Long road trips are never complete with yummy snacks on the go. Driving for hours and hours through seemingly endless roads, eventually, you and your vehicle would need some refueling. For many people, especially those from the hot, Southern states, there’s that one-stop shop that one can’t bear to miss.
To the citizens of the South and Southwest states, Buc-ee’s is that #1 gasoline station chain that has almost every type of fuel you need, including food. Founded in 1982, Buc-ee’s has been the all-time favorite go-to convenient store of weary travelers in the South, and for many good reasons.
Buc-ee’s convenience stores are usually packed with people and road trip snacks that many others are addicted to; they can’t just seem to get enough of them. Especially, Buc-ee’s trademark and best-selling Beaver Nuggets caramel corn puffs.
The good news is that Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets may be considered vegan since the main ingredient, cornmeal, is plant-based. They also contain both artificial and natural flavoring, both of which are derived from non-animal-based sources, and the rest of the ingredients are synthetic.
In general, you can still enjoy the sweet, crunchy taste of Beaver Nuggets, either on the road or at home. So here we’ll be reviewing the seemingly overwhelming number of ingredients in Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets sweet corn puff snacks.
However, some of the ingredients may be up for debate, and the best way to know where and how the ingredients are sourced is to ask the manufacturers directly. Whether or not you’d take a pack (or two) of Beaver Nuggets for a good splurge after reading this post is totally up to you.
You can order a pack of Beaver Nuggets from Amazon for $13.99, and you can also check the nutrition and ingredients info there.
- Corn Meal
- Corn Syrup
- Canola Oil
- Contains 2% or less of the following
- Margarine (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Mono & Diglycerides, Lecithin, Sodium Benzoate, Artificial Flavor, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate)
- Soy Lecithin
- Soybean Oil
- Propylene Glycol
- Natural Butter Flavor
- Natural Maple Flavor
- Caramel Color
- Beta Carotene
- Contains Soy
Sugar is perhaps the most basic ingredient one would normally find in common packaged sweets and snacks, and so it really doesn’t require much explanation. However, if you’re doubtful about processed sugar due to rumors of bone char processing, then allow me to address that shortly.
According to PETA, bone char filtration is widely used to refine sugar, both white and brown, and bleach white sugar to the ideal color. The definition of bone char, or natural carbon, is exactly what its name suggests, that it’s made from the burnt ashes of animal bones, mainly cattle.
While PETA provides an additional list of known companies that manufacture organic cane and beet sugar without bone char filtration, this practice is heavily regulated by the FDA and is slowly being replaced by more advanced processing equipment. The FDA also disallows the use of bone char in refining organic white sugar and the like.
However, if a company says they don’t source sugar from bone char users, then their products can be considered safe and vegan-friendly; as for now, there’s not enough information and response on what filtered sugar Beaver Nuggets uses.
Cornmeal isn’t the same as cornflour or corn starch; it’s coarse ground, less processed, and has a yellowish hue like corn itself. It’s vegan-friendly and gluten-free. It’s also very high in calories and carbs.
Not to be confused with the more notorious high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup is 100% glucose, and according to Healthline, glucose, as a carbohydrate, is less damaging to one’s health than fructose.
While HFCS is related to increased risks of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, the glucose in corn syrup is better absorbed by the body since it’s our main carbohydrate energy source, while excessive fructose puts a strain on the liver.
However, it’s good to note that not all glucose syrup is corn syrup, and doesn’t mean it’s an energy source that it’s already great. Overconsumption of glucose sugar every day can lead to unhealthy weight gain and other diseases related to sugar overdose.
Canola oil is 100% plant-based and sourced from the canola plant, specifically its seeds. Canola oil, like many other vegetable oils, contains very few essential nutrients: a tablespoon gives 12% vitamin E and 12% vitamin K based on the RDI or DV, and 124 cal.
Canola oil is also high in omega-6 fats, and like omega-3, it benefits the heart, skin, and metabolic health, but this oil contains twice the amount of omega-6 than omega-3, and that’s not good. This imbalance may cause various chronic illnesses like early Alzheimer’s, obesity, and heart diseases.
So when it comes to canola oil, it’s best to avoid using it at home and moderate your consumption of foods containing it.
Molasses is a thick, dark syrup sweetener that is a byproduct of sugar-making. Surprisingly, some claim that molasses is more beneficial than refined sugar because it contains more vitamins and minerals. However, it’s still mostly comprised of sugary carbs, so moderation is key, but you can substitute molasses for sugar for a healthier treat.
Salt is the most basic flavoring additive in most of the foods we eat, and in some cases, it’s almost impossible to eat anything savory without it. However, salt is a two-edged sword, if you have too little of it, it’s problematic, and if you have too much of it, it also creates problems.
While both the AHA and WHO recommends a daily allowance of 1,500 mg of sodium, the average American consumes more than twice that number. On the other hand, eating sodium below 1,400 mg is considered low, and having less sodium in the body may lead to fluid retention, reduced brain activity, fatigue, and, most severely, death.
