Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Little did I know when I started eating low GI a few months ago that I would end up with Gluten Free, Sugarless Chocolate in my paws. It wasn't an expected turning for me. This is not the sort of food product that I would have even noticed a few short months ago. And possibly I know why.

I'm always rather concerned when my food contains warnings. Particularly if they need to warn that Excess Consumption may have a Laxative Effect. Great. How much is Excess? Will one block cause me to run to the loo? One line? Half a block? Eight kilos of it? How much? This warning is because the first ingredient I now notice (more than cocoa butter which comes second in the Lemon White Chocolate) is maltitol. Maltitol is an artificial sweetener, which is poorly absorbed (thus the diarrhoea warnings), and so even though it has a moderate GI (69 in my book, but I see different and lower values on the web), it has little effect on blood sugar levels. Ah, wiki tells me that the United States classes maltitol in the Generally Recognised as Safe club, and that the potential laxative effect may occur if more than 100 gm/day is consumed. Whew, I've never got near that.

The thing that most concerns me about maltitol without googling it for hours is that it is made from corn. I haven't read all of Michael Pollan's work, but I have read part of the corn section in The Omnivore's Dilemma. He talks about the dangers of monocultures in agriculture, and how this forces us into heavier reliance on fossil fuels and chemicals to negate natural pests. He also tells us that the carbon in corn is naturally different so that scientists can test meals to see how much of the carbon came from corn (I can't remember the intricacies of how), and if you pulverise a hamburger from a fast food "restaurant" then I think it was something like 70% of the carbon came from corn! Although this article on the Scientific American site, gives a figure of up to 93%! All rather frightening. 

This first low GI chocolate experience one wasn't too bad, I think. I don't remember it being awful at any stretch (I bought this a month or two ago, near the start of the blog, and I didn't realise that I would use it here). I don't remember it very well actually, I may have to try it again to be sure. 
Why, why can't I turn this around?

I had high hopes for this next one. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I do have an underlying optimistic streak after all? The girl in the chemist (yes, that is where this sort of treat lurks, in the chemist, that should have been warning) gushed about how nice this particular chocolate was when I bought it, she said the staff had all tried it and thought it was really nice. 

Sadly, it wasn't Really Nice. In fact it wasn't even nice. It was Awful. The artificial lemon smell was really quite overpowering and smelt like they may actually manufacture this in the Shower Power factory. That fake lemon smell is ok, if you want to clean the bathroom, but if you want to eat a yummy chocolate, well, it's not what you're looking for. Why is it only when I get it home and open the packet, I see the Artificial Vanilla and Lemon Flavours padding out the ingredient list?

The chocolate itself I found soapy with a grainy texture. It was Awful.

I've just noticed a warning on the back of the pack, that it isn't recommended for kids under 3 years of age. You know, if they can't eat it, then I don't want to either. Although that doesn't apply to everything of course. They can't eat whole nuts because they might choke on them, but at least they aren't considered toxic. 

Oh great and I just noticed it was expired (08 2010). Urgh. I can't imagine that explains my experience, but it's still annoying. And should have been another clue.

I surely must be an optimist, as on a recent trip to Bathurst, I was caught short without adequate supplies of antihistamines and panadol, so as I fronted up to the counter at the chemist (oh dear God I'm in there again) I noticed this little packet. Now I'm not a great fan of Darrel Lea chocolate as a rule. They do make a Chocolate Caramel Snow Bar that I liked as a youngster, but I generally don't buy any of their stuff from year to year. So, I'm not quite sure why I bought it, but I did. 

To be fair, it had quite a reasonable snap when I broke a piece off. It looked ok. But it wasn't good in the mouth. It almost tasted like compound chocolate with a nasty edge to it, so much so that it was a bit of a struggle to finish even this modest 50gm bar. But finish it I did, although it did take a couple of days. 


  1. I love this post because it gives me a chance to have a little rant. I'm with the health authorities on the food pyramid and low GI and more vegies and fibre and so forth, but when it comes to artificialising foods (I made that word up, but it's the right one)to make the food fit the guidelines I'm not having a bar of it. Years ago I learned to not like sugar in my tea rather than have artifical sweeteners full of who knows what. I have one miserable tbsp of real Greek yoghurt on my muesli rather than a cup full of low fat stuff full of stabilisers and whatnot. I would rather have a paltry 10grams of real French Camembert twice a year than a wheelbarrowful of low fat Cheddar every week.
    And when it comes to chocolate, I want only the very best most expensive Belgian chocolate I can find, and so I eat it maybe three times a year if I'm lucky. And when it comes to fine French cognac, I have a glass of it at Xmas, New Year and my birthday in a Waterford crystal brandy balloon.
    For me these scrumptious things are *treats*, and I reckon a healthy diet includes some of them every now and again. The problem with the modern diet is that people give themselves and their children treats almost daily.
    So my advice, Louise, is not to struggle to eat that modest 50g bar. Go and buy some truly lovely chocolate instead, and make a conscious decision about which occasion in your life deserves to be celebrated with it. Smile when you see it in the pantry, you know its time will come. You will enjoy it all the more for the anticipation, the ceremony and the sweet joy of eating it!

  2. Rant away Lisa. I do love a good rant, and I don't like artificialising foods either, and have very similar issues to you about this sort of thing. I eat butter not margarine, and I definitely prefer to eat proper foods like cheese or chocolate, cognac not so much.... It makes much more intuitive sense to me to eat real foods, not foods predominantly constructed from artificial ingredients. I thought about whether or not I should include processed stuff like this on this blog, as it's not really my main aim. I decided I would include it, as it's out there, it's being marketed as low GI, and so it's fair game. I wasn't expecting greatness. I wasn't expecting to like them, I was not unreasonably apprehensive. And I definitely won't be buying two of these products ever again. I was just curious about them, and you know what curiosity did to that poor old cat.

  3. Oh good, that's excellent...I was worried that you might never eat good choccy again!

  4. Agree totally with both of you! Bring back real food!! Before I left Australia my children's school tuckshop converted all their recipes to low fat and sugar substitutes. So you can still buy a cupcake every day, but it's OK beause it doesn't have any real sugar in it. Or real butter.
    Why are we teaching our kids to eat sweet fake foods every day instead of teaching them the valus of real but occasional treats? Why??

    OK, that's off my chest now and I know I'm ranting to the converted, but thanks for bringing up a great topic.

  5. Ranting amongst the converted is still fun Fiona. I definitely agree about the messages that we are sending our kids. Teaching them to eat awful, unnatural foods instead of the much tastier, simpler natural foods that are also so much healthier for us to eat. It's just insane. My son has a natural affinity for real butter- and mangoes. He does like to eat horrid processed food as well, but I hope it's reasonably balanced for him.