Indulging in the creamy delight of Nutella often feels like a guilty pleasure. Yet, the buttery sweetness of Nutella also makes you wonder if it’s bad for you. Therefore, it’s essential to analyze its ingredients thoroughly to keep enjoying Nutella without regret. In this quest, we’ll study its ingredients and the outcomes of their combinations–rather eye-opening.
So, join us as we break down Nutella’s ingredients, shedding light on how this delectable treat may not be as innocent as it seems and how to have it every day.
Our findings might change the way you spread your morning joy on your food, but you’ll also find healthier alternatives to Nutella without losing the deal of joy!
What is Nutella?
Nutella is a popular sweet, creamy hazelnut spread that everyone equally loves. It’s made from roasted and ground hazelnuts, cocoa powder, sugar, palm oil, and a touch of milk powder.
You may use it in many ways – spreading it on bread, drizzling it over pancakes, or even using it as a dip for fruits like strawberries and bananas.
What’s in Nutella?
Nutella, the hazelnut spread, primarily comprises 7 ingredients.
Here is a simplified list of its main ingredients:
- Sugar: 57.5%
- Palm oil: 30.9%
- Hazelnuts: 13%
- Skimmed milk powder: 8.7%
- Fat-reduced cocoa powder: 7.4%
- Emulsifier (lecithin): 0.43%
- Flavoring (vanillin): 0.075%
However, the formulation may include other ingredients like hazelnut oil and sodium chloride, depending on the brands.
A Quick Look at the Nutritional Value of Nutella
It’s common that folks consider one serving of Nutella equal to 2 spoons of sugar, aka 96 calories only. Nutella has fats as well, which makes it 2X calorie-loaded. Below, I summarize Nutella’s nutrition facts to help you understand what to expect from one serving of your favorite spread or snack.
- Calories: 200
- Fat: 12 grams making 108 calories
- Protein: 5 grams
- Sugar: 21 grams of sugar, making 84 calories
- Manganese: 38% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 24% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 16% of the RDI
- Copper: 14% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 12% of the RDI
Understanding Nutella Ingredients to Uncover the Dark Side
Nutella is undeniably delicious and addictive, but it’s also bad for your health–a single serving of Nutella daily can be too much. However, if you’re reluctant to give it up, understanding its ingredients can help you enjoy it more mindfully or replace it with better alternatives.
Let’s explore Nutella ingredients.
1. Sugar (21 Grams in 37 Grams of Nutella Serving)
Nutella has about 57.5% sugar in its formulation, and about 44% of your Nutella calories come from sugar. Needless to say, how harmful sugar is for your health. Some of these proven health risks are as follows:
Immediate Energy Source
Sugar, in the form of glucose, provides quick energy to the body. When you consume sugary foods, your body can rapidly convert the sugar into energy, making it beneficial during activities that require a sudden burst of energy, such as high-intensity workouts or sports events.
Sugary foods can trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. In certain situations, consuming sugary treats in moderation can temporarily improve mood and provide a sense of comfort or pleasure.
Higher sugar intake can lead to chronic inflammation, linked to various health issues like obesity, diabetes, renal diseases, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease. Additionally, excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and higher blood pressure, all of which contribute to inflammation and increase the risk of severe health conditions.
Obesity and Obesity-Lead Diseases
Excessive sugar intake causes obesity in many ways, like:
High-calorie sugary foods can cause insulin resistance, promote fat storage, and contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Sugary foods also trigger hunger hormone resistance, leading to overeating and weight gain. Besides this, they activate the brain’s reward system, fostering cravings for more sugary and high-calorie foods.
On the worst side, sugary foods have empty calories lacking nutrients. It promotes overeating as a response, which further contributes to weight gain and metabolic diseases, including obesity.
The American Heart Association states that high-sugar diets may increase heart disease risk by raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Type 2 Diabetes
Consuming too much sugar raises insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
It’s estimated that around 5-6 million US women have PCOS. Studies reveal that high sugar intake causes insulin resistance, disrupting insulin’s role in female reproductive system functioning and developing PCOS. So, controlling sugar intake is vital for reproductive health.
Pregnant women consuming excess sugar are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, which can affect both mother and baby.
Studies suggest a link between high sugar intake and increased hyperactivity and inattention in children. So, be mindful when feeding your kids with sugary foods and drinks.
Studies shared by BMC Medicine Journal warn that eating too much free sugar (a sugar found in processed food, energy drinks, and fruits) can lead to stroke and heart disease. Likewise, higher sugar intake can also harm brain blood vessels and increase clotting and stroke risk.
Sugar is the brain’s main source of energy. Yet, according to findings, too much sugar can damage brain cells and lead to cognitive decline and dementia by causing inflammation and lower brain function.
