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You Ask, I Answer: "50 Worst Foods" List

Posted Jan 23 2009 3:45pm
What do you think about this list of 50 foods with almost zero nutritional value linked to on Serious Eats' Twitter page?

-- Kristin (last name withheld)
(Location withheld)


I have many, many problems with it.

Not only does it not present particularly new information, it is also poorly written and makes a significant number of inaccurate statements and sweeping generalizations.

For example:

" Potato Chips are fried and packed with tons of preservatives to keep them fresh for months."

Not quite. Many potato chips are made up of simply potatoes, oil, and salt (salt being the preservative!).

Therefore, it is absolutely inaccurate to say they are packed with "tons" of preservatives.

Additionally, while potato chips do not offer as much nutrition as a baked potato with its skin on, your typical serving does contain as much potassium as a medium banana.

This list also claims that pasta has "zero nutritional value".

Not so! Non-whole grain pasta may not be very high in fiber, but it still contains protein as well as some B vitamins and iron (as a result of enrichment.)

It is ridiculous to claim that a food with that sort of nutritional profile has "almost zero" nutritional value.

Then there's this odd inclusion:

" Fried seafood like shrimp, clams, and lobster contain high trans fat. They also contain mercury and possibly parasites."

Awkward phrasing aside, this is plain wrong.

Trans fat is only an issue if those foods are fried in an oil high in trans fats. As far as mercury is concerned, it is the large predatory fish that are a concern, not bottom-of-the-sea dwellers.

And as far as parasites are concerned -- that may be an issue from a food safety perspective depending on how these foods are eaten (although who eats raw lobster??), but that has nothing to do with the nutritional quality of a food.

How about this vague tidbit:

" Breakfast or cereal bars are low in fat but high in sugar. They offer very little in vitamins, minerals, and fiber."

This greatly varies on the brand. Many cereal bars offer 4 or 5 grams of fiber, little added sugar, and a handful of vitamins and minerals.

Another example that left me scratching my head:

" Oreo Cookies contain about 60% of fat and extremely high in Tran's [sic] fat. The filling packs on an additional 160 calories per cookie."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

First of all, a single Oreo cookie contains 53 calories. The "Double Stuf" variety adds up to 70 calories per cookie. Hence, this notion that the filling alone contains 160 calories is absolutely off-base.

It is also inaccurate to claim that Oreos are "extremely high in trans fats."

Although partially hydrogenated oil is included on the ingredient list, the food label lists 0 grams per serving. This means that, at most, Oreos contain 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving (for all we know, it could be 0.09 grams).

I do not consider that to be "extremely high."

I could go on and on. Alas, I can't fathom why a website like Serious Eats would find that list worthy of linking to.
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