A few years ago, I read customer reviews of a popular meal replacement and I couldn't get over the comments. Most customers found the product more or less tasty but practical, and most of all, they consumed it because they felt they were doing a good thing for their health. I was completely flabbergasted. I could consider that this product saved time, but how could they think that they improved their health by consuming this product?
Firstly, because the company had done an excellent job of marketing to make its product perceived as healthy. Also because the nutritional facts table presented a picture of a balanced product containing protein, carbohydrates, fats and lots of vitamins and minerals. This is the case with several products that try to appear healthy or pass as so; but when we read the list of ingredients, the portrait is quite different. Unfortunately, few people dwell on reading the ingredient list or simply don't have enough nutritional knowledge to understand it.
You should always read and try to understand the ingredient list of all the products you buy. It is even more relevant than reading the nutrition label. You will find out if a product is made of processed or natural ingredients, if there are added sugars, food additives etc. When a list of ingredients contains few foods that you can find in your pantry, but rather incomprehensible ingredients which remind one of an industrial cleaning product rather than a food product, it is from an ultra-processed product. Why is it not good for you? Read on!
In some meal replacements or nutritional shakes, you may frequently find the following ingredients:
Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is a food additive made from starch, processed to the point of obtaining a tasteless white powder made entirely of carbohydrate molecules. It is often the main source of carbohydrates that appears in the nutrition facts table of many popular meal replacements. But unlike wheat, oats, potatoes and other natural sources of carbohydrates, maltodextrin is so processed that it no longer contains vitamins and minerals or dietary fibre.
Soluble corn fibre: Dietary fibre is found in carbohydrates, whether in whole grains or in fruits and vegetables. If a product’s carbohydrates come from ingredients that have been processed to the point of removing all the fibre such as maltodextrin, fibre must thereafter be added since it is essential in the human diet. Therefore another product is added, one that has been processed so much that only fibre remains.
Modified food starch: often added to improve texture and used as a thickener; contains little or no nutrients.
Mono & diglyceride: Often found in the fatty acid section of the nutrition facts table. Composed only of fat molecules, they are mainly used to improve texture.
Vitamins and Minerals: If one uses isolates from ultra-processed foods, these no longer have any vitamins and minerals. It is therefore necessary to add a version, again created in the laboratory, of all the vitamins and minerals that the human body needs to survive.
These are just a few examples and they are many others, So you can see that instead of using real food, some meal replacements isolate each of the macro and micro-nutrients, giving the appearance of a balanced nutrition label, containing everything and lots of vitamins and minerals.
Why is it not good for your health?
These and many other similar products have all been approved by Health Canada or its equivalent in other countries. They therefore do not represent an immediate danger to your health, or at least, no study has yet shown that they are dangerous.
The problem is that although we can create a product in the laboratory that appears to provide optimal nutrition on paper, the science of nutrition is much more complex. Real foods interact with each other in a way that cannot be replicated in the laboratory and provide many other benefits, including antioxidants. The science of nutrition is relatively young and more discoveries are yet to come. It often takes several years before we discover the long-term health effects of the products we create, as was the case with trans fats, cigarettes and some pesticides. It is very difficult to know the long-term effects of what we eat and especially to isolate the effect of a single product compared to our entire diet.
When a product is ultra-processed but contains phrases like "100% of your vitamin and mineral requirement", some people are fooled into thinking that this product is good for them. A multivitamin, bought at low cost in pharmacies can also give you 100% of your need for vitamins and minerals. Yet everyone knows that a cake and a multivitamin is not a healthy meal. The same is true for some products on the market.
One could create a product whose nutritional label would be exactly the same as that of an apple, by adding the exact right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, sugars and vitamins, but that is not equivalent to eating an apple for the body. Like wood, screws and paint do not constitute a table, It is rather the combination of all these elements together in the right order that gives a table.
At Kenko Meals, we use real whole foods, such as whole oats, sweet potatoes, various nuts, vegetables and milk proteins. These foods are simply dehydrated (from which we have removed water), which is a very old method of preservation, and reduced to powder. They thus keep all their nutritional properties.
By using real foods from different food groups, we ensure that KENKO healthy meal replacements can reproduce a healthy diet that is close to nature, and that contains all the elements necessary for good health, even those that are not yet discovered. This will not be the case for products created in a laboratory.