J.E.R.F.? Just Eat Real Food ...

... an acronym most closely associated with Sean Croxton.   [ Or as I call him in my head:  Sean Ton of Crocks, because Croxton is the king of the alt func med summit marketeering spree].  But now it looks like Croxton is in the processed convenience food biz, releasing a J.E.R.F. bar!  

screenshot of today's JERFbar.com home banner

One of the things that most annoys me about Noakes and his "Real Meal" revolution.  Many in paleo talk about eating "real food", and many exclude from this definition foods that aren't part of their restrictive food paradigms.  You know, such UNreal aka fake foods like whole grains and legumes for the low carbers,  soy and veggie oils for the "ancestrals", maybe dairy for the vegans, regular sugar for just about everyone.    "Real food" is a foolish label.   If what you mean by *real* is "whole" foods, then concoctions don't fly, no matter how "clean" the ingredients list is, and almond flour and butter are not almonds.  If by *real* you mean "natural" -- as opposed to synthetic or artificial -- then Fritos qualify as they contain only corn and oil.  If by *real* you mean "clean" (according to your definition of allowed foods for your paradigm) you're the worst of all using the term as a fraudulent marketing one.

Real food?  Most food is real food, or likely upwards of 95% by weight *real*.  Even many food additives are real -- take lecithin for example, that can be derived from a number of foods such as eggs, soybeans or sunflower seeds.  Sugar is real.  Flour is real.  White rice is real.  Coconut oil is real, but so, too is corn oil.  

The #IRONY is soooo thick with this JERF bar.  

Of the main ingredients there in the above photo, only the chocolate is by definition processed.  The others -- as pictured or implied -- as whole foods all make for portable on-the-go snacks.  These are things you could source in almost any grocery store so as to have on hand, even find in most convenience stores, and some, may even be found in snack machines.  You know ... for when you're caught "by surprise" without that snack you must have.  I would point out that a mail order snack bar requires some preparation to have onhand, but I suppose the hope is to get these things in stores (like a lot of "paleo friendly" and Quest bars etc. have).  Is a JERF bar a better choice compared to a bag of Doritos or a Snickers bar?  Yes and maybe, but it's STILL a processed convenience snack food.    It deserves no health halo.

But it gets a bit worse here as I went to peruse the ingredients list.   Organic everything, yada yada.   I feel like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music should be singing this list as "the hills are alive ...".  Spoiler (or TL,DR) I saved the "best" ingredient for last, so you may want to scan down to the tapioca syrup.  

Organic Almond Butter  
Our almond butter is made from fresh roasted Italian almonds grown on the golden coast of Sicily. We use the highest quality almonds in the world and we guarantee you’ll enjoy the smooth, savory flavor in every bite.
Almond butter is likely not as healthy for you as almonds.  Far more energy dense, likely without the skins, and fats possibly oxidized by heat of processing.  But it is a real food.  So too are a handful of almonds.

Organic Prebiotic Vegetable Fiber

Following strictly-regulated, non-toxic procedures, natural enzymes are used to separate this high-quality food fiber from the cassava plant. Organic prebiotic vegetable fiber has been shown to be an easy-to-digest fiber source, especially for those with digestive issues. As a USDA Certified Organic ingredient, no harsh solvents or synthetic chemicals are used at any point of production. Production equipment is cleaned with organic-based cleaners.
Make no mistake about this, we're talking a highly processed/refined "food product" additive here.  This is NOT a "food".  Who cares that it came from certified-pure, virgin, grass fed cassavas.   Eating "real food" would be eating the cassava itself.   There's nothing objectionable to this ingredient, just it isn't food.

Organic Pea Protein

Pea protein has a bioavailability similar to beef, which means our high-quality yellow split peas will give you all of the benefits of protein without the risk of eating antibiotics or hormones from unethically raised cattle.
Yellow split peas, or green peas.  A "real food" snack in the spirit of JERF is a bunch of snap peas, a nice highly portable and readily available food.  Isolated protein, however, isn't food.  Doesn't make it bad, just not food in the spirit of the word.

Organic Coconut Flakes

Eating the coconut flakes in this bar is the easiest way to get more healthy saturated fats into your diet. This is the best tasting and purest form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) that we could find...and we tried them all.
Yeah we all need more healthy saturated fat in our diets.  I'm happy to see this is coconut flakes (as opposed to the oil that magically jumps out of the coconut!) which would qualify as food, in my book.  But how come none of these folks ever seems to crack open a coconut and eat the whole meat?   I mean EVER??   It's awesome, and readily available these days.

Organic Dates

We start with dried organic dates and blend them up to make every bite of your JERF Bar consistent and smooth. Not only do these add a perfect hint of sweetness to the bar, you’re also going to get essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
Too much high sugar fruit makes you fat.  (Sorry couldn't resist).  But dates are a nice real food all on their own.  Sticky but you can even buy some in single serving wrappers if you don't think to carry toothpicks for these kinds of snacks. 

Organic Cacao Nibs

The deep and dark flavor of our cacao nibs will please any sweet tooth, without the guilt. Next time you’re craving chocolate you can grab this bar knowing you’ll please your craving without adding inches to your waistline or harming your body.

