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?
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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.”