrocarbon groups bonded together by two nitrogen atoms, consisting of sodium, sulfur and oxygen in its structure. It is produced as a by-product of processing petroleum and is used in the food industry for its affordability and stability [6].

There seems to be some level of allergenic activity concerning tartrazine as indicated in a study done on 45 rats through a period of 10 months, with the rats experiencing an increased number of cells from the immune system (eosinophils and lymphocytes) in the stomach area [7]. In addition, some evidence may also suggest that the artificial dye can lead to hyperactivity in children [8].  For a list of other vibrant dyes (Red 3, Blue 1, Green 3 etc.)  used in peeps and mini eggs, do give this link a read.

Dr Oz’s Article on Yellow 5: Click Here

Natural and Artificial Flavours

The artificial flavour appeared twice on the ingredients list for dark chocolate covered peep, with one at the less than 0.5%. Both the artificial and natural flavours were not specified (most likely due to formulations secrecy), so let us focus on what these flavours are and is natural necessarily better than natural?

Flavor Science: What’s really in a Pumpkin Spice Latte by SciShow

In simpler terms, a natural flavour is any compound that is extracted from natural sources (plants and animals etc.) which serve as a flavouring function rather than nutritive in foods. Artificial flavours are similar in their chemical structure to the compound extracted naturally, but are synthesised instead [9].

Fitting the definition above, both natural and artificial flavours in food products are tested and regulated with a safe amount to be consumed. While many artificial flavours are derived from petroleum or crude oil, natural flavours can also be derived from disgusting origins such as a beaver’s anal gland (Castoreum) [10] or Vanillin from cow dung. On an environmental standpoint however, artificial flavours are more beneficial and extracting vanillin from cow dung can serve as a way to make better use of dung.

Concluding Message

While Easter Day may be a great way to enjoy iconic easter treats and share these delights with friends and families, do understand that these are really meant to be treats. Eating some fibrous vegetables can be a great way to ease sugar’s tax on your body and hopefully this article would help to increase your awareness and concerns behind these amazing easter products.

On a final note, do consider taking dark chocolates as an alternative to the milk chocolate treats available. The rich anti-oxidants and nutritive properties of cocoa are available, the lesser milk and sugar the product has. This can be gauge by how bitter or sweet the chocolate is, the former indicating the presence of its flavonoids while the latter indicating the adulteration to the chocolate product

For alternative dyes rather than the artificial ones in staining eggs, do check out Organic Valley’s article or Naturally Savvy’s.

Chemistry of Creme Eggs – Periodic Table of Videos

#4

 

References

1. History. n.d. History Of Easter [online]. Available from: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-easter [Accessed 27/3/2016].

2. Mercola. 2014. Scientists Probe Dark Chocolate’s Health Secrets [online]. Available from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/03/31/dark-chocolate-health-benefits.aspx [Accessed 27/3/2016].

3. Reagents of the University of Michigan. 2016. Health Foods Pyramid™ [online]. Available from: http://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.html [Accessed 27/3/2016].

4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2013. Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (6. Ingredients List) [online]. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064880.htm [Accessed 27/3/2016].

5. BanTransFat. 2006. About Transfat [online]. Available from: http://www.bantransfats.com/abouttransfat.html [Accessed 27/3/2016].

6. Mark. 2012. Tartrazine [online]. Available from: http://foodconstrued.com/2012/09/tartrazine/#What_is_an_azo_dye [Accessed 27/3/2016].

7. Assis RV, Bertges LC, Moutinho IL. 2007. Prolonged used of the food dye tartrazine (FD&C yellow no 5) and its effect on the gastric mucosa of Wistar rats [online]. Feb 2007, 67(1), 141 – 5. Available from: PubMed [Accessed 27/3/2016]

8. McCann. D., Barett. A., Cooper. A., Crumpler.D., Dalen. L., Grimshaw. K., Kitchin E., Lok. K., Porteous. L., Sonuga-Barke. E., Warner. O.J., Stevenson J. 2007. Food addictives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial [online]. Nov 2007. Vol 370. No. 9598. p1560 – 1567. Available from: The Lancet. [Accessed 27/3/2016].

9. ScientificAmerican. 2002. What is the difference between artificial and natural flavours? [online]. Available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-difference-be-2002-07-29/ [Accessed 27/3/2016].

10. Food Babe. 2010. Food Babe TV: Do you eat Beaver Butt? [online]. Available from: http://foodbabe.com/2013/09/09/food-babe-tv-do-you-eat-beaver-butt/ [Accessed 27/3/2016].

 

 

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AkinToMuafapa

A reused blog to record any information or lessons via self-learning.

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