Recommended Daily Limits:
- Men: Limit added sugar to 150 calories (about 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) daily.
- Women: Limit added sugar to 100 calories (about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons) per day.
- Children (varies with age): Roughly 3-6 teaspoons (12-25 grams) per day is advisable.
So, consumption of Nutella over a single serving gets you more sugar than you need. Also, you should not have Nutella daily.
Excessive sugar intake triggers chemicals promoting weight gain, insulin resistance, and liver strain, leading to obesity, diabetes, and heart issues.
Sugar induces leptin resistance, encouraging overeating.
Sugary foods lack nutrients, causing deficiencies and obesity.
Insulin disruption leads to conditions like PCOS and gestational diabetes.
It damages brain cells, causing inflammation, reduced function, and dementia; in children, sugar causes hyperactivity and lack of focus.
2. Palm Oil (30.9% of 12 Grams in 37 Grams Serving of Nutella)
Palm oil is another major ingredient in Nutella, chosen for its affordability, mild flavor, and stability at room temperature. Comprising approximately 31% of Nutella, a standard 37-gram serving contains 11 grams of fat.
Of this, 50% are saturated fatty acids, 40% are monounsaturated fatty acids, and 10% are polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Let’s know how palm oil and its fat content affect your health positively or negatively.
Palm oil contains a significant amount of saturated fats (5.5 grams per 11-gram serving), which, according to the KANWU study, have favorable effects on insulin sensitivity compared to saturated fats.
Though diets high in saturated fats have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, it’s debatable. The reason is that independent studies have questioned the link between heart attack and saturated fat intake. Also, they’ve specified the type of SAF causing heart disease.
Improved Heart Health
Palm oil has some omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are good for the heart and reduce inflammation. However, the low amount of palm oil limits its heart-healthy benefits for a balanced diet.
Rich in Vitamin E
Palm oil contains tocotrienol, a form of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants play a role in protecting cells from damage, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Some studies suggest palm oil consumption might increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can cause various health problems, like heart disease and cancer.
The process of refining palm oil may lead to the formation of harmful compounds, such as 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl fatty acid esters. Studies show that 3-MCPD compounds are potentially carcinogenic.
Considering the pros and cons, palm oil is an unhealthy choice for you. So, consume palm oil in moderation and mindfully.
Palm oil’s saturated fats (5.5 grams per 11-gram serving) can positively affect insulin sensitivity.
Vitamin E in palm oil may reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Diets high in palm oil may affect heart health negatively.
3-MCPD ester compounds produced during the refining process pose cancer risks.
3. Hazelnuts – 13% Goodness in Nutella
A single good ingredient you would find in Nutella is hazelnuts. You get them roasted and ground in Nutella, making 13% of Nutella spread–pretty less than what you hope for, at the same time. In a single serving of 37 grams, you get about 4.81 grams of hazelnuts. These hazelnuts can still be nutritious, though the roasting process may slightly reduce the nutritional content compared to raw hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts in Nutella are a source of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are a major part of hazelnut fats. Recent studies, like the KANWU Study, confirm that saturated fats aid in fat loss and reduce insulin resistance. However, they may also increase LDL levels, leading to high blood pressure, but it also depends on the source, as independent Italian researchers Prof. F Visioli and Dr. Andrea Poli suggest.
So, instead of totally eliminating saturated fats from the diet, finding a balance is a good idea–and hazelnuts’ fats offer it optimally.
Protein and Fiber
Roasted hazelnuts in Nutella provide plant-based protein and dietary fiber. Thus, hazelnuts offer some health benefits of proteins despite the minimal amount present in Nutella.
Protection Against Oxidative Stress
Hazelnuts contain antioxidants like Vitamin E and proanthocyanidins, protecting against cancer and heart disease. Besides this, Phenolic compounds in hazelnuts, such as gallic acid and quercetin, offer multiple health benefits. However, the amount in Nutella is minimal.
Hazelnuts are rich in phenolic compounds, including proanthocyanidins, vitamin E, gallic acid, and catechin. These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and heart-protective properties. They help reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease, and lower cancer risk, highlighting the health benefits of hazelnut consumption.
Minimal amounts of Nutrients in Nutella
Since hazelnuts are only 13% of Nutella, the ratio isn’t enough for excellent health benefits. If you want to get the most out of your hazelnut spread, it can be great to prepare your healthy Nutella at home.
Fats found in hazelnuts are saturated fats, which may aid in fat loss.
Hazelnuts contain antioxidants (Vitamin E, proanthocyanidins) that fight diseases.
Phenolic compounds in hazelnuts (gallic acid, quercetin) combat free radicals, offering health benefits.
Nutella doesn’t have hazelnuts in reasonable amounts to get you specific health benefits.
