On this windy, post-hurricane Sunday afternoon I find myself sitting in bed reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. I have been reading a few pages at a time every night before I go to sleep so it has taken longer than necessary to get through (not because it is uninteresting, but because I am genetically predisposed to falling asleep after reading about 5 pages). I just read something that I would like to discuss, as I brought up the subject of bogus food labels in a previous post about whole grains. Below is the excerpt from Pollan's book:
"When corn oil and chips and sugary breakfast cereals can all boast being good for your heart, health claims have become hopelessly corrupt. The American Heart Association currently bestows (for a fee) its heart-healthy seal of approval on Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, and Trix cereals, Yoo-hoo lite chocolate drink, and Healthy Choice's Premium Caramel Swirl Ice Cream Sandwich- this at a time when scientists are coming to recognize that dietary sugar probably plays a more important role in heart disease than dietary fat. Meanwhile, the genuinely heart healthy foods in the produce section, lacking the financial and political clout of the packaged goods a few aisles over, are mute. But don't take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health. Bogus health claims and food science have made supermarkets particularly treacherous places to shop for real food..."This brings up a couple of topics. First is the difference between food and food products. Food is, as Michael Pollan discusses in this book, something that your great grandmother would have ate- whole foods and home cooked foods with minimal ingredients. Food products, the majority of what stocks our supermarket shelves, are food like concoctions that have been stripped down of all of the ingredients' natural health benefits so the so called food can last indefinitely on the shelves or freezer. In order to have any "health claim" to advertise on the food products they are then fortified, enriched, and supplemented.
That brings me to the second topic which is the labeling that Big Food companies put on their food products. I am going to seriously try to keep my opinions about how politicians have no business getting involved in what we eat, however I find it extremely hard since the two (government and big food) have become so intimately acquainted in the past century. I want you to seriously think for a minute...if you are looking at a box of Cocoa Puffs or a package of caramel ice cream that is boasting being heart healthy, DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE IT? Then once you have your answer (hopefully it is NO) take a look at the ingredients list. Is there anything on that list that you do not recognize? that you can not pronounce? that you think may be unhealthy or unnecessary? (I would bet money that your answer to all of them would be YES)
Then ask yourself...WHY THE HELL AM I EATING THIS GARBAGE? AND (EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY) WHY AM I FEEDING IT TO MY KIDS?
Read labels! Don't be fooled by health claims on packaged food. Spend more time in the produce section!
P.S. I am currently working on a list of food brands that are good for you that have real food ingredients in them. It will be a short list (unfortunately) but I will create a page on this blog listing all of them soon!