Cooking was at one point a part of one’s everyday life and industries that specialize in producing, packaging, and distributing mass amounts of food didn’t exist. In response, the typical American diet has shifted from being filled with whole and local foods that receive zero modifications to one that relies on highly processes foods that are a lot of times not as healthy for the human body. In this chapter of Bel Canto, there is mention of food and I began to wonder about what actually goes in to the the food we eat.
To further define what processed foods are, there are a few ingredients that come to mind. High fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural and artificial flavorings, and coloring agents are all ingredients commonly found in products typically located in the average consumer’s grocery store. (Igore) Examples that first come to mind might consist of packaged cookies, chips, and soda however it may come as a surprise to find out what is really considered processed, whether it’s healthy or unhealthy.Processed foods can be defined as follows, “Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat. It can be as simple as freezing or drying food to preserve nutrients and freshness, or as complex as formulating a frozen meal with the right balance of nutrients and ingredients. (“What is a processed food? You might be surprised”) The explanation doesn’t sound so bad but when fully analyzing the ingredients that go into the now processed foods that we eat, it should be of concern.
There are five continuums that break down each processing level according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. (“What is a processed food? You might be surprised”)
I consider myself to be extremely aware of what kind of foods that I buy and what contain yet when I stumbled upon this piece of information I was absolutely shocked. It turns out that products that contain slogans like “natural”, “may reduce heart disease”, “low in fat”, and “high in calcium” don’t always imply what they market themselves to be. (Ruane)
The FDA doesn’t actually define the word natural giving a multitude of different products the right to use it on packaging and advertisements. Typically the only restraint is if the food contains artificial flavor, added coloring, or any other type of synthetic substances. (Igore) It is clear that there is a major disagreement between what consumers believe about the safety and quality of processed foods and what manufactures believe.
Another interesting aspect to look at is how the America diet has changed over the past century. People used to consume grains such as wheat, rice, and corn as well as beans but this amount has ben cut in half and replaced with something else, meat. Between the years 1910 and 1970 meat consumption increases by 72% and the consumption of chicken alone increased by 179%. A survey revealed that Americans have come to believe that good protein is exclusively found in animal products like meat, eggs, and cheeses however this is not the case. (Ruane)
The major components of junk food are fats oils and sugars or in other words empty calories that have no nutritional value. So why do people still continue to eat these types of foods? Ingredients in junk food are highly addictive and are filed with large amounts of chemicals like monosodium glutamate and high fructose corn syrup. (Igore) Although these types of foods are by no means healthy, that doesn’t mean that its not okay to eat, indulging in a bag microwave popcorn can be done in moderation and feel more like a treat rather than an every day routine.
However, its important to be aware of what you are consuming. Diacetyl is chemical commonly used in microwave popcorn. (Solomon) Workers in the popcorn factory were constantly inhaling large amount of this and many began to develop a lung problems resulting in the manufactures voluntarily banning his active ingredient from their popcorn. (Solomon)
Although process foods don’t usually correlate with a healthy life style, it has been stated that obesity and processed foods are not linked directly. Weight gain occurs due to the simple relationship between calories consumed and calories used. When the number of consumed calories outweighs the number of ones used, weight gain will occur no matter what type of lifestyle one chooses to live.
To conclude, it is essential to be educated on what one is allowing into their bodies. There is a lot of information out there regarding this topic but with just a little bit research it isn’t hard to make positive decisions to get started eating a healthy and nutritious lifestyle.
Darmon, Nicole. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ultra-processed.” Public Health Nutrition (2009): 1967-968.Cambridge Journals. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
“What Is a Processed Food? You Might Be Surprised!”Foodinsight.org. 1 Sept. 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.
Ruane, Lauren, and Danie Ruane. “The American Biology Teacher.”University of California Press 75.3 (2013): 220-21. JSTOR. University of California Press. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1525/abt.2013.75.3.12#_i2>.
Igore, Robert. Dictionary of Food Ingredients. 5th ed. Springer, 2011. Print.
Solomon, Goody. “Extra Ingredients: Hormones in Food.” JSTOR 102.8 (1994): 632-35. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.