Too much salt, on the other hand, may increase the risks of kidney disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
Soy lecithin is a byproduct of making soybean oil, and it’s typically used as an emulsifier, antioxidant, and flavor preserver. Since soy lecithin is derived from soy, it’s considered an allergen, but most soy lecithin products use them in trace amounts.
According to Healthline, soy lecithin has its uses and benefits, such as cholesterol reduction and choline supplementation. The problem for vegans, however, is that soy lecithin had a history of animal tests to prove the claims. So if that bothers you, you can simply avoid products with soy lecithin.
Soybean oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oil in the world, and due to its versatility and health claims, it’s widely used for frying, baking, and roasting. Unlike canola oil with similar nutritional components, soybean oil is portrayed in a warmer light.
Soybean oil has a healthy amount of polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3, and unlike canola oil, it’s not as heavily processed, doesn’t contain trans fat, and has very low saturated fat. It also has higher vitamin K and E values, making it slightly healthier than other vegetable oils.
It’s also linked with lower cholesterol, improved skin and bone health, and efficient metabolism.
However, soybean oil still has more omega-6 than omega-3, which creates an unhealthy imbalance, especially if one’s diet already consists of too much omega-6.
Propylene glycol is a synthetic food additive derived from food-grade petroleum that is mainly used to absorb moisture. It’s considered alcohol but is thicker than water with no actual taste. Since it retains moisture in food products, it’s what helps keep food moist.
While it has no known health benefits, propylene glycol is generally considered safe by the FDA. Yet, it’s used in minute doses in many foods, with the WHO recommending only an 11.4 mg intake of propylene glycol per pound of body weight per day.
Since propylene glycol belongs to the family of edible alcohols, whiskey contains it and may be toxic in very large quantities, such as more than 200 grams, which is already considered a fatal dosage. So it’s advisable to keep this substance in moderation.
Natural Butter Flavor
The natural butter flavor is a naturally-derived food flavoring and is typically non-dairy. According to one Harvard article, diacetyl and acetoin are byproducts of sugar fermentation, and with the help of bacterial or yeast culture, these two chemicals can recreate the flavor of butter. Since the synthesis of diacetyl and acetoin is naturally derived from sugar, it’s considered a natural and dairy-free flavor.
Natural Maple Flavor
The natural maple flavor is recreated by culturing propylene glycol, water, and caramel color. It’s sweet, buttery, more versatile, and easier to work with than natural maple syrup. Though propylene glycol is considered artificial or synthetic, caramel color is natural.
Caramel color is a natural coloring additive produced by heating sugar compounds, such as corn syrup, together with ammonium compounds, acids, or alkalis. It’s commonly used to give pop beverages and caramel-flavored snacks their dark-brown color or caramelized texture.
Beta carotene is a natural pigment mainly found in orange and red plants, fruits, and fungi. Technically, it’s not the same as vitamin A, but it’s a so-called precursor to vitamin A. Ingesting beta carotene is considered safe, and our body converts it into vitamin A.
Beta carotene is essentially a natural food coloring and can be found in butter- or caramel-flavored snacks.
Margarine is usually a vegan-friendly substitute for dairy butter, but other margarine may contain lard or pork fat. The margarine used in Beaver Nuggets seems to be plant-based with a few natural and artificial additives.
- Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil – the main ingredient of margarine contains trans fat, which is the least healthy type of fat. Although generally labeled GRAS by the FDA, oils rich in transfat must be consumed in strict moderation, some people prefer to avoid it entirely.
- Mono & Diglycerides – these refer to the chain of fatty acids present in oils and serve as emulsifiers. They help oil and water blend. They’re considered vegan if they’re vegetable-based, in this case, they are.
- Sodium Benzoate – an artificial salt formed from the synthesis of benzoic acid and lye (sodium hydroxide). It’s a common preservative with unclear health effects. Benzoic acid is derived from gum benzoin, a resin found in the barks of styrax trees.
- Artificial Flavor
- Beta Carotene
- Vitamin A Palmitate – a form of vitamin A that is more easily absorbed by the body. It’s used as a vitamin supplement in food. While natural vitamin A palmitate is mostly found in liver, eggs, and dairy, the supplement version of the substance is synthetic.
Buc-ee’s sweet and creamy Beaver Nuggets is generally vegan since most of its ingredients are plant-based, while others are either naturally or artificially derived. However, some of its ingredients had histories of animal tests, and even more pose health risks.
Ultimately, it’s your choice whether you want to indulge in this favored road trip, buddy, but again, keep an eye on your health. Perhaps a pack may satisfy you, but another won’t hurt. Add a third, and you might want to keep your fingers off those sticky puffs for now.
Obviously, Beaver Nuggets sweet corn snacks aren’t one of the healthiest options for vegans since their nutritional value isn’t very impressive: a serving contains 4.5 g fat, 14 g sugar, 1 g protein, 190 mg sodium, and 130 cal. Is it good, though? It’s good for the taste buds but not entirely for your health.
Buc-ee’s also has a few other vegan-friendly snacks such as dried fruits and vegetables, Beaver Nug-ee’s, Beaver Chips, Roasted Nuts, and Fruit Kolaches.