Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You going to eat that?

Do you eat or serve prepared foods? Foods like Pillsbury Grands!, Bisquick or YoKids? Have you read the labels?

I subscribe to a few couponing websites. There are really good deals out there, but most often these deals are for prepared foods. Corporations like General Mills, Kellogg's, ConAgra, and others frequently run special promotions where consumers can reap big savings on foods sold by these companies. Sounds like a great deal? Better read the fine print.

The fine print, in this case, is the ingredient list and nutritional information. The amount of trans fat, sugar, processed sugar, sodium, food coloring, and preservatives added to many of these foods makes me ill. They are added for one reason - profit.

Companies are out for profit. These ingredients are cheaper than 'real' ingredients, make the food more shelf stable, look better, and appear healthier.


I firmly believe it is the consumer's obligation to buy foods with healthy ingredients. If people stop buying foods made with junk materials, the demand curve will shift and corporate profits will suffer, creating a need to change the quality of the supply of foods on the shelves.

Food manufacturers use preservatives to create shelf-stable foods. In other words, to keep food from going bad. Duh. My contention on these and all other synthetics: is the human body capable of processing and flushing these chemicals? What happens to these substances when they go through our body? I believe they can be carcinogenic or cause other long-term health problems.

The use of preservatives, emulsifiers, and food coloring contribute to a food's appearance. First of all, foods don't look very appealing if they are moldy. Have you ever purchased bread from a local breadmaker? It gets moldy in a couple of days. Some grocery store bread, however, is good for up to three weeks. With every benefit comes a consequence. Fresh bread has a short shelf life. How about hot dog buns? They never seem to go bad.

Peanut butter uses emulsifying ingredients to keep from separating. Have you ever owned real peanut butter? After sitting on the shelf, the liquids and solids separate. It only needs to be stirred, but people see the separation and wonder if the food is spoiled. Cottage cheese and yogurt act like that.

Food coloring makes packaged food appear fresh and bright, therefore appealing. Making pickle relish more green or the bright colors in many breakfast cereals are just two examples of the uses of food coloring.

Sugar, brown sugar, honey, and molasses are used to sweeten foods. Fat (butter or oil) is used for taste and creaminess. Salt is used to help bring out the flavors of other ingredients and to react with ingredients in baking. Names for salt include table salt, iodized salt, sodium chloride (table salt), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and baking powder (a combination of baking soda and cornstarch.) Different combinations of these ingredients make a food sweet or savory. By loading food up with all three, signals are sent to the brain, giving a WOW! factor. Have you ever tried to eat just one doughnut or chocolate chip cookie? It's almost impossible, and that's not an accident. Food scientists know that adding the right levels of these ingredients will make customers come back for more.

Foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium are bad enough. But when synthetics and highly processed substitutes take the place of raw ingredients, what is the body to do?

The use of ultra-refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup take the food further away from raw materials. Refining and processing is bad. The closer to the natural product, the better. The same goes for bleached and enriched flour. Why use enriched flour? To make the food appear to be more nutritious than it is. Rather than supplementing one's diet with whole fruit and vegetables, enrichment boosts the vitamin content of nutritionally void food materials. Who cares about fruit and vegetables when you can just eat a loaf of bread and get the same vitamins, right? What most people don't know is that the absorption of added vitamins is not as strong from supplements and we miss out on the unpublished benefits supplied by whole foods.

Sodium (salt), sugar, and fat are used to create taste. It is a fact that humans (all animals, to be exact) love these components. Companies know that and not only use them for taste, but use them to create food addiction. This is not a fact, but my opinion supported by studies (see Nutrition Action Healthletter). Many foods use these combinations to get you to love their food and come back for more, no matter what the nutritional effects.

I read Nutrition Action Healthletter for their informative articles on health and nutrition. Where we disagree is their constant argument for government regulation. That's crap. There's enough regulation that gives consumers the information on food labels needed to make educated decisions about the foods they purchase. Ingredients, carlories, fat, sodium, sugars, fiber, protein, essential vitamins are all on the label of every packaged food.

By choosing to eat processed foods, however, people may as well start smoking. I believe these foods are as harmful and addictive or even more so. Similar to the long-term effects of smoking, people aren't affected immediately, but over a long period of time. Prepackaged foods are made to seduce the buyer into thinking they are healthy or taste great, when they are only manufactured and packaged to appear so. Sound familiar to smoking litigation? Adding addictive substances. Packaging for greater appeal. Creating "light" cigarettes that are just as harmful as their full-flavored counterparts.

And you think food manufacturers wouldn't do that?

Fortunately, many of these manufacturers are waking up to the harmfulness of their products. Soup manufacturers are lowering the average sodium content. Bread and cracker makers are using less high fructose corn syrup. These changes are a good start. Please read labels and make informed decisions about your diet. You'll feel better, live a healthier life, and maybe look better, though I'm lost in that regard.


  1. bottom line, make it from scratch cuz then u can control what goes into it... since u have little ones do u make your own baby food? own a foodmill?

  2. even fresh veggies and fruits are full o' junk these days...unless you grow it on your own, it's hard to avoid the crap.

  3. Make it yourself is the golden rule. Mostly I try to follow it. There is no reason to buy tea biscuit mix or pancake mix as it is just as easy to make from scratch as it is from a mix. Hit my blog to find my world famous tea biscuit recipe which is good for casserole toppings and chicken pot pie as well as just on their own with soup or with peanut butter.