4. Emulsifier (lecithin)
In general, emulsifiers are no good, yet Nutella has a naturally occurring emulsifier, lecithin. Lecithin is a fatty substance used as an emulsifier in food. It’s present in Nutella in a 0.43% ratio–in 37 grams serving of Nutella, you get 1500 milligrams of lecithin. Lecithin can serve general health benefits, yet they are limited.
Lecithin, derived from soybeans or sunflower seeds, aids in managing cholesterol levels. Studies show that a lecithin-rich diet significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels, making it beneficial for heart health.
Studies suggest that lecithin, rich in phosphatidylcholine, enhances gut health by improving intestinal mucus and safeguarding the gastrointestinal lining. This promotes a healthy digestive system and overall well-being.
Lecithin contains choline, a crucial nutrient that supports neurological development. Choline supplementation has been linked to improved cognitive function and protection against neurological issues, underscoring its significance in brain health.
Soy lecithin, a common source, often originates from genetically modified soybeans. This raises concerns about the potential risks of consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Allergies and Health Problems
Lecithin, particularly from soy, can trigger allergies in susceptible individuals.
Lecithin from soy can prevent fat buildup in the liver.
Lecithin may aid gut health and improve digestion.
Choline in lecithin aids brain development and enhances cognitive abilities.
5. Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder
Fat-reduced cocoa powder is another noticeable ingredient in Nutella, giving it its rich chocolaty flavor. Fat-reduced cocoa powder means cocoa powder with a lower fat content but a more robust chocolaty flavor. But our concern is “whether fat-reduced cocoa powder is healthy for you?”
Yes, here’s why:
Reduced Fat Content
Fat-reduced cocoa powder contains less fat than regular cocoa powder, making it a healthier choice, especially for those mindful of their fat intake.
Rich in Antioxidants
Both regular and fat-reduced cocoa powder are rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. These antioxidants offer cell protection and various health benefits, including improvements in heart health.
Low Caffeine Content
Fat-reduced cocoa powder contains minimal caffeine (3mg per serving).
Fat-reduced cocoa powder remains addictive because it contains similar chemicals to regular cocoa powder. Theobromine, akin to caffeine, boosts alertness and triggers dopamine release, linked to pleasure. Phenylethylamine, associated with love, is released when consuming chocolate. Anandamide mimics cannabis effects, activating the brain’s reward system. Tryptophan, producing serotonin, affects mood. These chemicals contribute to cocoa’s addictive nature, making Nutella so addictive.
Fat-reduced cocoa powder has less fat than regular cocoa powder.
Cocoa powder is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids.
Fat-reduced cocoa powder has the least caffeine–3 mg per serving, to prevent you from caffeine side effects.
6. Skimmed Milk Powder
Skimmed milk powder in Nutella is another partially healthy ingredient for you, yet its 8% quantity in Nutella is not considerable. Depending on individual dietary needs and health goals, it can have positive and negative aspects.
Here’s a breakdown:
- Skimmed milk powder is a good source of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth.
- Milk powder adds protein to Nutella, which is essential for building and repairing body tissues.
- Skimmed milk powder contributes to the creamy texture of Nutella, enhancing its taste and mouthfeel.
- Skimmed milk powder with its natural sugars adds more to the sugar content in Nutella. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to health issues like obesity and dental problems (we’ll discuss them in detail in the next section).
- Skimmed milk powder, like any dairy product, adds calories to Nutella. Consuming Nutella in large quantities might lead to weight gain if not balanced with physical activity.
- Skimmed milk powder contains lactose, which can be problematic for people with lactose intolerance.
Remember, the amount of skimmed milk in Nutella is pretty negligible, while it has few health benefits and drawbacks. So, consider it an OK ingredient.
7. Flavoring (Vanillin): 0.075%
Vanillin (synthetically produced vanilla bean flavor compound) is used in Nutella as a flavoring agent. It’s safe for consumption in moderation and is approved as a food additive by regulatory agencies worldwide.
Some studies suggest potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but more research is needed to confirm these benefits. The only known side effect is an allergic reaction, which can cause symptoms like hives and swelling. Overall, vanillin is considered safe for most people, but individuals with allergies or concerns should consult a doctor before consuming it.
What’s the Actual Problem with Nutella?
The rich blend of hazelnuts, cocoa, and sugar that makes Nutella so delightful can also be its downfall. It’s the overindulgence of what some call a “Nutella addiction.” It’s not just about enjoying it occasionally on toast; for some, it’s a daily habit that’s hard to break.
What’s making Nutella so addictive, then?
Nutella addiction stems from its blend of sugar and specific chemical compounds. The high sugar content rapidly energizes and triggers dopamine release, leading to cravings. Theobromine in cocoa enhances mood and pleasure, while tryptophan boosts serotonin, aiding mood. Phenylethylamine, found in cocoa powder, is associated with love and anandamide; this cannabis-like compound intensifies pleasure. This combination creates a pleasurable experience, making Nutella appealing and potentially addictive.
