Processed Food

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by ElectronGuru, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. ElectronGuru, Feb 16, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014

    ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

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    #1
    NOTE: This is a new and incomplete idea that Im hoping the wisdom of the PRSI community will help to finish.

    There are multiple contributors to our declining health. Important ones include the dominance of cars and other causes of reduced activity. Most theories correctly point to food as a primary culprit. But they focus on the constituents of the food. Fat vs sugar, calories vs density. Ive not seen a lot of focus on how the food is treated. To be clear, Im not talking about things like pasteurization or even cooking.

    Lets start with the simple idea of chewing. With raw food, you get a chewing experience, tearing, crunching, and chewing. The physical processing takes place in your mouth. The chewing takes time and energy. You feel like you've eaten and your body responds as though you have. This is what eating was like since before history.

    The last half century has seen the introduction of industrialized food. Originally developed to store and transport food to soldiers (think early MREs), post WWII the same techniques were improved and scaled up to benefit civilians. Raw food comes off the truck or the end of a belt and passes through a machine. The machine does the tearing, crunching, and chewing, and what comes out the bottom is a powder (liquid or dry). But powder isn't very tasty, so the powder is reformed.

    Flakes, balls, paste. From cereal to hotdogs, other machines reform the powder, trying to mimic the tearing, crunching, chewing sensation of raw food. But its not. A few bites later, and it turns back into powder before being swallowed. Without the 'real' experience, we are denied the time and sensations of eating. Our bodies don't register the consumption, so eating more calories is easier and less satisfying (in the sense of knowing when to stop).

    A popular example is breakfast cereal. Wheat, corn, oats, and rice is transformed from whole food into powder, then pressed and formed and cooked into something fast and easy to chew (convenient) and cheap. The last part is just as important, the economics. Once you have a machine that can turn a few cents worth of raw grain into a box worth several dollars, profit is off the scale and marketing becomes a more important differentiator than the food itself (see any cereal box). And the buyer too gets an advantage, the huge convenience and time savings the processing provides.

    The result is a menu full of fast, tasty, cheap options that have made unprocessed foods look expensive, laborious, and downright quaint. While processed foods have taken over markets both small and large, (non fast food) restaurants used to be a way around it. But they too have succumbed to the advantages. Why make a sauce from scratch thats hard to even get the same batch to batch when a box of powder can be poured into a base liquid and mixed in a few minutes?

    So if all this is important, if there are benefits to eating food that is less processed, we need some awareness. Some kind of processing score, added to Nutritional Facts labels. Consumers can compare competing products on this metric, and producers can charge more for products with less processing or more whole ingredients. I don't know food science or how this score might be designed, but a single number should work the best.
     
  2. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #2
    I've switched to having salads exclusively for my evening meal. Protein is provided by egg, cheese, seeds, etc. Too much fructose, saturated fat, etc in processed food for me. Indeed, in the UK it appears that some of food is illegally labelled and sold, so even 'natura'l oils in processed food might have been altered for sake of preservation (making them as inert as saturated oils).

    I do wonder why people react against 'processed' food, yet don't bat an eyelash at eating food that has been heated. I suspect a lot of carcinogens are generated when food is heated, and certainly calories are increased as complex sugars are broken down.

    Just my two cents...
     
  3. sviato macrumors 68020

    sviato

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    #3
    Those who want to eat less processed foods can do a little bit of research and then make healthier choices if they want to - my household did. I doubt some "score" will get many people to make different purchasing decisions.

    As for restaurants, if you stay away from the franchises you can find a lot that make their own sauces from scratch and use non-processed ingredients.


    Now if only the US would stop putting corn into everything :rolleyes:
     
  4. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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  5. LizKat macrumors 68040

    LizKat

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    #5
    Well there's always NuVal for openers. Most people are not going to "trade up" as they say from commercial, sweetened applesauce (a 4) to an apple (a 100) but you never know. Once in awhile I notice something in a NuVal score for some item that I was not aware of.

    hhttp://www.nuval.com/How

    A lot of big US supermarkets will mark up their weekly ad flyers with NuVal scores particularly the produce, grain products and meat / fish.
     
  6. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #6
    Prior to man's conquering of fire, all grains - including wheat and rice - werecompletely indigestible, and therefore useless at providing nutrients to our hominid ancestors. It was only after early man had controlled fire that he was able to bake and boil grains, breaking down their tough husks and starchy interiors into something our simple (compared to bovines) digestive systems could handle.

    I say this because, with very few exceptions, all of our modern food is - to one degree or another - processed. And has been for millennia.

    This is not to say that a lot of the highly processed, loaded with industrial sweeteners and artificial fats and preservatives, foods to be found in modern supermarkets don't pose some health risks.

