Why is there a growing effort of seed and plant producers/vendors trying to educate the public about the value of eating and cooking fresh from the garden?
Engineering Salt, Sugar and Fat to Create Food Addiction
"Today, one in three adults is considered clinically obese, along with one in five kids, and 24 million Americans are afflicted by type 2 diabetes, often caused by poor diet, with another 79 million people having pre-diabetes. Even gout, a painful form of arthritis once known as "the rich man's disease" for its associations with gluttony, now aflicts eight million Americans." -Michael Moss in The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.
Stephen Scott, one of the owners of Terroir Seeds/Underwood Gardens writes:
How did we reach this stage of poor health as a nation? The answer may surprise and anger you. As with most complex issues, the answer is not so simple as many talking heads in the media and nightly news would have us believe. It isn't just a matter of willpower, or knowledge, or education, or alternatives to junk food that is, quite literally, killing us. The answer is far deeper, wider and more sinister.
Most processed foods these days are "optimized", or engineered for better sensory perceptions that drive us to eat more. These sensory perceptions include but are not limited to the physical appearance, packaging, shape, mouth feel, taste and array of flavors, aftertaste, smell and satisfaction of a food. One of the most important factors that are considered is the strength of the urge for a second bite, sip, or swallow, or a third.
Everyday, people spend hours in tasting rooms where they touch, feel, sip, smell, swirl and taste whatever product is being optomized. Their opinions are fed through a very sophisticated program that not only produces an optomized formulation for the food in question, but also adresses marketing concerns such as colors and packaging. All of this is done to gain more "stomach share" - the amound of processed food that a consumer will eat from a certain company. These are not small concerns in an industry that measures stomach share in the billions of dollars annually.
The Holy Grail for food companies is what is termed the "bliss point", that spot where a consumer likes a product the most, but are not satisfied enough with the flavor combination to stop eating it. Food and drinks cannot be too flavorful, as consumers quickly get bored with them. The brain is quickly overwhelmed with big, intense and distinct flavors and shuts down the "want more" portion, thus stopping eating.
This has become one of the major guiding principles of the processed food industry. The biggest players owe their success to very complex and secret formulas that pique the taste buds but don't have a distinct, intense flavor that shuts down the desire for more. This is the science of engineering addictive junk food at its most focused and intense.
For example, Frito-Lay employs about 500 chemists, psychologists, and technicians to conduct research that costs up to $30 million a year that focuses on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of their product lines. One of their tools simulates a chewing mouth to test and perfect their chips, like the perfect "break point"; people crave chips that crunch at about four pounds of pressure per square inch. You just can't make stuff like this up!
With market shares reaching multiple billions of dollars, highly agressive marketing tactics such as Coca-Cola make twisted sense. Their goal was simple: outsell every other beverage that people drink, including milk and water. From this goal they developed one question for the marketing dividsion - "How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?" This explains the door-to-door sales of Coke to Brazilians living in slums and frontier shanty-towns.
With all of this high technology, psychological and physiological research running into hundreds of millions of dollars, and with strategic placements and extremely focused marketing campaigns all supporting highly addictive processed foods, what chance do we as everyday people have?
Somewhat surprisingly, we actually have a pretty good chance. Alternative research has shown that peole can "recover" from their junk food addictions simply by abstaining from them for a period of time. Eating normal meals, eliminating or restricting snacking on junk food or replacing that food with real, helathy food recalibrates our taste buds. Skipping meals is one of the leading causes of increased junk food intake, not by desire but simply because of convenience. Snacking on fresh vegetables such as carrots, apple slices, celery or such that provides the crunch that we have come to desire, helps ease us out of the salt/fat/sugar cravings and into appreciation of new tastes and flavors that have been lost as we overload our taste buds with junk processed foods. The brain has a chance to realize that the food being eaten has nutritional content and can once again establish a reasonable signal of when the stomach is "full". It is no longer tricked into over-eating multiple times a day.
Once a recovery period of a couple of weeks to a month had been established, most people found the taste of the same junk food they previousley had highly enjoyed were too salty, fatty or sweet and lacked the real flavors that they had re-discovered and come to appreciate. They also had pleasant side effects of increases concentration, higherenergy that lasted throughout the day, decreased weight, blood pressure and headaches, among many others. (Read the complete article here.)
Winter Reading...'Fast Food Nation' by Eric Schlosser.
Persons who are familiar with the film, "Food, Inc." will understand that Schlosser is well regarded by those who care about the nutritional quality of our food as well as the conditions under which it is grown and also the living and working conditions of those who labor in the fields and factories.
The food industry has not always welcomed Schlosser and his questions. Wikipedia made the following statement: "...When asked how much cooperation the meatpacking and fast food industries lent to his research of Fast Food Nation, Schlosser said the following: 'None of the major meatpacking companies allowed me to visit their facilities. McDonald's was not at all helpful. The industry, on the whole, didn't roll out a welcome mat. But many of the workers at fast food restaurants and meatpacking plants were eager to talk with me. They felt that their stories had not yet been told, and they wanted the world to know what was happening. Their help made "Fast Food Nation" possible...' ".
Among the books that Schlosser has written are Fast Food Nation, The Dark Side of the American Meal and Chew on This.