Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Nutella = junk food

The following is a chain letter which warns you about eating Nutella (it’s Canadian, but Nutella seems to be sold in many countries).


(Also check out Part 2)


I am fuming mad. After you read this, you will probably be too. Especially if you have kids.
I saw a Nutella ad on TV recently, advertising how it is part of a good breakfast, containing wholesome hazelnuts, skim milk and cocoa powder. Hmm, I thought, let’s get some.

When I saw the label in the store, I almost flipped. Ingredients: SUGAR, MODIFIED PALM OIL, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk powder, etc. (you can check yourself on their website under the ‘nutritional info’ tab).

In case you are not aware, ingredients must be listed in order of proportion of the total content, so the first ingredient is what there is most of. In this case, there is more sugar and more modified palm oil in this product than hazelnuts. Part of a good breakfast?! Milk chocolate is more nutritious than that! (Actually, if you do compare Nutella’s nutritional information with that of chocolate on an equivalent quantity basis, you will find them eerily similar. Would you give your kids a slice of bread with half a Hershey bar on top and call it a good breakfast?!)

Then of course I started wondering what exactly is MODIFIED palm oil, just in case it was something good for you. Well, it turns out there is no good answer to that, because they do not specify what the modification entails. Here is what I found: palm oil, unaltered by itself, is controversial — some say it’s quite good for you, some say it’s not. I am leaning towards the “ok in moderation” camp, especially if it is used instead animal fat (that’s not so good) or hydrogenated oils (that’s the trans fat stuff which is really, really, really bad, no controversy about it). Now when they say modified palm oils, the modification could be hydrogenation (which would make it really, really, really bad), or some other form of processing such as interesterification (yes, that’s a real word), which frankly I trust about as far as I trust hydrogenation.

So in case you don’t mind feeding your kids mainly sugar for breakfast, are you sure you want to also feed them modified palm oil with unknown long-term health effects?

So I am mad at Nutella for selling products that may be harmful for kids, and being downright misleading in their advertisement by claiming it is healthy. It’s criminal. And I am even more angry at our government for allowing this to happen! What other foods are we eating that we think are good for us but are not?!

Don’t believe what I just wrote, check it out yourself. Read the labels. Always. Question it. ‘Cause obviously you can’t trust companies and you can’t trust your government. (And actually, you shouldn’t trust chain letters either without checking them first.)

Please pass it onto others who may be concerned about their loved ones’ health and nutrition.

And personally, I am boycotting Ferrero products (makers of Nutella).


June 20, 2008 - Posted by | diet, health, nutrition | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I am terribly upset to find that modified means hydrogenated.
    That SUCKS!!! I love nutella but now,.. I think I shouldn’t buy it anymore.

    Comment by Jerry Outlaw | September 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. For some reason the nutella made for the US/Canadian market is made with palm oil. In Europe and the rest of the world it’s made with vegetable oil (rapeseed in Poland).

    Comment by Dan | November 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. My problem is not really with the source of the oil used, but the processing it goes through to solidify it at room temperature, whether it is hydrogenation, interesterification, or some other process. After what has been found on the adverse effects of hydrogenation, I don’t trust these processes, especially for kids. And to advertise it as healthy is downright criminal.

    Comment by pragmasynesi | November 24, 2008 | Reply

  4. nutella is the exact substance found in ferrerro roche chocolates. spread that on your toast and call it healthy.
    classic case of false advertising.

    Comment by charlotte | January 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. […] Nutella = junk food, part 2 (If you haven’t already, read the original post on Nutella here.) […]

    Pingback by Nutella = junk food, part 2 « Pragma Synesi – interesting bits | June 9, 2009 | Reply

  6. The ingredients in Nutella are Sugar (Could be good or bad for you depending on what type; ie Fructose [sugar from fruits] is better for you than Glucose [cane sugar] ), Vegetable Oil (Good for you), Hazelnuts (13%, neither good nor bad for you unless you have a nut allergy), Fat-reduced Cocoa (7.4%, A wee bit bad for you, but it wouldn’t taste the same without it), Skimmed Milk Powder (good for you), Whey Powder (adds to taste AND good for you), Soy Lecithin (good for you and keeps the Nutella from separating), and Vanillin (neither good nor bad, only a tiny amount is used, but it adds to the flavour)

    Comment by Hanii Puppy | October 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Disagree with you on two things.
      1) Sugar, whether cane sugar or fructose, is empty calories that will raise your blood sugar to unnatural levels (cane more than fructose). There is nothing good-for-you about it except the taste.
      2) Vegetable oils are not necessarily good for you — some are better than others. But what you are missing is that the vegetable oil they use is MODIFIED, although they do not specify how. Some form of modifications are known to be very very bad for you; other forms have not yet been sufficiently investigated to be able to make a qualification. Do you want to take a gamble that it may turn out to be damaging in the long run, like hydrogenation?

      The bottom line is that you have a tiny amount good things floating in a sea of sugar and fat. Calling that healthy and recommending it to kids is a sickening case of misleading advertisement.

