Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Does "eating fewer ingredients" make sense?

Some things are very persuasive. Like angry guys with guns, used car salesmen, and dental hygienists.

Theories work the same way. And for some reason, I'm skeptical of the "eating foods with fewer ingredients in them is better for you theory. It's certainly popular enough to go into marketing strategies - there's Häagen-Dazs Five ice cream, which has only that many ingredients, or even Lay's Potato chips boats they have only three - potatoes, oil, and salt.

That one starts to expose the fallacy to me. I guess the rationale behind this whole thing is "anything man-made cannot be good to eat."

I just don't buy this, for lots of reasons:

1. "Man-made" is not a black and white issue. Most of the vegetables we eat today were radically altered from their original forms by centuries of hybridization and agricultural trends. Corn, carrots and other items were completely inedible in their original forms.

2. "Natural" doesn't mean healthy. Would you want to eat a Psilocybin mushroom pizza? Or drink a nightshade smoothie? "Natural" ice cream with whole milk is probably worse for you than lo-fat frozen yogurt.

3. "Man-made" is often unarguably healthy. Would it be awful to have retinol in your cereal? It shouldn't - because it's synthesized Vitamin A.

4. Arguably, "preservatives" are a moral imperative. Allowing food to spoil is basically wasting food. I'm sure a starving person (or me) would rather eat something with preservatives than something that's spoiled.


Jess said...

I think the argument for the fewer ingredients goes hand in hand with the argument for that you should be able to pronounce and understand every ingredient in your food and no where it came from.

Obviously not all foods with less than five ingredients are healthy (like those chips) but overall I think they tend to be because they like all the crazy chemicals that you can't pronounce.

There have been a lot of studies that compare the Western diet (aka our tampered not real food diets) with what some indigneous people still eat and how the overall health of the groups compares. The results are really fascinating.

I highly recommend Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

Ok sorry for the ungodly long comment. I'm done now.

shesthesheriff said...

I think you got your panties in a bunch after paying $6 for a box of organic pop tarts or something. Rubin is on the warpath everyone, SELL YOUR WHOLE FOODS SHARES!!