Friday, 16 September 2011

Fashioned to be Food-Like

I have cautioned before about eating chameleon food, you know, food that changes its nutritional stripes to reflect whichever fad is blowing through the world of diet and fitness.

A great point along this theme was raised by J Stanton in the comments section of his consistently excellent Gnolls site,
  • " one seems to make the connection that our bodies need all these vitamins because they're supposed to be in food!  And if what we're eating requires us to take vitamins, or dump vitamins into it (“fortification”), maybe we're not eating the right food! "
That is pretty damn profound.  Outside of cooking/fermenting, colouring(!) and preserving, should you really eat engineered foodlike substance (EFLS), that has had to be flavoured and texturised to make it palatable, and 'fortified' to make it nutritious? 

Looking at this the other way, if you are eating something that prior to such an intervention is neither palatable nor nutritious, then can it actually be classified as food?

Let's take a quick detour to and see what their definition is of food:
  • "any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc. "
Which leads us to a definition of nourishing:
  • "to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth."
Some EFLS, prior to being fortified and 'palatablised', might give us an empty caloric hit and could thus classify as food in that it 'provides energy'.  But if this EFLS displaces other food stuffs that carry with them essential vitamins and minerals, then as Stanton recognises, you're not eating the right food!

Some foods do seem to be an acquired taste - liver and lamb can be very strong tasting for example, but our caution with some tastes - such as bitterness, has confered upon us an evolutionary advantage.  Taste along with smell and texture are cue's to assist in us recognizing foods.

Food technologists know this, and they target these cues to 'add value', and make the 'cheap and inedible' 'edible and profitable'.   Despite what your parents told you, money DOES grow on trees.  Humans are the only animal species smart enough to manufacture their own food (and dumb enough to eat it).
  • If it needs vitamins (and flavouring) adding to it, it is not food.  
  • If you need to supplement your diet with vitamins, you are not eating the right food!
Food isn't created/built or engineered, nor is it a technology!  Food is grown and hunted and has an evolutionary lineage.


Methuselah said...


My wife bought some of these a while back and was outraged to have been duped by the insertion of the 'i' (which she had not noticed) and to discover that instead of prawns, she was eating rubberised, reconstituted floor sweepings flavoured with god knows what and painted to look like a prawn.

Remnant said...

"If you need to supplement your diet with vitamins, you are not eating the right food!"

This is generally a good principle to go by, but it does not apply universally: there are strong arguments that modern agriculture through depletion of soil, changes in diets of the animals, etc. has reduced the nutrient content of certain foods.

One example, a quote from page 208 of the Perfect Health Diet: "A British study estimated that since 1940 the copper content of dairy foods has declined by 90%, vegetables by 76%, and meats by 55%."

So, in an ideal world, your statement above would be true. But conditions for it to be true may not obtain for people in a given time and place.

Asclepius said...

Hi Remnant, a good observation but one on which I am one step ahead of you! Notice I stated 'vitamins' and NOT 'minerals'. The only supplements I take are potassium and magnesium which was influenced by this post:

Generally though, I'd concede your point - the modern farming landscape has much changed and there is a widespread process of 'depletion' that comes with modern farming practices. Thus we shouldn't shun supplementation on principle.