The 6 Weirdest, Scariest Processed Foods
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3. Condensed Soups
Ah, soup. It’s the food mom used to feed us when we were sick. Every child has fond memories of being nursed back to health by sipping at the warm, nutritious broth of chicken noodle soup. Of course, mom probably didn’t realize at the time that she was setting you up for a future of high blood pressure and kidney failure. Because if she fed you condensed soup from a can, she was loading your young body up with insanely high amounts of sodium.
How insanely high, you ask? Well, consider that a mere half-cup of Campbell’s Vegetable Soup contains a heart-stopping 890 mg of sodium, or roughly 37 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake. But wait, there’s more! The typical Campbell’s soup can contains one-and-a-half cups of soup, meaning that one can of soup contains more than 90 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake.
To be fair to Campbell’s, it does have a "Healthy Request" brand of soup that contains roughly half the salt of Campbell's other soups. Still, one of soup’s supposed key virtues is that it isn’t a cheeseburger. In other words, when you buy a bowl of soup you shouldn’t have to "request" a healthy version of it.
Spam was really a major miracle of food science, as it solved a mystery that humanity had been trying for centuries to figure out: namely, how to make meat-flavored Jell-O. Developed in the 1930s, Spam is derived primarily from pork shoulder meat (seriously) and combined with water, sugar, sodium nitrate (of course) and copious amounts of salt. The result is a meat-like goo that derives 80 percent of its calories from fat and that delivers a whopping 790 mg of sodium per two-ounce serving.
Spam first hit the big-time during World War II when its highly preserved state made it the ideal food to feed to our protein-needy soldiers fighting over in Europe. Now there's a fine tribute to our fighting boys! Thanks for risking your butts against the Nazis, fellas, now here’s a mound of pork slime! When you think about it, it’s remarkable that more of our troops didn’t defect to the German army, which assuredly would have offered them generous helpings of bratwurst, knockwurst and schweineschnitzel in exchange for changing sides. The fact that Americans bravely suffered through Spam prior to fighting the Battle of the Bulge adds yet another heroic chapter to the Greatest Generation’s legacy.
5. Artificially Flavored Blueberry Bits
Frozen waffles are fairly non-nutritious. Indeed, the only real way to get any sort of vitamins in your waffles each morning is to buy blueberry waffles that contain….
But, hang on! It turns out those aren’t blueberries at all! They’re more like…well, just what are they? An apt description would be "purple globs of sugary goo," but they’re actually called " artificially flavored blueberry bits." Their ingredients include sugar, dextrose, soybean oil, soy protein, salt, citric acid, cellulose gum, artificial flavor, malic acid, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake and…that’s it. Notice anything missing? Oh yeah: blueberries!
For a long time, companies such as Aunt Jemima parent Pinnacle Foods were able to get away with implying that these little unfruity lumps were actual blueberries, as the box for Aunt Jemima’s blueberry waffles had pictures of actual blueberries strewn across it. But the threat of a lawsuit from Center for Science in the Public Interest made Pinnacle decide to tell people that their waffles didn’t contain any actual blueberries.
What makes the development of fake blueberries so exciting is the number of possibilities it opens up for other fake fruits. Picture artificial strawberry strips, made mostly of bacon and high-fructose corn syrup. Or perhaps artificial melon mounds made of solidified vegetable oil and dextrose monohydrate. Or the coup de grace, artificial artificial blueberry bits, made with NutraSweet and artificial soy protein. Not one natural ingredient, baby!