Muffins and I go way back. When I was just a little kid my mom would take us shopping and for lunch at our local department store, Jordan Marsh. To be honest I don’t remember much more except for the amazing, Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins you could get with your meal. They were so good mom sometimes would buy an extra half-dozen muffins as a treat for us to eat at home. 🙂
But are muffins healthy? Unfortunately, no. However, thanks to some misleading marketing many people believe muffins (especially those filled with fruit or bran) are healthy snacks. The simple truth is … sweet baked goods and desserts just aren’t good for you despite what many food companies might say. By definition they’re a treat and that holds true for muffins as well.
So why did I share I whole-wheat muffin recipe a couple of weeks ago? I don’t think baking up the occasional batch of muffins is a criminal act. Unfortunately, the story behind many of the store-bought options can get pretty ugly!
Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix—American’s Favorite:
Jiffy claims to be America’s favorite muffin brand, but when you look at this list of ingredients you just want to scratch your head and ask “why?”:
- Highly processed ingredients make up the base of the muffin mix including white flour and partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils.
- A whole host of potential GMOs. If you’re avoiding genetically modified ingredients then some concerning additions include sugar, soybean oil, fructose, food starch modified, and citric acid.
- Artificial food colors for the “blueberry flavored bits” include Blue 2 Lake and Red 40 Lake. Blue 2 has been linked to brain cancer in male rats and Red 40 has been associated with allergy-like reactions.
- Preservatives like BHT and BHA also lace this mix. While both are potentially dangerous, BHA in particular has been linked to causing cancer in rodent studies.
- Tons of phosphates. Although sodium aluminum phosphate (a leavening ingredient) isn’t dangerous per se, we’re eating way too much sodium and phosphates in processed foods, and they’re having negative health consequences.
Otis Spunkmeyer Wild Blueberry Muffins:
Despite their fresher appearance Otis Spunkmeyer Muffins Wild Blueberry are yet another muffin I’d try to avoid … if for no other reason than this—they’re declared shelf life is 1 year (frozen) and 21 days when thawed. Real food spoils, fake food doesn’t. This is fake food.
If that doesn’t have you convinced, here are some more reasons:
- Sugar is the first ingredient. That’s never a good sign!
- Tons of processed ingredients like bleached flour and processed oils.
- If you’re avoiding genetically modified ingredients some concerning additions include sugar, soybean oil, and food starch modified.
- Potassium sorbate helps preserve this muffin. Although this additive is deemed relatively safe by most authorities, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t trust a muffin that has a three-week shelf life. Something just isn’t right!
- Emulsifiers and gums like propylene glycol monostearate, xanthan gum, and lecithin have traditionally been viewed as fairly safe, but new research is calling into question what this class of additives may be doing to the microbiota in our intestinal tract. 1
Panera Blueberry Muffins:
Panera recently made a big splash about cleaning up their ingredients which I do applaud. While they’re working hard to remove many additives from their food their blueberry muffin as currently formulated provides a good example of what the future of their products will look like.
While certainly the additive list is very clean it still includes some highly-processed ingredients such as:
- Processed white flour
- Processed oils (soybean) most likely made from GMO crops
- A lot of processed sugar most likely made from GMO beets. According to Panera’s website there’s 40g of sugars in their muffin. As a point of reference the daily recommended amount of added sugar is 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Oops! One muffin definitely tips the scales, especially when it comes to sugars!
- Eggs and milk from animals that were most likely raised on factory farms, fed GMO feed, and treated inhumanely.
What’s the bottom line?
Everyone’s food values are different so I’m not here to tell you what to do. While I don’t think any of these muffins are going to kill you, most of them are very highly processed and they all should be considered an indulgent treat. So if you’re truly interested it making your treats special perhaps going the extra mile and making them yourself from the best, least processed ingredients makes a lot of sense.
If you’re on board with this philosophy then you may want to check out my 100% whole wheat muffin recipe. It’s what I like to call a recipe blueprint—a recipe that you can customize to your tastes. That way if you’re in the mood for blueberry muffins, apple cinnamon muffins, or lemon poppy seed muffins—we’ve got you covered with a base recipe that you can adapt. I hope you enjoy it! Just remember … muffins are definitely treats!