Absolute Nutritionism


The idea that we now actually know what nutrients, minerals, sugars, fibers and proteins that are found naturally in our foods are the ‘important’ ones is a pretty exaggerated one. Food science has progressed remarkably, right along with the other biological sciences, but the interaction between man and his foods has taken many millennia to develop. We have evolved alongside the plants and animals for our entire evolutionary history. The effort to claim that natural fats were bad for us was premature. The effort to say that natural sugars is bad for us is likewise probably premature. However, to say that our effort to recreate food in an industrial process and to add in the ‘important’ parts so that we can claim it is as good as natural, like essential vitamins and minerals, is undoubtedly going to fall short of the mark.

When we eat fruits, there is an incredible amount of natural intelligence added into the product of nature that is exactly what we need, and in the correct proportions. When we eat vegetables, there are products that originate in the soil, are metabolized in the leaves by the sun, metabolized in the soil by the fungi at the roots, that we have no access to from any other process. Modern science has no idea how to reproduce these things, they are not yet even named.

The Atlantic Magazine (one of my favorites, month after month) has an article about sugars. In the article they talk at length about whether this added sugar is any better or worse for us than that added sugar. In fact, they wonder, what is the difference to our health if it is a calorie of sucrose, fructose or carbohydrate? That is an excellent point. Someday, the answer may be known. What is already known is that the foods we are eating are for some reason not serving us well. These problem foods are all out of a box, bag or can. We don’t need to wonder which ones of the 10,000 added ingredients is causing us individually to have a problem because we can quit eating foods that we find in a box, bag, or can. Eat no foods that contain a health claim on the label.

Agave nectar and fruit-juice concentrate are not “natural” in the sense that whole fruit is natural, but they defend themselves the same way. The recently proposed FDA nutrition labels include the suggestion that the nutrition information panel add in a line that notes how many “added sugars” are used in a product. Many food companies, especially those that operate in the organic and “natural” space, are lobbying that fruit-juice concentrate should not be included as an added sugar on labels. Popkin says fruit juices are at least as dangerous as any other kind of sweetener. To even consider not including it as an added sugar on labels concerns Popkin deeply.

The debate about whether or not added sugars that come from fruit juice concentrates should be labeled as added sugars is over, if you recognize that the label is the problem. There are no ingredient labels on apples. It is not humanly possible to eat enough apples in a day to equal too much sugar. Nobody will get fat eating carrots, so they don’t need a list of nutrients on the carrot label.

As Stanhope puts it, “Nature provided fructose in quite dilute packages compared to what we’ve done with our food.” Even raw sugar cane is only about ten percent sucrose. So, chomp on sugar-cane stalks all you like.“We have concentrated that fructose in ways I suspect nature never meant us to eat it.”

What else needs to be said about any ingredient? In nature, the percentages are all correct. We need to eat foods that have mostly natural ingredients. Do your own cooking and this happens for you automatically. I don’t have a jar of Xantham Gum in my pantry. I don’t need stabilizers to put in my breads. I never cook anything that I expect to last for six months on the shelf without spoiling. That would be UNNATURAL. I would not see it as an advantage coming out of my kitchen. I DONT WANT TO COOK THAT WAY. Why on earth would I then want to pay good money for food that someone else cooked that way.

Are you really so busy that you cannot plan and execute a meal that has practically no added ingredients in it? Do you not realize that if you make a stock pot of marinara sauce (spaghetti sauce without meat) that you can store it in mason jars for a year, even without any artificial ingredients? It would take a day to do. So many of the things we let them cook don’t really save much time, cost us more money or add anything at all in the way of healthfulness.

Read the article, listen to the scientists quibble over the margins of the debate, but think ‘do I have to eat either way? Can’t I just make my own and be better off?” I think you can, I think it would only require you to change your life “One Small Change at a Time”.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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