Thursday, June 28, 2007

What ever happened to real food?

Faux Food: Where Have All Our Nutrients Gone?
By Rachael Moeller Gorman

A loaf of white bread has been sitting on my desk for three weeks. I've been watching it, waiting for something to happen. Mold, perhaps. A touch of staleness. Bugs maybe. Its sell-by date came and went 14 days ago, but a peek through the wrapper reveals a tanned crust completely devoid of fungus, and a firm press of the package produces a springy return to a perfect rectangular shape, just as it did the day I bought it.

Most of the food consumed in this country passes through a factory or processing plant before ever reaching our tables, and for simple reasons: food needs to be safe, transportable and to stay sellable in the supermarket. Minnesotans want to eat canned peaches in January and working parents want to buy a loaf of bread at the store instead of spending all day baking it themselves. The result is that less and less can be called "unprocessed" anymore. Yet the transition from field to shelf happens in wildly divergent ways, from the simple baking of a few ingredients, like my Small Planet loaf, to inventing a sports drink that comes in a choice of several different neon colors, the product of food chemists and marketers hoping to create mega-demand.

A growing number of voices question whether extreme processing is just making modern food safe and convenient or if it may actually be creating a long-term threat to our society's nutritional health.

"During processing, a lot of beneficial nutrients like fiber, minerals and antioxidants are lost—especially in highly processed, refined-grain products," says Frank Hu, an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health who tracks the effects of food on diseases in the American population. "Manufacturers also add a lot of sugar and trans fats back in to enhance the taste," he says. "So you get rid of the good stuff and add a lot of bad stuff and that's the reason those kinds of foods are really detrimental." See: Faux Food: Where Have All Our Nutrients Gone?

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