Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: Save chocolate spreads for that special occasion

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Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes its content

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Nutella Hazelnut Spread - 400g for $5.99

I was asked to look into Nutella by a reader whose children consume "vast quantities" of this spread every day and who is concerned it might be bad for them, despite the fact that it is made out of hazelnuts.

Nutella is a popular spread worldwide and nothing tastes better, in my opinion, than a crepe on the streets of Paris smeared with the stuff.

And the fact that it is described as a hazelnut spread could have us thinking that it belongs in the category of other spreads like peanut butter.

When I popped into the supermarket to buy a jar of Nutella to analyse I noticed a new product on the shelf called 100 per cent Nutz dark chocolate spread, so I thought I'd compare the two and see how we got on.


Ingredients

Sugar - This tells us that the biggest ingredient in this spread is sugar. In fact, according to the nutrition panel sugar makes up 54.4 per cent of the product. So this is a very high sugar product - per tablespoon serve you will get 10.9g, which is about 2.5 teaspoons. By comparison, a same size serving of Eta peanut butter (no added sugar) will give you just 0.6g of sugar.

Vegetable oil - Unclear what this oil is but will be in here to provide a smooth texture.

Hazelnuts (13 per cent) - Hazelnuts, like all nuts, are very good for you. They contain the minerals magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, calcium and selenium. They also contain vitamins K and E and mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats, which are healthy fats. Skim milk powder (8.7 per cent) This will be in here for flavour as well as texture. The use of skim milk will be to reduce the fat content.

Fat-reduced cocoa powder (7.4 per cent) - This is cocoa as you would use at home, but with some of the fats removed. Both the skim milk and the fat-reduced cocoa will be helping to keep the fat content of this product down. Per tablespoon serve you will get 6.1g fat of which 2g is saturated fat. This is less than you would get in the same serving of the Eta peanut butter which has 10.2g fat, of which 1.9g is saturated fat.

Emulsifier (Lecithins) (Soy), - This is soy lecithin which is a natural emulsifier, in here to keep the product from separating.

Flavouring (Vanillin) - Vanillin shouldn't be confused with vanilla. Vanilla is a natural extract of the vanilla bean, but vanillin is most commonly a synthetic compound usually derived from wood creosote. You can get natural vanillin but in processed foods it is likely to be synthetic.

100 per cent Nutz dark chocolate peanut butter - 380g for $7.49

Ingredients - GMO free, 100 per cent natural, certified, hi-oleic peanuts only grown in Australia or Argentina.What this long description for peanuts means is that they are not genetically modified. Many people oppose GM foods because of the risk to biodiversity and the unknown effects on humans.

They are also hi-oleic which means these peanuts are a bit different to normal ones as they have been cultivated (naturally) to have higher than usual levels of oleic fatty acid. These peanuts may have as much as 80 per cent oleic fatty acid compared to olive oil which has 70 per cent and regular peanuts which have 50 per cent. The reason we like high levels of oleic fatty acid is that it is believed to be beneficial in reducing high blood pressure. One study found that it may also hinder the progression of ALD, a fatal disease which affects the brain and adrenal glands, and another study found that they may boost the memory. Food manufacturers also like to use high oleic peanuts because they have a longer shelf life, are crunchier and have a better flavour. The fact that these peanuts have higher fatty acid levels does not mean they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, however.

NZ-made dark chocolate - (sugar, cocoa mass, milk solids, cocoa butter, emulsifiers (soya lecithin, 476), flavour)
These are all very standard ingredients for chocolate and the flavour is likely to be vanillin as in Nutella, but I can't be sure. The other emulsifier is polyglycerol polyricin-oleate which is produced from polyglycerol and castor oil.

The fat content per tablespoon (20g) is 9g of which 1.5g is saturated fat. The sugar content per tablespoon (20g) is just under 3g.


My recommendations

If your kids want something which combines nuts and chocolate to put on their toast or sandwiches then the lower sugar option is definitely the 100 per cent Nutz dark chocolate peanut spread. This gives you just under 3g per serve compared to 10.9g for the Nutella. But the lowest sugar option by far is plain old Eta peanut butter (no sugar added) which gives just 0.6g of sugar per serve, so perhaps encourage plain old peanut butter and save the chocolate spreads for treats.

If you're looking for lower fat, then Nutella comes in lowest at just 6.1g per serve compared to Eta peanut butter at 10.2g and 100 per cent Nutz dark chocolate peanut spread at 9g.

Taste-wise Nutella has a stronger chocolate taste and the hazelnuts lend it a different flavour to the peanut chocolate spread, but both taste great. The peanut chocolate spread is also not smooth so that you can see and feel small pieces of peanut in it, which I don't think is a bad thing.


Highlights

• Nutella is 54.4 per cent sugar compared to peanut butter which is just 2.9 per cent sugar. 100 per cent Nutz is 14.8 per cent sugar.
• 100 per cent Nutz uses non GM peanuts which are high in oleic acid.
• The main ingredients in 100 per cent Nutz is peanuts whereas the main ingredient in Nutella is sugar.


Do you have a food product you would like to feature?
Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately, Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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