This is why 14% of users have been found to eat Nutella straight from the jar, as reported by CNN. Such overindulgence can lead to excessive calorie intake, contributing to obesity and related health issues. It’s crucial to be aware of portion sizes and enjoy such treats in moderation to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
To wrap up, Nutella’s delightful taste comes with health caveats. Its high sugar and palm oil content can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart issues. While hazelnuts offer slight nutritional benefits, processed forms limit their impact. Moreover, the addictive nature of Nutella can lead to excessive calorie intake.
The key lies in moderation—being aware of portions and considering Nutella as an occasional treat. Or you can better make your healthy hazelnut spread at home, without sugar or fats like palm oil. Your healthy Nutella may have healthier fats and no-calorie sweeteners like stevia.
Is Nutella FODMAP?
Yes, Nutella contains ingredients high in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), specifically hazelnuts and milk powder.
FODMAPs are carbohydrates that can trigger digestive symptoms in some individuals, especially those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive sensitivities. People following a low-FODMAP diet should be cautious about consuming Nutella, as it may cause discomfort or worsen their symptoms.
Is Nutella Bad for People Dealing With Cholesterol?
Yes, Nutella, a hazelnut chocolate spread, is high in saturated fats and sugar, making it less suitable for people with high cholesterol. Saturated fats can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Besides this, excess sugar consumption may also contribute to higher cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health risks. Though consuming Nutella in moderation is advisable, when dealing with high cholesterol, please opt for healthier spreads with unsaturated fats, like natural nut butter, to better manage their cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Is Nutella Bad for Diarrhea?
Yes, Nutella can worsen diarrhea. It contains high levels of sugar and fat, which can be hard to digest for some individuals, especially those with sensitive or inflamed digestive systems. Additionally, the lactose in Nutella (from milk solids) can exacerbate symptoms in people who are lactose intolerant, leading to digestive issues like diarrhea.
Is Nutella Bad for People Suffering from GERD (Acid Reflux)?
Yes, Nutella can worsen symptoms for people suffering from GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) or acid reflux. It contains high levels of fat and sugar, which can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus and aggravating GERD symptoms like heartburn and discomfort.
Is Nutella Bad for People with Gout?
Nutella contains purines, which can contribute to uric acid formation and gout attacks. However, these purine levels are lower than in certain meats and seafood. Contrarily, Nutella also offers antioxidants with potential anti-inflammatory benefits. So, consulting a healthcare professional or dietitian is crucial to creating a personalized diet plan for your individual needs and gout management.
How Can I Make a Healthy Nutella?
Making a healthier version of Nutella at home is a great way to satisfy your cravings and allows you to control the ingredients, ensuring a nutritious spread. Here’s a simple and wholesome homemade Nutella recipe.
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 4-5 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (adjust to taste)
- 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
- Toast Hazelnuts: Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-12 minutes or until fragrant. Allow them to cool slightly, and rub them in a clean kitchen towel to remove the skins.
- Blend Hazelnuts: Place the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor and blend until they form a smooth hazelnut butter. This might take several minutes; be patient.
- Add Remaining Ingredients: Add cocoa powder, maple syrup (or honey), coconut oil, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to the hazelnut butter. Blend until all the ingredients are well combined, and the spread reaches your desired consistency.
- Adjust Sweetness: Taste the Nutella and adjust sweetness by adding more maple syrup or honey if needed. Blend again until well combined.
- Store: Transfer the homemade Nutella to a clean, airtight jar and store it in the refrigerator. It can be stored for up to two weeks.
What Can Be Healthier Alternatives to Nutella?
Nutella alternatives not only offer different flavors but also come with various nutritional benefits, allowing you to enjoy your chocolate spread guilt-free. Some of these are listed below:
- Almond Butter Chocolate Spread: Blend almond butter with cocoa powder, a touch of honey, and a bit of coconut oil. Almond butter is naturally creamy and rich, making it a perfect base.
- Peanut Cocoa Spread: Mix peanut butter with cocoa powder and a small amount of maple syrup. Peanut butter offers a different flavor profile and is loved by many.
- Avocado Chocolate Spread: Blend ripe avocado with cocoa powder, a natural sweetener like agave syrup, and a pinch of salt. Avocado provides a creamy texture and healthy fats.
- Greek Yogurt Chocolate Spread: Combine Greek yogurt with cocoa powder and a natural sweetener. Greek yogurt adds protein while keeping the spread creamy and tangy.
- Banana Chocolate Spread: Blend ripe bananas with cocoa powder and almond butter. Bananas add natural sweetness and a smooth texture.
Remember, moderation is the key to enjoying any sweet treat while maintaining a balanced diet.