      Comment by pragmasynesi | October 2, 2009 | Reply

  7. I grew up on Nutella in Europe, it was our daily afternoon snack, and I still love it and give it to my kids! And I would consider myself and all of my family and friends who ate it with me to be darn healthy to this day. We did not abuse it and always had a balanced diet. THAT is the key. What you SHOULD be more concerned about it the breakfast and snacks that kids are eating today in the USA and especially school lunches!!!…poptarts, processed cheese crackers, chicken nuggets, corndogs, hamburgers, this is what our kids are growing up thinking is normal! It is appalling!!

    Comment by AR | February 5, 2010 | Reply

    • Just because you are darn healthy, it does not mean that Nutella is good for your health (as it is advertised). There are 100-year olds who have smoked all their lives, but would you consider encouraging smoking to your kids? I am sure that if you had put a piece of chocolate on your bread instead of Nutella for a snack as you were growing up, you would still be just as healthy, but do you encourage your kids to eat chocolate as a healthy, nutritious, breakfast?

      My problem is mainly with the false advertising — given the ingredients, Nutella is not health food as they claim. I have yet to see poptarts and corndogs touted as healthy for you, but unfortunately there is nothing preventing them from doing so.

      Bottom line — do not believe commercials, read the labels and decide for yourself.

      Comment by pragmasynesi | February 6, 2010 | Reply

  8. I am embarrassed to say I believed the comnercial. We will no longer be feeding Nutella to our children.

    Comment by Lisa | February 5, 2010 | Reply

  9. Iv always believed 100% that nutella was healthy, very angry that iv been mislead so much

    Comment by Tom | February 16, 2010 | Reply

    • There is nothing wrong with nutella….don’t be an extremist and use your intuition…..hazelnuts are very good for you in moderation, along with cocoa powder and a small amount of sugar which in moderation, (once again) is a wonderful energy food in iat’s pure state. Unfortunately there’s a bit of hydrogenation …however there are much worse things. I would be far more worried about the “what we mistakenly call” whole wheat bread, (really just brown glue instead of white)….much worse for us than nutella, trust me… put your nutella and a banana on sprouted bread or crackers or cereal or even on full fat organic ice cream. Much healthier! Enjoy. All of this providing you’re not allergic to any of these products…..chow

      Comment by Suzanne Young | February 16, 2010 | Reply

      • Are you working for Nutella by any chance, Suzanne? Read the ingredients (this is a direct copy from the US site):

        “ingredients: sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (from milk), soy lecithin: an emulsifier, vanillin: an artificial flavor.”

        Note that the first ingredient is SUGAR, not what I’d call “moderation” for a substance that might be god-send to a starving person, but in our calorie-laden western diet is just more empty calories. The second ingredient is modified palm oil (you have researched the known detrimental effects of hydrogenation, haven’t you?), again being a second ingredient, not what I would consider “a bit”. On the other hand, the touted healthy ingredients (and I am not going to disagree with calling them healthy) follow these two baddies, meaning there is less of them. According to wikipedia as of the date of this posting, in the European formulation (no percentages given for US/Canada formulation) there are only 13% hazelnuts, less than 8% cocoa, and about 8% skim milk for a total of 29% healthy ingredients (and I am being generous). In the US/Canada product, out of 371g, 210g is “sugars” and 110 is “fat”, 35g of which are saturated. Do the math.

        So when you are eating Nutella, you are eating at best 1/3 healthy ingredients in a sea of 2/3 sugar and fat.

        So yes, there is something very very wrong in calling Nutella a healthfood.

        (I am not going to comment on your notes on other foods as they are not relevant to this posting.)

        Comment by pragmasynesi | February 18, 2010


    Comment by jude | May 18, 2010 | Reply

    • the whole fad of whats good for you and whats not.. plain and simple if you dont like it dont eat it.. the world is filled with false advert.. stop being hippys, if you dont like it dont eat it.. i still think its alot better then a classic PB&J everything is okay with moderation.. its when people go over board!


      Comment by ryan | September 30, 2010 | Reply

      • If you don’t care what’s good or bad for you, feel free to ignore my warnings. The point here is not about what is good or bad for you, it’s about misleading advertising. If you wanted to feed your children something that is good for them, the Nutella advertisement misleads you. That’s like advertising cigarettes to children as being good for them. Kinda criminal.

        Comment by pragmasynesi | October 21, 2010

  11. […] to see that chain mail letter validated.  But the sad part is the some of the comments after the article (visit the article page […]

    Pingback by Nutella IS junkfood! The Proof « Pragma Synesi – interesting bits | May 11, 2012 | Reply

  12. Link: Nutella IS junkfood! The Proof

    Comment by pragmasynesi | May 11, 2012 | Reply

  13. I’m looking at a jar of it now – the palm oil is NOT modified. Compared to other foods on the market, this is as good as it gets.

    Comment by Nutella Fan | October 3, 2012 | Reply

    • Although the palm oil is not modified, it could still be interesterified, which (correct me if I am wrong) they do not have to put on the label. Your guess is as good as mine as to what that does to your body in the long term. And it does not change the fact that at least half of Nutella is plain old sugar, and the hazelnuts remain as the third ingredient… so the image of a few hazelnuts floating in a sea of sugar and palm oil still fits. You would be considerably better off eating the equivalent weight 70% dark chocolate, or plain old peanut butter with jam.

      At least since they lost the lawsuit, Nutella no longer claims their product is healthy for you. Chalk one up for the pissed parents of the world. 🙂

      Comment by pragmasynesi | October 3, 2012 | Reply

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