Aahhh, the office fridge...a necessary convenience for shared use or unnecessary nuisance for shared abuse? On the plus side, the fridge is a convenient place to store milk or soy milk for your coffee, yogurt and other breakfast items, leftovers, or lunch. On the flip side, the fridge can sometimes look more like a science project and can be viewed by some co-workers as a source of free food and drink.
Since we’re a small team (with very “healthy” appetites!), things don’t last long and we don’t need a fridge czar to issue dramatic ultimatums like “clean out the fridge by Friday at 3pm or everything gets tossed.” However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t periodically check labels...I just can’t help myself! While folks can buy and eat whatever they want (even I have the occasional – OK, maybe more than occasional – donut!), we do like to help folks become more aware of what they’re eating. That is, after all, part of our mission...to promote healthy, good, “real” food. While we typically have pretty healthy stuff in our fridge (sushi-grade salmon anyone?), I have on occasion found something questionable.
In this case, the offending item was peanut butter. Sounds innocuous, right? One of our interns innocently bought a well-known brand, labeled with the word “Simply” on the front label. Believing it was a healthy option (it also promoted “less sodium and 33% less sugar”), she bought it without reading the back label. Of course, being the avid label reader I am, I had to take a closer look. There it was, in black and white... “hydrogenated oil.” Yikes! While fully hydrogenated oil is not as bad as “partially hydrogenated oil,” it’s certainly not healthy and shouldn't be in peanut butter. Peanut butter should contain, well, just PEANUTS!
For those who don't know, hydrogenation is a chemical process that converts liquid vegetable oil into solid fat. Partially hydrogenated oils are semi-soft and extremely unhealthy as they contain trans-fatty acids (or trans fats) which raise "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lower "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Fully hydrogenated oils are more solid. While they don’t contain much trans fats, let’s face it, they’ve been highly processed and are not remotely natural! Best to avoid hydrogenated oils altogether.
So, the next time you’re reaching for peanut butter (or anything else), check the label to make sure you know what you’re REALLY getting!