Food bits and pieces as we move into 2019

2018 was an interesting year for this blog. It has been accessed by 2,731 visitors for a total of 4,603 views. The top three posts viewed were

At the end of the year there are some interesting food issues that are emerging and will become of even more interest in the coming year.

Trust in the food system

Dr. Daryl Lund addressed this issue in a December post. In a recently published book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, Marion Nestle suggests that we should be very wary of any food study funded by industry money. She directly attacks ILSI, the organization that Lund describes as working to establish trust in scientific research. In an interesting article Tamar Haspel declares that GMOs serve as a proxy to attack the industrialized food system, a view shared by Mackay Jenkins in Food Fight. Haspel further goes on to state that chemical additives serve as a proxy for avoiding processed food. Thus, it is easier to attack the more tangible GMOs and chemical additives than the conceptual notions of industrial foods. Beyond these arguments is the desire to place a stamp of certainty on scientific research which is an endeavor based on skepticism that seeks to dispel myths while increasing knowledge. I will continue to explore this area of interest in 2019.

fries

Photo by Anuj Purohit

Starch bombs and school lunches

We are now being told to limit our French fry consumption to six, and apparently that applies to home fries as well as those from McDonald’s. We are told that even though they are vegetables, potatoes are not healthy vegetables. They are “starch bombs!” Is it still all about the carbs? One of the reasons given to avoid potatoes is that they have a high glycemic index, but it is the oil in the fry and the sour cream and butter in the baked potato that slow stomach emptying time and lower the glycemic index. Food companies get blamed for advertising nutritional advantages of single products and rightly so! Isn’t it time, however, that we stop demonizing some foods and anointing others as superfoods? I vote that we go back to moderation and a balanced diet? Oh, and don’t look now, but the current administration is about to change the rules on school lunches!

Distinguishing between processed and real foods

I was scanning my Quora feed this morning, and I was greeted by this question, “Was it harder to get fat before processed foods were invented?” I understand that the Sumerians were mass producing beer some 3900 years ago, cheesemaking goes back 7200 years, and bread baking can be traced back to the stone age. Beer, cheese and bread are processed foods. The question on Quora and the increasingly common advice to “avoid processed food” beg the further question “What is a processed food?” If it makes me fat, is it processed? If it doesn’t make me fat, is it not processed?

The ambiguity of the term makes it easier to attack. But now there are definitions for moderately and highly processed foods in a widely publicized article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This is the study that proclaimed that 61% of the food consumed by Americans are highly processed. Guess what—beer and bread are considered highly processed in the article and cheese is classified moderately processed unless it is individually wrapped in plastic. Do most Americans consider them to be highly or even moderately processed? I don’t think so.

A recent article urged backpackers to embrace real foods and avoid processed ones. Among the real, unprocessed foods recommended for backpackers were beef jerky, nut butters, dehydrated meals, protein bars and fish or poultry in foil packages. They all sound processed to me, but everything except the highly processed protein bars are either less or moderately processed according to the AJCM article. Elsewhere we  find that we can go to a non-fast-food restaurant and order a real, unprocessed Northwestern cheesesteak that is GMO free. We can avoid processed snack foods by buying alternative snacks claiming to be  “paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, free-of-refined-sugars-and-artificial-flavorings.” Are we really avoiding processed foods or merely finding ways to pretend that what we are eating is not really processed?

Website news

This blogsite was referenced in an article about me in the UGA/CAES magazine Southscapes. The issue also had a very nice article on Anastasia Buh and her life as a food scientist and as a volunteer at her local food pantry. I am also happy to report that my site will be receiving help from the group at Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience. The first in what I hope will be many guest posts appeared on this site last week.

Book reviews anticipated for 2019

  • Ever Seen a Fat Fox? and The Diet Fix leading into a discussion on obesity and weight-loss diets,
  • Nourished Planet on how we can better approach sustainability,
  • Clean Meat and the future of lab-grown animal-based foods,
  • Unsavory Truth and the validity of industry-funded research, and
  • Natural Causes to explore the level of personal control over our health

Next week: Ever Seen a Fat Fox? Human Obesity Explored

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