Oreos Are Vegan…


…And now I don’t want to eat them anymore.

This pronouncement made many of my friends laugh. I am not vegan, I am not vegetarian, and because of this I have gotten into many debates with people over nutrition. Veganism and vegetarianism are very, very hot topics right now. It seems that the new, trendiest thing is to either be vegan (or at least vegetarian), or aspire to be so while admitting to a deep character weakness in your inability to become one. Unfortunately, biology is clear that veganism is not the ultimate in healthy eating for humans to aspire to, and my holding this anti-trendy position has garnered me a lot of heat in recent years. No doubt this post (if read widely enough) will get me heated comments about how very wrong I am to say such things as well.

However, the reason I am writing this post has little to do with my thoughts on veganism itself. My friends laughed at me because, given my anti-trendy stance on veganism, it sounded like I was having a knee-jerk reaction to everything that is associated with the lifestyle. Like I was saying “eww, that’s vegan? I don’t want to accidentally eat anything that’s vegan! Wrap all my food in BACON!”

The fact is, many of my meals happen to be vegan friendly. I make my mashed potatoes with olive oil instead of butter, I eat a lot of vegan curries, I love lentil soup and I’m a fan of Nakd bars. I do not strive to ensure that all of my meals contain animal products. I bring this up not as a rant against all things vegan, but rather as a point as to how nutrition trends can obscure what is actually healthy.

As of now, I see more and more people associating “vegan” with “healthy”. While some vegan dishes are undoubtedly healthy, it doesn’t mean that anything that is vegan is necessarily so. In the case of oreos, the fact that they are vegan might, ironically, indicate that they are even less healthy than I initially thought.

Oreos are supposed to be cream-filled cookies. Cookies themselves are usually made with some animal products, and cream fillings definitely are. If the cookie has no eggs or butter in it, and the cream filling contains no dairy products, then what the hell are they made of? Even worse, Oreos were never marketed as a convenient vegan substitute for cookies, they accidentally happen to be vegan. While we all know that Oreos are overly processed food, the knowledge that they contain no animal products without even the intent to target a specific market fills me with dread. What kind of disgusting crap are they putting into these cookies?

My point is that it is easy, but deceptive to make blanket associations. Vegan does not necessarily mean healthy. Gluten-free, sugar-free or fat-free also does not necessarily mean healthy. Nutrition is so much more complicated than that. Products that are highly processed are far less likely to be good for you. Ironically, if you made a homemade Oreo with eggs, butter and cream (as Thor intended) it would most likely be better for you, despite all the devilish animal products in it, than your vegan store-bought variety.

Try to look past the labels. If you really want to lead a healthy lifestyle, reaching for packets of “natural”, “vegan” or “fat-free” products at your local supermarket is most likely not going to be enough. Nutrition trends exist because everyone wants to eat all the delicious stuff without suffering the health or girth consequences of those choices, nor do they want it to be as complicated as it is. Unfortunately, trends are exploited for marketing purposes, and no trend will easily lead you to a healthy life and trim waist.

As to my scientific reasons behind my thoughts on veganism itself? That is for another post, if anyone is actually interested in what the science has to say about it. The point I am making here is: lay off the Oreos. They may be vegan, but that doesn’t mean they’re not pure crap.

Comments

  1. anat says

    Some aspects of healthy nutrition advice are easier to achieve when one’s diet isn’t dominated by single high calorie items (which in the Standard American Diet tend to be meat-based, but can also be plant-based), but there are ways to achieve that while eating meat and ways to fail while not doing so.

    The most convincing argument to reduce consumption of animal-based foods are IMO environmental. See for instance Exploring the biophysical option space for feeding the world without deforestation.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    I’m pretty sure that, from a health standpoint, you wouldn’t really prefer to eat a non-vegan version of the Oreo. You see, up until 1997, the main ingredient of the “cream” filling was lard, or pig fat.

    After 1997, the lard was replaced by partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or trans fats; according to the Chicago Tribune, this was “even worse for the heart than lard.” So in 2006 they switched to non-hydrogenated vegetable oil — I’m not sure if that is still what they’re using or not.

    What I’m saying is, the impression that “Oreos are supposed to be cream-filled cookies” is mostly a product of marketing — as far as I can tell, neither eggs nor dairy products have had the slightest presence in Oreos since their first appearance in 1912.

    Source: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/01/mysteries-oreo/

  3. drken says

    Unfrosted Pop-Tarts are also vegan, but the frosted ones contain gelatin. Your error was in thinking of them as “cream-filled”. If you look at the box, you will see they are creme-filled. What’s “Creme”? Mostly vegetable shorting and powdered sugar. If you like, you can get the cookies sans filling as they’re sold under the name “Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers”. As a bonus, if you feel the need to eat them as an actual cream-filled cookie, It has a recipe on the box for an icebox cake that uses whipped cream.

  4. Holms says

    I’m pretty sure that, from a health standpoint, you wouldn’t really prefer to eat a non-vegan version of the Oreo. You see, up until 1997, the main ingredient of the “cream” filling was lard, or pig fat.

    Yes? You phrase this as if it were a slam dunk of a point, but it sounds fine to me.