Organic Cocoa
Organic Cacao, which comes from the cocoa bean, is highly nutritious, and it can lower cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, and boost cognitive performance. Cocoa contains the substance phenethylamine, which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that acts as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant.
Chocolate is chocolate.  Yeah it's a "real food" but it's also a processed one.   You'll feel good from this though and it's diluted with all that other stuff so these 220 JERFy calories are magic.

Organic Inulin
Organic Inulin is found in many natural plant foods and is a fantastic prebiotic that will keep your digestive system healthy. Inulin will also help you maintain a healthy weight, keep blood sugar stabilized and lower your “bad” cholesterol.
Yes, I'm sure all of these health claims can be attributed to this additive.  Also not a food.  Or you could go the JERF route and incorporate the following foods into your diet:  bananas, plantains, sunchokes, artichokes, jicama, and onions (to name a few).

Organic Stevia

We don’t believe table sugar should ever be included in a true JERF bar, that’s why we use organic stevia. This all-natural plant contains zero calories but gives these bars the perfect amount of sweetness.
Another non-food here.  Not artificial like sucralose, but if we're talking "real food" sugar, honey or maple syrup are much higher on the list, and the latter two do come with some added healthful compounds. 

Goji Berry

These bright red berries are loaded with antioxidants and a great prebiotic that will aid in intestinal health and digestion. The goji berry gives the JERF Bar a soft and smooth consistency that anyone can enjoy -- no more tough and chewy bars that hurt your teeth.
Phew, I was hoping to get some antioxidants in there!  Thankfully these bars won't hurt my teeth!  

And now .... The Worst Offender ...

Organic Tapioca Syrup
Our Organic Tapioca Syrup is derived from the cassava plant. This carefully selected, organic ingredient is produced with the aid of natural enzymes, which separate the tapioca syrup from the cassava root. As an alternative to conventionally processed sugars and artificial sweeteners, we chose this ingredient for its neutral flavor, balance of simplex and complex carbs, and its “not too sweet” taste. As a USDA Certified Organic ingredient, no harsh solvents or synthetic chemicals are used at any point of production. Production equipment is cleaned with organic-based cleaners. 

Tapioca -- anything from a cassava plant -- has a ridiculously shiny health halo on it placed there by some in the paleo movement.    A "safe starch", free from all the bad stuff in those murderous whole grains and fattening potatoes!  The extracted starch is no different than using corn starch, and cassava flour contains a whopping < 10% by weight of all these dietary fibers and is 87.5% by weight starch.  However, we're not talking starch here, we're talking "syrup" = sugar.

What is Tapioca Syrup?  It's the same thing as Corn Syrup

Currently, corn syrup is obtained through a multi-step bioprocess. First, the enzyme α-amylase is added to a mixture of corn starch and water. α-amylase is secreted by various species of the bacterium Bacillus and the enzyme is isolated from the liquid in which the bacteria were grown. The enzyme breaks down the starch into oligosaccharides, which are then broken into glucose molecules by adding the enzyme glucoamylase, known also as "γ-amylase". Glucoamylase is secreted by various species of the fungus Aspergillus; the enzyme is isolated from the liquid in which the fungus is grown.
Gee.  That sounds an awful lot like this magical JERFy Tapioca Syrup, eh?  Enzymes are transforming the chemical structure of a component of food -- the starch -- into sugar.    This is not a food.  This is not "natural".  There's nothing inherently wrong or bad about the resulting product either.  In the case of corn, this is generally a glucose-dominant syrup.  When most think of corn syrup, they immediately think HFCS (high fructose) 
The purified solution is then run over immobilized xylose isomerase, which turns the sugars to ~50–52% glucose with some unconverted oligosaccharides and 42% fructose (HFCS 42), and again demineralized and again purified using activated carbon. Some is processed into HFCS 90 by liquid chromatography, then mixed with HFCS 42 to form HFCS 55. The enzymes used in the process are made by microbial fermentation.
Essentially the purified solution is the corn syrup. And again we see that "natural enzymes" are employed.   Again, there's nothing inherently bad about the product, but you could easily prepare both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup with "natural enzymes" and slather on all the health halo labels like "certified organic from golden kernels of the Gods".  It's not a food, it's not a refined component of a food.  It's a refined AND transformed component of a food that resembles a naturally occurring component of other foods to some degree.  AGAIN AND I REPEAT!:  There's nothing inherently wrong with these nutritive components of that we ultimately call food.  But when parsing words, these aren't in and of themselves food or "real".

I'm not sure what the glucose:fructose ratio of tapioca syrup is, but as it is billed as "not too sweet"  in the JERF bar, so I'm going to assume that it is mostly glucose.  Therefore it's glucose syrup that originated from a cassava root rather than a corn kernel.  Whoopdeedoo.  It's a hexose food-product.

So there you have it folks.  Just Eat Real Food, except when you're too WHATEVER FITS HERE to prepare in the least or snack on any actual real food.  Then, reach for a JERF bar.


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