Experiencing Food v. Thinking Nutrients

A funny thing has been happening to American consumers over the last couple decades regarding what they eat.  Actually, its not really that funny, and it reminds me of old “The Boiled Frog” story, which goes something like this:

If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. But, if you put it in a pot filled with cool water, and then gradually turn up the heat until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. 

Keeping in mind that this is a parable, and not factually correct (according to Fast Company), it still makes a great point; like the frog, our instincts seem geared toward detecting sudden changes, while we miss the build up of truly life-threatening situations.

Throughout history, humans have not needed to consult others to figure out what to eat.  We figured it out.  We learned what to look for, especially nature’s markers for “danger.”  And, we did it all without the benefits of industrialized food.  But, with industrial food’s so-called revolution, things started changing.  Like so many things related to food, I really like how Michael Pollan describes what has been happening:

“No idea [nutritionism] could be more sympathetic to manufacturers of processed foods, which surely explains why they have been so happy to jump on the nutritionism bandwagon.  Indeed, nutritionism supplies the ultimate justification for processing food by implying that with a judicious application of food science, fake foods can be made even more nutritious than the real thing.” –In Defense of Food

The evidence supporting Mr. Pollan’s statement above is steadily rolling in, including Marion Nestle’s latest post on Food Politics: “Antioxidants as a marketing tool.”

“Antioxidant nutrients are so important as marketing tools that they constitute their own brand, say British experts on such questions.  Apparently, up to 60% of consumers who see an antioxidant claim on a product label will buy it for that reason.  Despite lack of evidence that additional antioxidants make people healthier (and may actually do some harm), these claims are so popular that food companies introduced nearly 300 new antioxidant-labeled products into U.S. supermarkets last year…

Like the frog in the “Boiled Frog” parable, we can continue being slow-cooked by large food manufacturers. Or, we can wake up to the reality they have created, discount the onslaught of nutrient claims (and counter claims) associated with highly processed food, and begin experiencing the wholesome goodness of natural and organic foods.


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3 responses to “Experiencing Food v. Thinking Nutrients

  1. Amen! Great post. What we really need is a return to eating & preparing traditional foods. It’s nice when science “figures out” what it is in a nourishing, traditional food that contributes to it being so good for me. It makes me feel even more justified in my more radical food choices (coconut oil, raw milk, butter from grass-fed cows, etc.). BUT, I don’t eat these things because of the science. Rather, I eat them because they are FOOD. Real Food. And because they’ve been eaten or prepared this way for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

  2. Great post!

    As Michael Pollan also says in his book:

    Eat Food[real food- not processed foods],

    Not Much[Ben Franklin says: “To lengthen your years lessen thy meals.”],

    Mostly Plants[That’s pretty self explanatory. The Western diet is the opposite and obviously is NOT working.]

  3. Pingback: Danimals: A Case Study in “Nutrient-Based” Marketing « Every Kitchen Table

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