Granted, it’s not a season that’s celebrated like Christmas or Halloween, but September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month. Do you know what your cholesterol is doing right now? Is it stirring up trouble, roaming unchecked through your body, driving you towards a possible heart attack?
You can’t fight your heredity. But many lifestyle factors help determine your cholesterol level. One of the reasons it’s so hard for many people to control their cholesterol is that they like to eat foods that increase cholesterol levels. If you’re a vegan, you don’t have to worry about ingesting cholesterol. But if you like to eat animal products high in saturated fats, and you’re sedentary and/or overweight, well, you’re cruising for a cholesterol bruising.
The snack food company Corazonas was founded in 2005. Having lost loved ones to heart disease, the founders wanted to battle cholesterol. But they knew how hard it is for people to give up snacks and treats. So they developed healthier alternatives that still taste good. Their key ingredient: plant sterols. These naturally-occurring substances reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 5 to 14 percent, depending on which study you read. According to Corazonas’ website, consuming 1.5 to 3 grams of plant sterols per day is optimal. Most Americans only get about .25 grams per day in their diet. So Corazonas fortifies their chips and oatmeal squares with plant sterols.
When Corazonas offered me some products to review, I accepted a shipment of tortilla chips and oatmeal squares. Unfortunately, only their original tortilla chips are vegan. The oatmeal squares contain whey protein isolate and/or dried egg whites, depending on the flavor. The flavored tortilla chips are dusted with cheesy coatings. But in the name of science and freeganism, I tried the oatmeal squares, and got my friends to taste test the flavored tortilla chips (that cheese dust gives me the heeby jeebies).
Each oatmeal square is fortified with .8 grams of plant sterols. Other nutrient levels vary from flavor to flavor, but typically contain about 5 g of fiber, 6 g of protein, 16 g of whole grain and 12 g of sugars. Corazonas also adds vitamins – sources not noted – which vary greatly between flavors. For example, the chocolate chip oatmeal square has 20 percent of your recommended dose of calcium and 35 percent of your vitamin E, while the peanut butter flavor contains 45 percent of your calcium and 15 percent of your vitamin E.
As for taste, this also varies. The blueberry is the best I’ve tried so far. I opened the wrapper and it smelled just like a Pop-Tart, which is high praise for a snack food with health aspirations. However, a vitamin smell and taste overpowered some of the other flavors, such as peanut butter.
The plain tortilla chips tasted perfectly normal, probably because they’re only fortified with plant sterols, not with vitamins. They offer 3 g of fiber per 1-ounce serving. However, these are not low-fat chips. At 140 calories and 7 grams of fat per 1-ounce serving, these add up. Especially if you, like me, have a hard time eating only one ounce of tortilla chips.
My friends mostly liked both the lime and the black bean and cheese flavored tortilla chips. Comments included “light and airy with just the right amount of lime” and “feels healthy, not heavy.” Although one person thought they tasted a tad stale and left a coating in his mouth.
Portland shoppers can find Corazonas brand at Safeway, Fred Meyer and QFC.