Are you eating real food?

Edible foodlike substances, as Michael Pollan (author of Omnivores Dilemma, and In Defense of Food) calls them, are a group of highly processed foods that are meant to look or taste like a real food. For example, take the chicken nugget. This food should be made up of whole pieces of chicken, breadcrumbs and some oil, yes? Not really… If you are actually checking the ingredient list of many frozen or fast food nuggets, you are most likely looking at 20 plus ingredients! But wait, shouldn’t there only be three? Many of those extra ingredients will extend shelf life and make the food “taste” better. Aside from taste, many of those extra ingredients in the nuggets are there to hold together the mechanically separated chicken and make it look appealing.
More on the topic of taste, most processed foods have what is called “the bliss point”. The bliss point is known in the food lab as the specific amount of fat, sugar or salt in a food that makes your taste buds sing and crave more of that food, or foods like it. Large food corporations have found a way to make cheap food, make it taste really good, and make you crave more.
On the topic of cheap ingredients, those “blueberries” you think you are eating in your cereals, muffins, bagels, etc. may actually be “blueberry bits”, which contain no blueberries at all. Instead you are likely eating a concoction of sugar (to help you get to that bliss point), hydrogenated oils and food dyes to mimic the look of blueberries. Clever product marketing can really fool the average consumer into thinking there are real blueberries in a specific product. Why wouldn’t we think so when beautiful, plump blueberries are prominently displayed on the front of the package?
What to do? Read the ingredient list. You may be shocked to see what you are actually putting into your body without even realizing it, or just how many different forms of sugar a food manufacturer can squeeze into a particular food. If at all possible, eat fresh foods that you made yourself. At least then you will know what ingredients were added to your meals. Aim for fresh fruits, vegetables and minimally processed whole grains. Opt for fresh meats instead of the mechanically separated chicken found in your nuggets. Knowledge is definitely power in the food department. Make sure to educate yourself by investigating the ingredients in the foods you buy.
If you would like to schedule a counseling session with a registered dietitian at Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 ex: 5671 for more information.

Allison Mitchell RD,LDN, is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Noble Hospital.

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