Monday, September 26, 2011

artificial food

fresh food - homegrown broccoli plant
minimally processed food - homemade whole wheat bread 
ultra-processed food
Below is an article I found while perusing the web today, which I felt merited sharing on my blog. I have copied this from the website, Fooducate.

New Food Definitions
In “The Big Issue is Ultra-processing. There is No Such Thing as a Healthy Ultra-Processed Product,” Dr. Carlos Monteiro makes a distinction among three types of food:
The first type is fresh food, such as the cauliflower at the farmer’s market.  Fresh food is generally rich in nutrients and low in calories, and we can accurately call this type of food “natural.”
The second type is minimally processed food, such as a cake’s basic ingredients—salt, sugar, and flour.  We can’t call these foods “natural,” because they have undergone a certain amount of processing to meet our demands.  On the other hand, the processing is not harmful because it doesn’t change the basic nature of these foods.
Whether a salt is processed mechanically with trace elements removed and iodine added or by hand with trace elements intact, it remains salt—a product we use to enhance the flavor of other foods.
More importantly, minimally processed foods, whether unrefined (whole wheat flour) or refined (white flour) do not threaten our health when eaten in appropriate, moderate, and reasonable amounts for our individual bodies.  This last condition is important.  Each of us has different tolerances and react differently to foods.  However, generally speaking, eating any food in excess is likely to be harmful to health, no matter what it is.
The third type is ultra-processed food. Monteiro describes these as “ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat ‘fast’ dishes, snacks and drink.” He says that they are made from “cheap or degraded ingredients,” and are low in nutrients, high in calories, and full of fat, sugar, and/or salt.
Ultra-processed foods, then, are artificial foods, created through chemical additives and the additional processing of fresh and minimally processed foods.  Manufacturers of these foods have distorted healthful ingredients to the point that they no longer have healthy benefits.
In fact, Monteiro counters any health claims made by manufacturers for ultra-processed food: “Manipulation of the formulation to reduce any of their ingredients, or to add synthetic nutrients, does not change their basic nature.”
These are the processed foods that are bad for us individually and globally, healthwise and socially. Monteiro says that they contribute to obesity and thus health problems, undermine traditional food systems, and undercut regional and national food identities.

This whole issue of food is something that has been very important to Steve and I, and only seems more important now that we have a baby on the way.  We want to limit the amount of ultra-processed or artificial foods, that we eat.  This is something that, undeniably, takes a lot of time and discipline to do.  But every time I make something from minimally processed foods rather than just grabbing the ultra-processed version on the shelf I feel a sense of accomplishment and pleasure from taking the time to be a good steward of the body I've been given.  
This weekend one of those things I decided to make rather than buy was polenta.  It turned out wonderful, and I was once again shocked at how easy it was to "make" this dish rather than buy it.  Things like polenta and pizza crust used to be items I viewed as minimally processed themselves, because they seemed to me just one ingredient in the entire meal I was making.  The more I learn the more I strive to get the foods I'm eating down to the least ingredients and minimal processing possible.
There are some ultra-processed foods I know I will never be able to cut out of my diet, cereal being the one that is foremost in my mind (I'm sure there are many others, I just can't think of them right now).  But I do try to be very diligent in reading the ingredients, and I try to buy things with the least artificial ingredients possible.  Things I really tend to look for are artificial sweeteners and food colorings.  I would much rather eat sugar than high fructose corn syrup or aspartame.  I don't want to condemn the eating habits or choices of others, just to make a marked effort for myself and my family to eat things that are better for our bodies.  So that is what is on my mind today, hope you are all having a wonderful Monday afternoon!  


  1. I'm reading this while eating ultra processed Chips Ahoy.... lol. Sounds good though, taking organic chem and bio we've talked a lot about sugars and what they do to your body, makes you a little more careful about what you're putting in it. (Though obviously I dont care as I am eating chips ahoy! lol)

  2. I hear ya - and even though I'm still not as concerned with some things, I hate pre-packaged food or food with seasoning packets....SALT! I love making things home made even though there are some processed ingredients, at least I'm trying to control the salt!