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Nutella - Delicious? Yes! Nutritious? Probably not.

Thursday, April 30, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders
Image by love janine.
Although this may surprise some of our readers, I really like junk food. I eat far too much pizza, I love chicken wings, and Nutella, the original chocolate hazelnut spread, is one of my favourite breakfast condiments (it's tasty on a bagel, but its unbeatable inside a fresh crepe with whipped cream and bananas). The interesting thing about Nutella is that its commercials seem to suggest that it is some sort of health food. For example, check out the French Nutella commercial below (for our email subscribers, click on the title of today's post to view the video on main page). Unfortunately I couldn't find any English Nutella commercials, but I have put my functional bilingualism to work by attempting to translate it for you myself:

There's a lot to experience in the life of a child
Lots of energy to expend...
To play
To dream
To concentrate
So much energy...
To try
And try again
To learn
To grow up
To discover the world

Hazelnuts and creamy milk:
Nutella - it takes energy to be a kid

Now that commercial implies several things. First off, it implies that Nutella is a great source of energy, especially for kids. Well it should be a great source of energy - the first ingredient is sugar. In fact, in a 19 gram serving of Nutella, 11 grams are sugar. Of course that energy won't last very long before an insulin spike kicks in and makes the kids lethargic, so they are likely to need something more substantial if they plan to "discover the world" for more than an hour or so.

The commercial also implies that Nutella is mainly hazelnuts and milk. However, hazelnuts only make up 13% of Nutella, and skimmed milk makes up less than 7%. I should mention that the ingredients which go into Nutella vary slightly by country, such that while skimmed milk is used in North America, skimmed milk powder is used in most European countries. So while there are a few hazelnuts and at least some skimmed milk products in Nutella, they are drastically outnumbered by the other, less wholesome ingredients.

Many Nutella ads, including those on their American website which can be found here, suggest that Nutella is not only a great source of energy, but is also a nutritious way to start your day. What type of nutrients? After sugar, the second most common ingredient in Nutella is palm oil. The same palm oil which is high in palmitic acid, a fatty acid which the World Health Organization claims is convincingly linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (see the report here, and skip to page 98 for the info on palmitic acid). In fact, roughly half the calories in Nutella are from sugar, and the other half are from fat. Only about 4% of the calories are from protein. The Nutella website also suggests that Nutella is healthy because it "is made with hazelnuts which are a great source of vitamins." Note that they don't say that Nutella is a great source of vitamins, because it's not - a single serving has 0% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamins A and C, and just 10% of the recommended intake of Vitamin E.

Despite all of these things, the makers of Nutella still claim that it can be part of a complete breakfast. How is that possible? The complete breakfast that they suggest includes multigrain bread and juice (which many people would argue is still not an ideal breakfast), but the point is that the breakfast is complete without the Nutella. If there's anything that I learned from commercials during Saturday morning cartoons, it's that anything can be part of a complete breakfast! That doesn't make it healthy food choice.

Despite all of these things, I'm not going to stop eating Nutella - just like I've never stopped eating pizza or drinking pop. Just don't let the good folks at Nutella convince you that it's a healthy option, especially for kids.

Thanks to my awesome cousin Gina O'Leary for suggesting this topic, and to my (equally awesome) girlfriend Daun for stopping me whenever I reach for the Nutella too frequently.


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4 Response to "Nutella - Delicious? Yes! Nutritious? Probably not."

  1. Alberto Said,

    Oh common, pizza is not junk food! ;-)

    Posted on August 24, 2009 at 3:54 PM

  2. Kate Said,

    Pizza can be super healthy. Make everything yourself, don't get delivered pizza. Learn to make your own mozzerella and tomato sauce and dough. It's fun and definitely not junk.

    Posted on January 22, 2010 at 4:57 AM

  3. jana Said,

    yeah. nutella is just one of those things... i tell myself i crave it because, apart from sugar and fat, it contains a lot of iron and calcium.

    as for (good quality) pizza, it cannot be that much worse than bread with olive oil, tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella broiled in the oven for a few minutes. far from junk food, i'd say.

    a lot of foodstuff passes for pizza in the united states, that's for sure

    Posted on May 30, 2010 at 3:15 PM

  4. Anonymous Said,

    your post was so informative and helpful! i am writing an essay right now on nutella as a processed food, and the information you gave was very clear, concise and accurate. I am especially grateful that you included the link to report and included the page number. that was very very informative. the way you presented this information was really helpful, thank you!

    Posted on December 7, 2010 at 9:40 PM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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