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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some ‘skinny’ foods aren’t really that healthy

Joe Marchilena

I learned a new word this week.

It doesn’t really look like a word, though, more like something you might find at the bottom of a chemist’s latest experiment. ...

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I learned a new word this week.

It doesn’t really look like a word, though, more like something you might find at the bottom of a chemist’s latest experiment.

The word is azodicarbonamide, and it’s a chemical compound that can be somewhere between yellow and orange-red in color and has no smell. It’s sometimes used as a food additive, most commonly as a flour bleaching agent.

It’s possible you might have heard of it recently as well, because it’s gaining notoriety thanks to Subway. Not too long ago, the sandwich chain began marketing a new recipe for its bread that no longer included azodicarbonamide.

That helped give azodicarbonamide a new name – the Subway yoga mat chemical. You see azodicarbonamide is also used in making things like yoga mats and sneaker soles.

I know, sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I may never be able to look at a pair of sneakers without thinking how good they’d look with a turkey burger in between.

While Subway made the move to take azodicarbonamide out of its bread, I came across the chemical while reading an article about “skinny” foods that aren’t really healthy on BuzzFeed – you likely know the site from the thousands of quizzes you’ve taken on which rainforest animal you are or which Golden Girl you would be.

Turns out azodicarbonamide is a key ingredient in a brand of bread called Skinny Buns, which claims to be whole wheat and good for you, but has a lot of items in it that are hard to pronounce, like the yoga mat chemical.

Other products in the article include Skinnygirl Margarita mix and Skinnygirl Stevia extract, both of which contain, amongst other things, sodium benzoate, which got both removed from the shelves at Whole Foods stores.

There was also a brand of sweet potato fries called Hi I’m Skinny Sticks, which actually contain more corn and rice – things that won’t help you get skinny – than potato. Skinny Cheese is also a thing, and that thing contains double the ingredients as normal cheese, so really, you’d be better off eating normal cheese.

But my favorite thing mentioned in the article is a product called My Skinny White Basmati Rice, which contains one ingredient – rice. What makes it good for you? Well, it says skinny on the package, doesn’t it?

If you’re going to be eating it, white rice is not a healthier choice than brown or wild rice.

Let this be another example of why it’s important to not trust a food product to be good for you just because it says so on the label. Read the ingredients before you buy something.

If you don’t, then you’ll never know when you’ll be biting into a fresh yoga mat.

Joe Marchilena writes a weekly fitness column for Hampshire Hills. To find out more information about the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program, call 673-7123 or email hhinfo@hampshirehills.com.