We’ve been discussing ultra-processed foods and how prevalent they are on our grocery and pantry shelves.
Ultra-processed foods are those that contain added sugar, fat, oil, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors or stabilizers. Last week I covered the popular breakfast muffin (AKA ‘cake’). Sadly, it’s not the only breakfast food out there that could use some work.
If you haven’t read the box of pancake or waffle mix in a while, now might be a good time. These mixes fall under the ultra-processed category given their combo platter of ingredients including enriched bleached flour, vegetable oil, (which could be canola, palm, or soy), corn starch, dextrose leavening agents, salt, sugar, DATEM, and monoglycerides.
S t r e t c h I n g the truth
Do you know about “DATEM”?. DATEM stands for Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. This is a chemical compound used in baking as an emulsifier to strengthen dough, making it stretchy. DATEM is on the GRAS list (generally recognized as safe and may also be used in salad dressings or coffee creamers as a whitening agent.
While this ingredient is listed as GRAS, a recent study published in Nutrition Bulletin suggests these types of emulsifiers may be associated with inflammatory diseases including inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome. This link raises the question as to whether or not these additives may raise the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Crohn’s disease. (1)
Monoglycerides are chemicals that are found naturally in food but may also be added to processed foods. They contain one fatty acid chain and a glyceride (sugar molecule). They’re added to foods to extend shelf life and provide stability to a product. When digested, they turn back into triglycerides, which are stored for energy to be used later.
Unfortunately, monoglycerides in food may contribute to the risk of heart disease as they contain small amounts of trans-fat. Trans-fats were banned by the FDA in 2015 and manufacturers had roughly 3 years to get them out of food. However, products may contain .5 grams of trans fat per serving and be labeled trans-fat-free. (2)
Monoglycerides may also be found in coffee creamer, ice cream, bread, mayonnaise, margarine, frozen meals, commercial crackers, and baked goods. While that pancake mix may only be used on weekends, trans fats from several others foods we regularly consume can add up.
A recipe for success
The good news is that pancakes are ridiculously simple to make from scratch. Here’s my go-to:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 Tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice to milk to make buttermilk)
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ Tbsp. canola oil
1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla, buttermilk, egg, and canola oil.
3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
4. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle to medium heat.
5. Using a ladle or measuring cup, pour out ½ cup of batter to make pancakes.
6. Heat on one side until bubbles form (about 3 minutes), then flip to cook the other side.
7. Repeat until the batter is gone.
Serve the pancakes with fresh or frozen fruit and or a fruit puree. This makes a great switch for part or all of the syrup usually poured over pancakes.
Makes 8 small pancakes
1. Partridge D, Lloyd KA, Rhodes JM, Walker AW, Johnstone AM, Campbell BJ. Food additives: Assessing the impact of exposure to permitted emulsifiers on bowel and metabolic health - introducing the FADiets study. Nutr Bull. 2019;44(4):329-349.
2. Trans Fat | FDA
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD