Chapter 6: What are we really eating?

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”)

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.54.18 AM

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!” 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. <;.

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.


2 thoughts on “Chapter 6: What are we really eating?

  1. bsejdiu942 says:

    Hey Anna,

    I was really interested in this particular piece this week as I had done a semester researching foods and marketing. I would definitely focus on the marketing tactic of slapping the word natural on products as if it even means anything. How do we define what is natural? That is such a subjective and biased idea. For example, arsenic is a naturally occurring substance found with inorganic and organic compounds in the earth. Keep in mind though it’s extremely lethal to the human body. The play on words that these companies put on their products is an entire research avenue in and of itself.

    I would definitely research through the history of food production in our species history, and the public perception of farming practices. For example, most of the American population have no idea that a lot of their foods are genetically modified. Those that do also have also have a negative view towards these practices.

    I would also extend the research towards genetic modification and organic food practices. There is a lot of misconception and false information on the internet you will have to wave through as I did. I would generate focus towards the megacorp Monsanto, where they in essence misuse genetic modification technologies and pass laws that bankrupt other farmers that don’t use their products. This in turn has given bad reputation to GMOs, which can be used in a positive way without harming the environment the way Monsanto does. It’s the equivalent of how the understanding of the atom can be used; we can either power entire cities with it or vaporize them in a moment. I would also research into efficiency of both sides, as even though organic is for now a more environmentally friendly alternative compared to the current use of GMOs, its efficiency is far lower. You can extend this research to greater food shortage across the world.

    There are technological changes taking place, as GMO facilities are being constructed that contain these seeds within a very controlled environment, have a much higher efficiency of food production than conventional methods (including current GMO practice), the farming footprint is extremely small as these areas build up like skyscrapers rather than out like a ranch, can theoretically be built anywhere on the planet and produce any food source, no pollution leakage into the surrounding ecosystem, and require no energy from the grid as their power supply comes entirely from the photovoltaic cells on the building’s façade to power the efficient lighting distribution system inside.


  2. ballen68 says:

    Hey Anna,
    You did a great a job on your blog this week. I really enjoyed reading it, because I too am very health conscientious and pay attention to all the foods that I am eating. What we put in our body is super important and critical to determining the quality and length of the life we will live. I also enjoyed speaking with you about this topic in class and relating our topics. As I mentioned before I think that researching why people continue to eat the bad foods even when they know that it is unhealthy. Maybe you could even research if the connections we make to food are implicit or explicit.
    I would like to see you go deeper in to this subject. I think you did great job on giving general knowledge about the topic and some of the problems that arise from it. I think you can narrow in on some really cool topics though. Some ideas could be what I mentioned above, how the United States is affected in regards to their health from all he meat or processed foods, the psychological effects of eating the way we do, the moral issue with eating how we do, or just anything else that narrows in on a more specific topic or issue. I look forward to seeing if you end up deciding to take this research further and pursue something related to the US diet and food.
    It really confuses me why people are willing to sacrifice time on their life to save time now. One of the biggest things that keeps our country coming back to these terrible foods are the fact that they are extremely cheap and convenient. Are they convenient and cheap enough to give up time on our life? If people made this connection, would they still continue eating the same way if they had the ability (funds) to eat differently?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s