Throughout all of history, mankind has cycled from one extreme to the next and back again- whether the end result was as bad as accusing a person of witchcraft and ending up burning them at the stake or something seemingly as silly as believing that the earth was flat. In both cases, the people who flaunted these views believed that they were correct beyond a doubt. In both cases, there was no true science backing these claims, the beliefs were merely stated by one strong individual or group of individuals until everyone else around them, started to believe the same thing- simply because someone with enthusiasm presented a passionate opinion. When it comes to science as it pertains to health, legitimate established facts backed from real and honest studies need to be the driver. These facts need to present the most current and unbiased information, otherwise, the information in our present day becomes just as misleading and false as believing that the earth is flat. Many studies can be done to state whatever the wanted outcome is and then receive a bunch of ‘followers’ based on skewed information (this happens all the time).
A more specific example of a misleading health claim from 1953 is inside of a magazine ad touting Domino sugar. The ad proposes that ‘3 teaspoons of Domino sugar contain fewer calories than 3 small tomatoes!’ (basically trying to make the point that processed sugar can be healthier than eating real produce). The ad then goes on to say that ‘Nutritionists say that no single food is fattening unless you take in more calories than your body uses up. Tomatoes, grapefruit and apples are excellent foods…but, sugar, too, is nutritionally important in the well-balanced diet you need for good health.’ (1) Whether the company Domino actually believed that sugar is important in a well-balanced diet and contains more benefit for the body than fruits and vegetables do, or if they were just trying to use the calorie idea to promote their product, we don’t know. When in doubt of what a company’s motives really are, always remember that financial profit could be the underlying motive, especially where there is no true science to back the health claim.
Another magazine ad from 1953 speaks about the health value of a specific brand of donuts. The ad promoting DCA donuts says that ‘a single DCA donut contains 152 calories, which is the same amount of calories as four servings of spinach, one and a half servings of cantaloupe, fifteen stalks of asparagus, and five tomatoes’. The ad then says ‘this illustrates the tremendous advantage to the housewife who has to pay high prices for foods which can be replaced by a single DCA donut to provide the necessary caloric needs of her family.’ (2) Based on this information- we should all just replace the key nutrients we receive from eating real produce with donuts! The kind of health claims previously mentioned, from specific main brand companies trying to sell their products no matter the validity, are very similar to the types of health claims we see everywhere today in the grocery store aisles.
The only difference between the health claims of the past, and the claims of the present, is that there is a certain amount of time gap that allows us to laugh at the old health assertions. We do need, however, to realize that the same- and even more seemingly ridiculous health assertions are made in today’s world everywhere we turn; whether on billboards, magazines, television commercials, the newspaper, or a walk down the common grocery store aisles. Think about the highly marketed cereal Lucky Charms, for instance. Just Google the ingredients in Lucky Charms cereal- it is laden with processed sugars, artificial food coloring, and preservatives; nothing of which is actual food for the human body.
The ingredients in Lucky Charms, in fact, can be seen as being ‘anti-nutrients’, meaning that instead of adding nutrients to the body, it takes certain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and co-factors just to digest and assimilate the unnaturally colored non-food substance called Lucky Charms. Even the vitamins/minerals added into the product are very ‘cheap’ vitamin/mineral versions and in the end not very usable by the body. The vitamins/minerals in the product that the body is able to use takes added factors from the body to digest these. The bottom line is that some or most of these added nutrients may not be nutrients at all and end up working against our systems. Also, if we were to use the true whole versions of the grain, a lot of the vitamins/minerals that are shown as being added in on the label, wouldn’t need to be added in the first place. The nutrients that we are meant to receive from these whole grains are already in the grain from the start, but the processing eliminates most if not all of the true nutrients and thus we re-add them in. The new vitamins/minerals we add in, however, are nowhere near as beneficial to our health as the original forms they were in- the form that can only be contained in the true whole grain.
It is true that the first ingredient in the Lucky Charms cereal is whole grain oats, which sounds healthy, but, this also is a very misleading claim. When Lucky Charms ingredient list has ‘whole grain oats’ high-lighted as the first ingredient, it sounds as though the grain in the cereal is truly a whole grain. If it were a whole grain, it would look more similar to oat groats. Oat groats are the real and original form of oats- which have a hard shell surrounding them and have all the layers of fiber intact. The layers of fiber are needed to slow down the absorption of the carbohydrate, so as to not spike the blood sugar. The more realistic version of oats for us to consume are steel cut oats, which have the hard outer shell removed and usually chopped in half, but are still in the form of being whole. Then there is oatmeal, which is the rolled out version of the steel cut oats. All of these versions of the oat provide much, much more benefit in regards to fiber, nutrients and the role they play in blood sugar as compared to when the rolled out oat is further broken down into simpler flour.