    They do. But I think we need to recognize that the generic term "processed" is perhaps a little too broad to be very useful when discussing healthful nutrition.
     
  7. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #7
    I like Michael Pollan's idea that there's a difference between food and food products. If it came on the market after about 1900, it's likely a food product.

    I'm not saying all food products are bad nor that all food created prior to 1900 is good, it's simply a guideline.

    Whenever it comes to food issues, I always come back to these three groups of people. The Sardinians, Okinawans and the Seventh Day Adventists. I believe there's also an island in Greece that tops most health and well being indices.

    It's not just about food although vegetarians definitely have an advantage over meat eaters. It's also about community, levels of stress and how much they enjoy life.

    Americans treat food as a necessary evil or as comfort food or as something so horribly expensive that it should be viewed as godlike. We need to both stop demonizing food and start treating food with respect.

    Have you ever had mustard greens lightly steamed over a bed of onions, garlic, dried tomatoes andd a tiny bit of sausage with a sprinkling of Asiago on top?

    Food doesn't have to complex and filled with fat to be gratifying.
     
  8. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #8
    The most feared words for this mouse are "cheese product", "cheesy", "cheese flavoured", etc.
     
  9. shinji macrumors 65816

    shinji

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    #9
    The glycemic index can be changed, but the number of calories isn't increased simply by cooking.
     
  10. puma1552 macrumors 601

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    #10
    It sounds to me like the OP's central argument is that if it was more difficult to chew our food, we would eat less and be healthier, which is kind of ludicrous.

    Processed is just the newest negative buzzword for hipsters, etc. to use to feel better about their Whole Foods shopping trips where they think they are doing themselves a huge favor by buying organic everything.

    Everything is processed to some degree, as mentioned. You can't get away from it, you simply can't - unless you grow everything yourself in a subsistence manner.

    I often eat small chicken cordon bleu chicken breasts I get from the grocery store for $1 each. Only 240 calories, and has more protein than carbs. Processed? Sure. Going to kill me? Doubt it. I'll continue to eat them, but I'll also continue to eat yogurt, fruit, vegetables, red and white meat, and everything else, but I'll watch how much of it I eat.

    It seems like there's always a war against something; food that isn't organic is inferior, processed anything is terrible, red M&Ms cause cancer - there's always someone complaining about food in one capacity or another.

    Ultimately I think our biggest issue is that we treat eating as something we need to do, like it's a chore. Nuke it and choke it down and get back to rotting in front of the TV. I'd like to see us take a more French or Italian approach to eating - sitting down and enjoying meal time, and taking time to eat the meal slow and enjoy it over a couple hours. I had many opportunities to do this when I lived in Japan, and eating slow in and of itself allows time for your stomach to communicate to your brain that you are full, so you stop eating at the right time as opposed to scarfing everything down and then 20 minutes later feeling sick full when your stomach finally sends the message to the brain, by which point the stomach is overloaded.

    Anyway, time to enjoy a glass bottle of Mountain Dew made with cane sugar.
     
  11. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #11
    I meant bioavailable calories.... :rolleyes:
     
  12. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #12
    This seems to be largely true.

    Right. As above, the increase of corn and hormones has radically changed the American diet. We're simultaneously more sedentary and eating things that are bad for us and yet we spend billions on fad diets to treat the American waistline.

    I'm not sure. I do know that there are things at some restaurants that are surprising calorie bombs. On Sat., I went to a place and had a burger that ended up being more than 1,000 calories, far more than I would expect. So, seeing the calories on the menu would given me some important and immediate feedback on my choice.

    It depends on the place, but at the very least, there's a big difference from the place that just uses butter and the fast-food place that uses salted-butter and sugar to make the food taste better.

    I agree, but this means that rice krispies are a food product, but marshmallows are a food. Which seems wrong.

    I agree. One of the best meals in my life was sharing a pineapple with a Greek runner while sitting by the pool.

    Though, an apple pie after a long bike ride in the mountains is easily a competitor.
     
  13. senseless macrumors 68000

    senseless

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    #13
    I don't think our health is declining because we are living longer than ever. But, eating healthy is always a good idea.
     
  14. Technarchy macrumors 603

    Technarchy

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    #14
    Love me some processed foods. Especially during a bulk. I can pack on a ton of muscle, have better workouts and more energy with calorie rich foods stuffed with fats and carbs.

    Last bulk I gained about 30lbs over 9 months and was at about 13% body fat at 205lbs. All with the help of a gym 4 times a week, Cheeseburgers, french fries, KFC, Pizza, white pasta and cheese whiz on crackers.

    It was glorious.
     
