The Nation's Health + [Nutrition]

Nutrition: More Omnivore's Dilemma

Another irresistible quote from Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

“In many ways breakfast cereal is the prototypical processed food: four cents’ worth of commodity corn (or some other equally cheap grain) transformed into four dollars’ worth of processed food. What an alchemy! Yet it is performed straightforwardly enough: by taking several of the output streams issuing from a wet mill (corn meal, corn starch, corn sweetener, as well as a handful of tinier chemical fractions) and then assembling them into an attractively novel form. Further value is added in the form of color and taste, then branding and packaging. Oh yes, and vitamins and minerals, which are added to give the product a sheen of healthfulness and to replace the nutrients that are lost whenever whole foods are processed. On the strength of this alchemy the cereals group generates higher profits for General Mills than any other division. Since the raw materials in processed foods are so abundant and cheap (ADM and Cargill will gladly sell them to all comers) protecting whatever is special about the value you add to them is imperative.”

A food manufacturer’s nightmare is when you and your family shop in the produce aisle in the grocery store. Produce is unmodified (aside from the pesticide and genetic-engineering issues), not added to, and therefore of no interest to the food manufacturer, since no additional profit can be squeezed out of it. If you pay 45 cents for a cucumber, there’s no room for a processor to multiply it’s return.

Vegetables and fruits have imperfections, no doubt, particularly pesticide residues and the “dumbing-down” of some foods to increase their desirability (e.g., green grapes, what I call “grape candy”). But vegetables and fruits are the closest you can get to foods that are essentially unmodified by a food manufacturer. Due to the absence of processing, they are not calorie-dense like a bag of chips; they include all the naturally-occurring healthy factors like flavonoids that food scientists have, thus far, struggled and failed to identify, quantify, and control; and they lack all the unhealthy additives that processed foods require for extended shelf life, palatability, and reconstitution (anti-separating agents, emulsifiers, sweeteners, etc.)

Vegetables, in particular, should be the cornerstone of your plaque control program. Not breakfast cereals, breads, bacon, sausage, mayonnaise, fruit drinks and soda, all the foods that worsen the causes of coronary plaque and raise your heart scan score.

If you would like to understand how the current perverted state of affairs in food have come about, Pollan’s book is must reading.