The processing that main brand companies use to break a whole grain down into flour is not a healthy process at all. It is a process that is subjected to very high heat pressure techniques that destroy what nutritional value is left in the grain. So you can see how something that is promoted as being healthy, when broken down, is not healthy at all. What’s more, is that the amount of unnatural grams of sugar in an average bowl of this cereal is an overabundance for what the human bodies need of carbohydrate is for the day. Day after day of eating this type and other similar food products is what sets the stage for diabetes, heart disease, low immune system functioning, weight problems, and the list goes on. We could utilize the same process of breaking down ingredient lists for every product in the processed foods grocery store aisles. Cereals like Lucky Charms are in fact processed junk foods that are sneakily disguised as being of health benefit.
It is a very sad story to tell that in this country, we cannot trust our food supply and that it is up to us to become aware and educate ourselves to the misconceptions going on with our food chain. What our bodies need and crave are the whole/natural versions of foods we consume, otherwise we set the stage for other types of cravings since the body will be in search of the nutrition it needs. The moment a food is tampered with too much, is the moment it begins to wreak havoc in the wonderful and elaborate system inside of our bodies. The body can be compared to a complex piece of machinery that needs to be given the correct fuel to run properly. The correct fuel is not devoid of nutrients and does not contain ‘fake’ nutrients such as artificial additives/preservatives that the body doesn’t even know what to do with. The fact that cereals like Lucky Charms are marketed toward children and their parents is sickening. To set the stage for developing a habit of eating processed foods in an innocent child and well-meaning parents only benefits the company selling the product.
Lucky Charms and other similar cereals is just one example of how we as a country are being misled by the food industry as to what really is healthy for our bodies. From gummy bears and colored drinks filled with chemical food coloring and processed sugar products marketed for children, to the mass production of meat filled with antibiotics and fed a diet that is unnatural to their original habitat, nature has become devoid in our food chain value system. There are no real regulations on any food products- there is no stated regulation for how much soda pop the body can safely handle (likely none) in one day without setting the long-term stage for diabetes, and there is no regulation on how many french fries, fried in rancid vegetable oil that the body can safely consume without being concerned of heart disease or cancer in the future.
It is true, that our foods did not always have such ill health affect surrounding them. There was a time before modern day, when the technology of man did not include knowing how to break down food so far from its natural/pure state that it is no longer recognizable from its original form. There was a time when our scientific knowledge did not involve knowing how to manually manipulate food substances in order to create artificial products that can be added in mass quantities to our food chain and adversely affect our health. There was a time, before my lifetime, when the food supply was a lot simpler and involved only foods that came from the soil of the earth. Technology is good- up to the point to when we use it in such a way that it can harm us.
At some point, in the midst of the simplicity of the lack of our present day technology, some groups of people came up with ways to make our lives easier by implementing processes that help to make the transition from farm to table a lot quicker and the quantity of food much higher. Did anyone mean for our food system to get as out of control as it is in the present day? – I don’t believe so. It usually innocently enough starts off with someone finding a way to make our lives easier, which then leads to streamlining the process for more major corporations, who then find even more efficient ways to get the job done and speed up the process of making a profit as well- this unfortunately comes at the price of our very health. There are additives that are allowed in our food chain that countries outside of ours ban. Why does our own country not do the same? I do not know the answer to that question.
It is safe to say that we as a country are in the midst of a health crisis– think about the obesity epidemic and the pure number of people suffering with some form of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, etc. These diseases back 100 years ago were very rare or were found to be from isolated causes. To what we owe this drastic change in health, is a matter of opinion- did it start with the major corporations that mass produce artificial products for us or even further back to the inventors who developed more efficient systems to begin with. Is it the fault of our system- the Food and Drug Administration, that is supposed to be in place to stop unsafe ingredients in the first place- or does the fault lie with us, the consumer, since without our buying consent, no company can keep in business selling ‘fake’ food to begin with. We also can’t leave out the pollution in the air and all of the synthetic chemicals we come into contact with on a daily basis- as well as using items such as non-stick cook wear and harsh chemical cleaners.
The true cause of how we got to where we are is not ‘cut and dry’, there are many factors and years that go into how the food system got so off balance. Whatever the cause, we just need to move forward in the way of educating ourselves and our families. Nobody can deny that certain changes do need to be implemented within the food chain and the environment. Unfortunately, it is up to us as healthful consumers to read every bit of what is in the food we put into our bodies as well as our families bodies. Until we can once again trust the main governing authorities that are supposed to be making our food safe and free from any fear of giving us ill health now or in the future- we need to continue to educate ourselves thoroughly and wisely.