Because I played detective and tracked down the origins and manufacturing of each of the 39 (yes, 39!) ingredients on the Twinkies ingredient label, I've been asked if I agree with Michelle Obama and her reluctance to declare Twinkies toxic.
I don't disagree.
In a major interview with Newsweek on March 17, 2010 about her campaign to fight childhood obesity, she said, "what parents need is just information about what's in the Twinkie and how much of this can we eat. It's not that we can't have a Twinkie."
That's right. I mean, c'mon, Twinkies are cakes, snack cakes - it's OK, she is saying, to eat a snack every now and then. We are all supposed to know that you just shouldn't constantly eat them, or any cake, whether loaded with artificial ingredients or natural and homemade. If you do, you'll get fat and tired. Simple enough. Cakes are loaded with sugar and fat or else they are not cakes. And cakes are not generally considered good for you. "We just need common sense and good information," she says. Knowledge is key.
And common sense or knowledge are definitely lacking. At my slide-show presentations around the country, someone always asks if Twinkies are bad for you, or, wistfully, if they are good for you. Amazing! "Do you really think," I often reply, "that cake is good for you?" I get lots of guilty expressions.
The point is that it's not like one or two of the Twinkies ingredients are harmful the way nicotine in cigarettes is harmful. Although over the years some common ingredients have been discovered to be harmful and then banned or dropped, such as happened with trans-fatty acids a few years ago (Partially hydrogenated oil! Since 1911!), there is no cover-up akin to what the tobacco companies foisted on us.
Our problem is our reliance on overly processed or artificial foods for most of our nutrition. Mrs. Obama stands for eating whole and fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables. I'm with her. If you want 'healthy,' eat a fruit or a vegetable, not a cake! Better for you, better for the planet.
One might say that smoking just one cigarette is not harmful. That may be correct - to a point. It just doesn't seem to apply to the reality of cigarettes. Likewise, we should remember that we tend to eat too much processed food and too many foods with lots of sugar and salt--the hallmark of highly processed foods--and that is why so many of us are sick and overweight.
So, as Mrs. Obama says, read the label, think healthy, avoid the fattening stuff, and, oh, yes, keep moving. She's got it right.