Reading labels is hard work, but the main thing to always note is that the ingredients are always in order of relative abundance, in the case of a store-bought “premium muesli” for example:
Buckwheat, rice bran, honey, puffed rice, macadamia nuts (7%), macadamia oil, sunflower kernels, quinoa (4%), pumpkin kernels, natural sultanas, currants, apricots (3%) [humectant (vegetable glycerine-422), preservative (sulphites-220)], puffed buckwheat, amaranth, apple (1%), prune juice.
Let's start with the first 4:
- Buckwheat - buckwheat is not related to wheat and more like a sunflower seed but is mostly starch (75%) and when consumed in high amounts can cause allergies (due to fagopyrins) (2). We ruled it out early in our product development because the cons were greater than the pros. Its used in the industry because its cheap and hence finds its way in animal food and stuffing.
- Rice bran - canonically a processed food produced during conversion of brown rice to white rice. Normally a waste product. It is subject to rancidity. Not an anti-nutrient but certainly does not rate highly relative to the other whole foods and is a processed food.
- Honey - honey is a refined carbohydrate composed of glucose and fructose. That it is processed by bees does not make it any less processed. It's often industrially adulterated with sucrose to prevent crystallisation.
- Puffed rice - this can be considered a processed food (usually made from white rice) composed mainly of starch. a mainstay of commercial cereals.
Notable other ingredients are glycerine and sulphites which are known gastrointestinal irritants.
The prevailing compositional theme of this product - like many other market leaders - is to use the cheapest and most palatable materials. Yes, they are using increasingly less processed material but they can do a lot better.
In contrast, when we embarked on genefuel muesli our constraints were:
- Highest nutrition coefficients
- Lowest anti-nutritional coefficients
- No processing*
- No preservatives, and
- An obsessive approach to cross-indexing with published research on benefits.
* the exception being the spices, hemp protein and vitamin C which is added as a sacrificial antioxidant (ie: a preservative).
We added spices because they were evidence-based beneficial not because they were cheap or tasty. We mixed and re-mixed, tasted and re-tasted and tried numerous combinations of ingredients to come up with the distinctive characters of each blend before we felt they could be considered reasonable. Where possible, we’ve kept the ingredients whole to retain their freshness longer. If you prefer a finer consistency, simply pop a serving in a blender to your desired taste.