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Monday, July 25, 2011

What is so bad about Processed Foods?

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth” is a quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin leader of the Communist Party. Such might be the case when it comes to processed foods. In recent years as the sustainable food movement has gained steam processed foods and their manufacturers have gotten caught in the organic crosshairs. Processed foods they claim with all the hard to pronounce ingredients may be contributing to obesity, diabetes and a host of other health problems especially among children. Moreover they insist that processed food manufacturers have hooked all of us on unnatural non foods. On the other hand processed foods may not always be so bad!

A processed food can simply mean a food that has been cooked. If you peel and chop a few apples, combine them with sugar and other flavorings, top them with a pastry made with flour and butter and baking that concoction for an hour. This processed food is also known as the great American apple pie. Consider the ingredients it takes to make that pie from the sugar to the flour, butter and cinnamon. All of these staples of the kitchen are processed foods. Cinnamon is bark from a tree, flour is wheat that has been made into flour and butter is cream that has been churned. None of these ingredients in the natural state would ever be useful in making a pie. So some processed foods are very tasty.

A processed food can also refer to one that is preserved. During the rule of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago fish were preserved in salt and sent to the soldiers on the front lines. Without such preservation fish would have spoiled before reaching the front lines and history as we know it could be vastly different. The process of smoking and curing meats is done to preserve them from spoilage and has been done for centuries. I can even remember my own grandparents canning and freezing the produce from their garden in the summer to have in the winter months. Therefore the process of processing foods in neither new nor it is inherently harmful to health.

Sure there some foods in your pantry that have odd sounding or difficult to pronounce names but what if we dig a little deeper? Whey for example is a natural part of milk that is removed when that milk is turned into yogurt or cheese. Interestingly whey is sold as a health food supplement for muscle building. So as it turns out whey isn’t so scary after all.

Maybe you have eaten something with sodium alginate lately? According to some foodie fear mongers this ingredient is used to turn a non food into something semi edible. The fact is that sodium alginate is derived from seaweed which has been a staple in Asian cuisine for many years. In fact seaweed is touted bay many for its medicinal properties including lowering cholesterol.

Maybe the process we should be wary of is the thought process of the my way is the only way green foodies. Sure everyone ought to eat their fruits and vegetables but will a little cheese whiz and a few cheese puffs hurt? They haven’t hurt me!

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