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.