  5. says

    brucegee1962 I don’t want to mischaracterize your point, but it seems that you’re not arguing that Oreo dough is healthier, more like you’re saying that pig lard is ickier. How gross a certain food can seem has got nothing to do with how healthy it actually is.

    I don’t assume you are a vegan or anything, but I’ve heard a similar rhetoric from them. Like the gruesome pictures of sausage factories and the “How (insert non-vegan food here) is actually made”. The idea being to try and gross you out of eating meat.

    The problem is, I know what pig lard is, I know where it comes from and I have a general idea of what it does to you. When I hear “non-hydrogenated vegetable oil” I don’t really know what the hell it is. What vegetables? Is it so refined that it doesn’t even matter? Can I even digest it? Is it functionally just concentrated cholesterol? Something else? Would I be able to tell the difference if it was just artificially flavored cardboard?

    I mean, I’ll still eat them because I love the taste, but I won’t try to bullshit myself or anyone else into thinking it is in any way healthy.

  6. Andrew T. says

    I once squished some Oreo cream (er, “creme”) between my thumb and forefinger. It had a lard-like consistency, and it didn’t dissolve in water.

    And, I never ate an Oreo cookie again.

  7. brucegee1962 says

    brucegee1962 I don’t want to mischaracterize your point, but it seems that you’re not arguing that Oreo dough is healthier, more like you’re saying that pig lard is ickier. How gross a certain food can seem has got nothing to do with how healthy it actually is.

    It was indeed my understanding of this conversation that we were solely discussing food from the standpoint of health, without looking at other considerations. From that perspective, I had thought I was on pretty safe ground that there weren’t any nutritionists out there saying, “You know the best way to get a healthy heart and nice, clean arteries? Start adding big heaping spoonfuls of lard into your diet!” Perhaps I was mistaken in this; if so, please direct me to the lard-diet proponents, so I can find out what I’ve been missing.

    Heck, who am I kidding — I wouldn’t be surprised if there are such nutritionists. During my 54 years, it’s hard to think of any definitive statement made by the mainstream dietary community that hasn’t been reversed within the next few decades. IMO, dieticians as a group have done so much backtracking that they’re starting to give all other branches of science a bad name. The only thing I can think of that’s been fairly consistent is that fruits and vegetables are good for you. Every single other general precept — on fats, on “natural” foods, “processed” foods, “organic,” sugar, cholesterol, and all the rest — seem equally fishy to me at this point.

    Probably a hundred years from now, we’ll have actually settled down to a set of recommendations that are genuinely healthy. But I’m not holding my breath.

    As for vegetarianism, I’ve been a vegetarian (not vegan) for the past seventeen years, and I can honestly see that I don’t see any positive or negative health effects from when I was a meat-eater. So from personal experience, if the only reason anyone is thinking of giving up meat is for health reasons, I wouldn’t recommend it. As anat@3 says, there are better reasons.

    • Holms says

      I disagree with your summary of the OP. The point did not seem to be ‘solely discussing food from the standpoint of health, without looking at other considerations’ to me. I understood it to be ‘simply calling something ‘vegan’ does not make it healthy; look at Oreos, which are vegan but only accidentally because they are so full of processed garbage.’

      Crys of course may well set either of us straight.

      • thoughtsofcrys says

        Yes, you summed up what I was trying to say. My apologies for being a little tipsy when I wrote that, which might be why I wasn’t as clear as I could have been 🙁

  8. brucegee1962 says

    I think the point we could agree on is that labels like “vegan” and “all-natural ingredients” are both pretty useless when determining what is healthy.

  9. Josh Harper says

    I’m vegan, but I literally don’t know any vegans who claim that everything they eat is automatically healthy; I personally live on French fries, frozen pizza, pasta, baked goods, and Oreos, just like I used to, and I don’t pretend those things are magically healthy now. The only people I’ve met who tend to make the assumption that vegan = healthy are either non-vegans trying to figure out why I’m not partaking in the free donuts at work, or new vegans who are super excited about this new thing they discovered and therefore prone to hyperbole or rose-colored glasses or whatever. I do know vegans who started because of the supposed health benefits, but everyone I know who’s stayed vegan has done it for the bigger environmental and animal rights issues. One of the things I’ve noticed is that longtime vegans tend to be very aware of the ingredients in our food, even when they’re not good for you, whereas omnivores tend to have an “I’m just not going to think about it” approach.
    Of course, I’m also in Tennessee, and veganism isn’t “trendy” here in the South, so it might be different in other areas. I’m sure in areas where it is, and people just pick it up without thinking about it, the misconceptions would get annoying. But that’s not really different from any other SJ issue; I’ve seen young feminists or LGBT activists get wrapped up in their excitement (or just join a thing because their friends do) and mischaracterize their movement or miss the finer (or any, for that matter) points of intersectionality or whatever. All you can really do is just keep trying to educate people.
    (And for the record, when vegans get excited about Oreos or whatever, we’re not saying “omg look at how healthy these are!” We’re saying “omg yes junk food I don’t have to go out of my way to find or spend time cooking myself!”)

  10. says

    “Food Defect Action Levels”
    no more than 150 insect fragments/100 grams. That’s measured after the wheat has been ground.
    Wheat is murder.

    Mechanized agriculture chews up anything up to and including full-grown deer.

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