Why We Avoid Artificial Ingredients

One quote from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food pretty much says it all when it comes to artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors:

One of the problems with the products of food science is that, as Joan Gussow has pointed out, they lie to your body; their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the number, consulting labels rather than our senses.

Another issue with artificial foods is that, just like other highly processed foods, they’re relatively new and therefore we don’t know exactly how their consumption affects the body long term.  Remember how margarine was touted as a healthy alternative to butter when decades later we learned the dangers of  hydrogenated oils?

This post reminds me that I’ve been wanting to share the difference between “natural” and “organic” food products. Packaging and labels can be so darn confusing these days! When a product says it is “natural” it just means that the ingredients come from something naturally created like a plant or an animal. If a product weren’t “natural” it could contain artificial ingredients like Red Dye #40 that’s chemically created or “invented” by food scientists in a lab somewhere. Sound appetizing yet? “Organic” food is a whole different story and refers to products that have not been treated with synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides, which is of course a very good thing.

Just for the record, whether you are buying food that is “all natural” or “organic” it does not mean those products are whole grain, low in sodium, or lacking loads of sweeteners like sugar. To put things in perspective, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is actually a “natural” ingredient since it is made from corn. Now if given the choice I would much rather consume HFCS over an artificially created sweetener like Splenda, but it is obviously still less than ideal. With that being said, natural products are a far better choice than artificial ones although we would by no means automatically deem them as being “real food.”

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69 thoughts on “Why We Avoid Artificial Ingredients”

  1. Really wish you’d talk about the effects of consuming food dyes, especially red 40 which is linked to hyperactivity in children. Left and right children are diagnosed with ADHD due to these chemicals and treated with harmful and unnecessary pharmaceuticals. Parents need to understand that before they rush out to get a diagnosis they need to clean their children’s diets.

  2. 2 adults and I babysit my 2 young grandchildren during the week. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. Wish me luck!

  3. Have you found a natural food coloring of any kind? My daughter always gets excited when she can have pink food.

  4. This may be a silly question, but is there a list somewhere of ingredients that are “artificial”? Looking forward to begining our healthier life as a family, but just trying to kind of learn everything right now. I am afraid I would miss something that I didn’t realize was “artifical”. TIA

  5. My family and I will do the pledge for longer than a week, that’s two adults and two children. I do not understand why we cannot have stricter standards like the U.K. when it comes to our food especially since Mrs.Obama is very health conscious and working so hard to make the U.S. a healthier place you would think that something would have been implemented to be as safe as the U.K’s food standards. Especially because one of the Obama campaigns have been to eat healthier and to help fight obesity banning these items would help.

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