Americans spend a whopping $1 trillion dollars a year on thetastyworld.com. Food is big business to say the least. The rising health concerns that accompany the rising obesity rates have prompted many food manufacturers to focus on key marketing terms, such as low-fat, whole grain, etc., in order to promote their products. For the food industry, mixed messages and confusion are good for business. In his book Food Rules, author Michael Pollan said:
As a journalist I fully appreciate the value of widespread public confusion: We’re in the explanation business, and if the answers to the questions we explore got too simple, we’d be out of work. Indeed, I had a deeply unsettling moment when, after spending a couple years researching nutrition for my last book, In Defense of Food, I realized that the answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated question of what we should eat wasn’t so complicated after all, and in fact could be boiled down to just seven words:
“Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans-fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.”
The problem is that the common sense has to compete with a powerful trillion dollar food industry that bombards us with messages calculated to make us eat more and more of the worst possible food. Generally speaking, there is an inverse relationship between nutritional value and profit when it comes to food. The more you process any food, the more profitable it becomes. The more processed it is, the less nutritional value it retains. That is why we see things like enriched flour. They try to stuff some of the nutrients back in that they processed out.
What we end up with is a far cry from what God gave us. Packaged and processed food companies spare no expense to push more of their products on their target market. More than 90 percent of their product sales are made to less than 10 percent of their customers. “In the case of processed food, that coveted 10 percent consists largely of people weighing more than 200 pounds and earning less than $35,000 per year.”
No expense is spared to hit every psychological button that matters to the target market… Like a deer caught in the scope of a hunter at close range, the target never has chance.
At times, the ruthlessness of the process troubles the consciences of the $200,000-per-year marketing executives in charge of it. Some actually refuse to attend their own focus groups. Rather than confront their future victims in person, they prefer to review transcripts in the safety of their offices.
These food companies do something even worse than targeting lower-income, unhealthy, overweight consumers for their products. Once the target actually tries the product and becomes a customer, company chemists ensure they will never be satisfied with eating just a healthy amount of it.
[They] have been altered to ensure that “nobody can eat just one” of them. This chemical alteration causes great overconsumption, promoting obesity and destroying the natural tendency of our taste buds to seek variety in what we eat.
Perhaps at this point you are beginning to feel a bit of righteous indignation. We have allowed ourselves to be led astray like pigs to the slaughter. I am reminded again of the words of Jesus, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). These things should not surprise us. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves so that we know good from bad. Which brings me back to this point. The single best thing you can do to ensure proper nutrition is to eat primarily unprocessed whole foods. Real food, not edible food-like substances. Real food meaning:
If the majority of your diet consists of real food, you will get better nutrition and feel more satisfied while consuming fewer calories. A good way to make sure you are eating real food is to shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
You have probably noticed that most supermarkets are laid out the same way: For the most part, fresh food-produce, meat and fish, dairy-are on the outer edge, while processed foods dominate the center aisles. Also, many stores place the organic and whole foods sections on the periphery as well. If you keep to the outer edge of the store you are much more likely to wind up with real food in your shopping cart. This strategy is not entirely fool proof since HFCS, artificial sweeteners and other non-food ingredients have snuck into the dairy case and are hiding in flavored yogurts, pudding and some forms of cheese. Also, good foods, such as brown rice, dried beans, old-fashioned oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, etc. are usually found in one of the inner isles of the store. Still, the less time you spend in the center isles, the better off you are. Think of it as a baseball diamond-when you are running the bases it is best to stick as close to the baseline as possible. Deviate into the infield too much and you will find yourself back on the bench.