Nutella Brexit panic

If you pay attention to international news, you know that Britain has been in turmoil for months over the pending exit from the European Union (EU), otherwise known as Brexit. It turns out the threat of Brexit led plenty of people to start stockpiling certain foods. Apparently many popular items would either skyrocket in price or become unavailable. Exhibit A: Nutella.

Months later Brexit has been postponed. Nutella is still available in stores, but the product expiration dates on those stockpiled jars are fast approaching. What to do? People are eating up the stockpiles. Which raises the question: “How much Nutella can you eat?” Not to mention: what exactly are you eating?

I’ve never been a Nutella fanatic, and after reading the ingredients’ list I’m even less inclined to become one. Despite the healthy-sounding word “nut”, Nutella is all about fat and sugar. The first two ingredients are sugar and palm oil. A 2 TB serving has a mere 2 grams of protein. Compare that to peanut butter: 2 TB has almost 8 grams of protein, and a lot less sugar (1 gram in old-fashioned unsweetened peanut butter vs. 21 grams in Nutella).

The sugar is bad enough. The palm oil is a deal killer for me. I’m not a supporter of the destruction of tropical rain forest to create palm plantation monocultures.

Where did Nutella come from? It was originally created in Italy during World War II. There was a chocolate shortage, so one enterprising baker diluted his chocolate spread with ground hazelnuts. The combination proved to be a winner, even after the chocolate supply was restored.

Hazelnuts have less protein and somewhat more fat than peanuts or almonds, but the added sugars and palm oil overwhelm any nutritional benefits of hazelnuts. Cocoa is the 5th ingredient, so you’d have to eat hundreds of calories worth of Nutella before you consumed any meaningful amount of allegedly healthy cocoa flavanols.

By the way, Nutella is vegetarian but not vegan, thanks to skim milk. No surprise, you can find vegan “nutella” recipes on the internet, most using soy milk. The problem with homemade versions is pulverizing the hazelnuts to the necessary creamy consistency using only home equipment rather than industrial strength nut grinders. And of course, making it vegan doesn’t make it healthier — it’s still a high sugar/high fat spread.

Nutella is manufactured on the European continent, leading to the Brit stockpiling phenomenon. The idea of eating through jars and jars of expiring Nutella is rather daunting. You can spread it on bread, eat it with a spoon, and use it to make desserts. It’s not good for much else. Note to stockpilers: Pinterest is loaded with Nutella recipes. If Britain experiences a surge in the obesity rate in coming months, we’ll know why.

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