OMG! Why is there High Fructose Corn Syrup in My Croutons?
by Jasmine Wood
Over the last couple years I have developed a very negative association with the supermarket.
When I enter the grocery store the “foods” I am surrounded by are highly processed, refined sugary foods with high fructose corn syrup in every package. To make matters worse many of these “foods” are marketed towards children! It can be an enlightening and often shocking experience to become a label reader at the super market. You may find yourself asking:
“OMG, why is there high fructose corn syrup in my croutons?”
With all of these ‘food products’ posing as foods it can make a simple trip to the grocery store a daunting experience. I have just finished reading a great book by Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma entitled In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Once this book was in my possession I warned my husband “I’m going to start reading another Pollan book, just wait for me to start incessantly dwelling on our family diet!” But, to my surprise once I delved headfirst into the book I realized what he was recommending was not drastic at all.
We stand at a critical time in history;
Humans for the first time ever are both overweight and malnourished at the same time! In my opinion this simple fact alone demands that we analyze our dietary habits, in his book Pollan does exactly this. He writes about the most simple of food choices ultimately highlighting a switch from overly processed ‘food products’ to a diet rich in whole foods. I recommend this read to anyone interested in healthy eating, the industrial agriculture system, or sustainable living. Since I found the read so enlightening and common-sense I decided to share some of the main points while glossing over most of the hard science behind the advice.
‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’
These words begin the food story Pollan weaves. He explains that many of the items found at supermarkets today are not actual foods but rather “food products” altered by chemistry to either remove unwanted components of a whole food as in the case of non-fat products or to enhance a food with something we believe it is lacking in, hence fortification with vitamins, minerals and omega 3’s.
Get vitamins and nutrients from the original source.
By minimizing the amount of food products in our diets and increasing the amount of whole foods we greatly increase the health benefits of the foods we consume. It is much better to get the vitamins and nutrients from the original source, than to eat a food fortified, enhanced or genetically modified to contain it. For example, it is better to eat whole foods which are high in omega 3’s such as fish than to drink orange juice enhanced with omega 3’s from fish oil.
Food synergy in a nutshell.
This can be explained by a breakthrough concept called “food synergy.” For reasons still unknown to science when nutrients are consumed in their whole form such as an apple or a sweet potato the health benefits are greater than if the same combination of these nutrients is taken in a supplemental form. Scientists believe this is because of complex interactions taking place among the thousands of compounds in a whole food as opposed to the isolated nutrients in a supplement or fortified food product.
We as consumers have become victims of a capitalist pursuit!
Big money is made in the processing of food products whereas there is little money to be made from the selling of whole foods. Due to the overwhelming power of the food industries our supermarkets have become overwhelmed by food products while real ‘foods’ are becoming harder and harder to find! This is one huge reason to get out the supermarket, shop locally from farm markets and stands, and participate in local community supported agriculture (CSA’s).
‘Shake the hand that feeds you.’
When you shop from farm markets you will not find high fructose corn syrup or a small diversity of foods dominated by wheat, soy and corn; but rather a high diversity of plant foods at their peak of nutritional value coming from a local source (not to mention high quality meat and dairy as well). There are many compelling reasons to move some of your grocery needs from the supermarket to the farm market. As Pollan discusses throughout his book, one of the most persuasive arguments is because of the nutrient quality of local sustainably farmed foods.
We live a country where industrial agriculture prevails.
Most of our plants and animals are fed a ‘fast food diet’ of grains, chemicals and antibiotics! There are now numerous studies that reveal a strong link between the quality of soil that fruits and vegetables are grown in to the quantity of nutrients they contain; chemically simplified soils produce chemically simplified plants! In a nutrient analysis researchers found that we would need to consume 3 typical super market apples to obtain the same amount of nutrients as we would have received from one apple in 1940!
This is very scary, but what can we do? Go organic and buy local. At the supermarket an organic label will ensure you are getting a plant grown from quality soils without harsh chemicals, but this is different at farm markets.
The organic label is not required for delicious, nutrient dense whole foods.
Often farmers who populate farm markets sell products which are not certified organic but are grown with equivalent or even superior standards!
Farm markets also provide a greater diversity of fruit and vegetable varieties than super markets. By eating diets composed of a diverse group of fruits and vegetables we increase the healthful benefits of these foods because each plant contains different antioxidants each of which specializes in the removal of different toxins from our body!
Be mindful of what the animals you eat eat!
Just as plants fed on a fast food diet of chemical fertilizers produce less nutritious fruits and vegetables, so do animal products, meat, milk and eggs. Animals which are fed a diet high in grains and low in grasses produce meats and dairy products which have different ratios of fats and nutrients. Numerous studies show that pasture fed animals produce more nutritious products than their grain fed counterparts.
Also, a diet high in grains and low in greens makes many of our food animal’s sick requiring a greater amount of antibiotics, another consequence of industrialized farming. By sourcing your meat and dairy locally you can ensure a higher quality of foods and at the same time establish a relationship with your local farmer!
Shopping from local farm markets builds community!
Not only does this help your local economy but it also reestablishes your family as part of the local food chain ensuring that your hard earned dollars promote sustainable agricultural practices that will facilitate healthy fertile land for generations to come! Living in the Hudson Valley we have a great opportunity to take advantage of locally grown and raised foods.
For the health of our families, the strength of our local economies and for the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that we are doing our best to secure a healthy viable planet for our children and their children, let us all work together to make conscious food choices. By not spending our food dollars in the supermarket we give a clear message to the mega food industries that we have grown tired of their erroneous ways!
Let us raise our glasses to farm markets filled with optimal nourishment, for providing us quality food and not food products! Cheers to the small town farmer who is changing the world one seed at a time!
Till next time, Be Nourished, Be Radiant, and Be Well!