  15. LIVEFRMNYC macrumors 603

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    #15
    That has a lot to do with modern medical advancements. But I bet people in general have more health issues than before. There is more to being healthy than just eating right. Being active should be right up there with a good diet. Too many people go to work and sit down all day, then sit down while traveling back n forth, just to sit down and watch TV for the rest of the day. Then you have stress, which can bring on health issues too. Also, you have the surrounding environment. I refuse to belive the environment itself doesn't contribute to a good portion of cancer.
     
  16. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #16
    Yes, they do, by my experience with passengers.

    Medical science 'interferes' with the first thing that could kill you, keeping you alive for all the rest of the **** that usually follows you into old age. All your systems just shut-down over time. Like all animals, our primary purpose is reproduction.

    Getting old is not for the faint of heart.

    ;)
     
  17. LizKat macrumors 68040

    LizKat

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    #17
    It's the blue M&Ms I wonder about. ;) They have that odd color of blue that's meant to scare people off them like rat poison.

    Half-kidding aside: I was so disappointed (in myself for not reading a label in detail!) after my latest foray into the grocery aisles. I use lots of canned stewed tomatoes with no added salt, and there was a sale on a brand name of them, so I got them. Usually I use my store brand.

    Right so imagine my disappointment when I realized the stuff on sale had high fructose corn syrup in it. My store brand does not. I tasted them, and threw them away. The other cans I'll give to the food bank so they won't go to waste, and because I realize not everyone minds or even notices the taste of HFCS in their tomatoes. Anyway to me it seemed the height of chutzpah to carry a front-label that says "No Added Salt" and "Heart Healthy!" with that stuff in it. Oh well, live and learn. Back to the store brand!

    Aside from salt, the jury is also in on too much sugar in our diets, but after decades of doctoring our food wtih added sugar (never mind the cheaper and more process-convenient HFCS), Americans at least are apparently unable to deal with foods the way they come off the vine, so companies don't have a clue how to back off putting so much of it in processed foods. Even stuff that says "No added sugar!" on the can usually has some damn artificial sweetener in it, which might not be what one assumes from that pitch on the front label. Or it says "No added sugar!" and instead contains a hefty hit of one or another concentrated fruit juice, which IS a sugar.

    I wish companies would just can (or box) the stuff without piling on so much salt or sugar, and pitch the idea that you can add what you like to "have it your way." For awhile I would buy certain processed rice mixes and dilute the salt by adding some more rice and double that much water but finally realized the better way was figure out the approximate herbal content and then make my own from scratch...
     
  18. ElectronGuru thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #18
    I started lowering my salt intake last year. Most things seem to start off with 100mg and go up from there. But soup (which seems like it would be healthy) is the worst. It can be 700mg per serving and two servings per can. Even the low sodium ones are 400+! We can blame the companies but perhaps not. Apparently, one of them tried to really lower salt content and sales crashed. Whether we are addicted or anything that sits on a shelf for 6 months automatically tastes bad without lots of it, salt seems to be here to stay.
     
  19. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

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    #19
    That's just to do with the nature of manufactured soup. If I make soup at home a pinch of salt is enough. That said if you use a vitamix or a blendtec to do your soup with the right combination you can use no salt. Reason being it's fresh and not processed to last years in a can.
     
  20. LizKat macrumors 68040

    LizKat

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    #20
    Some salt is essential, but there are very few of us in first-world countries who don't get that and way more than that just eating a range of foods that naturally contain sodium.

    I've learned to cook most of what I eat at home, certainly soups and what the industry calls "dinner mixes." I use assorted herbs, lemon juice or (sparing!) amounts of white pepper, tabasco etc. to make up for not having so much salt in things. One gets used to less salt quickly enough if determined to do it. The trick is cooking some things ahead, like grains one uses often, for instance, or at least cleaning and preparing certain fresh produce for use so as not to have to start completely from scratch for each meal.

    The seeming downside there is that then most of the commercial products one might encounter at a friend's place -- potato chips, snack mixes and the like-- or when eating at an ordinary restaurant, taste way way too salty. I may eat less in those situations, but that's okay too.
     
  21. ElectronGuru thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #21
    I picked up a Thermomix (not easy in the US) for just this purpose. In theory, I'll get from scratch results with from the freezer speeds.


    Yeah, I've never been a fan of salt, it's just so ubiquitous. Was recently served some Irish Stew. It was so salty, I could easily have used it as gravy over plain mashed potatoes!
     
  22. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #22
    How about Spam? :D
     
  23. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

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    #23
    Good device and a great way to go.
     
  24. Technarchy macrumors 603

    Technarchy

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    #24
    Taste great in scrambled eggs with processed american cheese slices.
     

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