Just read a post on another blog that portrayed the ‘ingredient list’ of an organic banana. I thought it was interesting, but it got me thinking about what it could make many people think, and how some people could and would use it to defend the processed food industry. This is an unfortunate side-effect of an otherwise interesting post, but I don’t blame the poster, since I doubt that was the intent. Instead, I would like to present my thoughts on the subject.
The ingredient lists you see on foods in the supermarket show the items that the food producer explicitly put into a processed food product; that is the fundamental difference between what that banana post did and what those real ingredient lists do. With that in mind, it would be interesting if we were to expand a processed food’s ingredient list to account for all the stuff these food producers don’t account for in there now.
For example, there are the changes that processing itself makes to the natural ingredients of these products. The changes I am referring to include, but are not necessarily limited to:
the simple leaching and oxidation of nutrients that result from cutting up fruits and vegetables, thus releasing and exposing the nutrients to the air. This also happens when we do that at home to fresh fruits and vegetables; the only way to completely avoid it is to have our teeth do the cutting as we eat them.
the chemical reactions that are the natural and inevitable result of cooking.
Such an expanded list would of course also need to spell out the pesticides and herbicides commonly found both on and in most conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables, since those are never in the real lists either.
I then got to thinking about a real limitation to Ingredient Lists in general; they cannot really show where a specific nutrient is at too low a level. This is especially true for some of the less obvious micro-nutrients that are not even spelled out in the nutrition facts panel either. As a result, they do not adequately reflect any nutrient deficiencies of the ‘natural’ ingredients that are the inevitable result of repeatedly fertilizing fields with NPK fertilizers and planting the same crops in them year after year. Plants naturally extract scores of nutrients out of the soil, and when we clear-cut the crops and only replace three of those elements year after year, the levels of all other nutrients in the soil have nowhere to go but down.
It seems to me that these nutrient deficiencies may well play a significant role in these plants needing herbicides and pesticides to thrive in the first place, because they aren’t getting the nutrients they need to protect themselves naturally. If the plants don’t do as well without those extra nutrients, and those nutrient-deficient plants are going into the foods that make up such a large part of the western diet, it also logically follows that these deficiencies could well be contributing to, if not the root cause of, the myriad of health problems humanity sees today that were rarely seen or even unheard-of in the past. For example, one commenter on the banana post mentioned the prevalence of skin cancer that exposure to ‘natural’ sunlight has been blamed for. that commenter’s goal was to point out that not everything that is natural is good for us, which is true, albeit not entirely relevant to the current topic. I ask that you consider the possibility that we might be able to handle sunshine a bit better if our bodies were consistently getting the truly nutrient rich foods they were designed to use, instead of the minimally acceptable products that profit-driven corporations and commercial farming produce. After all, Sunshine is not new, but the prevelance of skin cancer is, even though pretty much everyone stays inside, covers up, or uses sunblock these days, so is it really appropriate to blame the sun?
My anecdotal input on this in particular is this: as a child, I would never get a sunburn no matter how long I stayed out in the sun. Later in life, I would sunburn pretty badly in less than an hour without sunscreen or sunblock. However, after we converted our diet to include mostly organic produce, with a bit of extra vitamin C supplementation, I can hike all day in the Arizona sunshine with bare arms and legs and no sunscreen or sunblock, and come home with nothing more than a nice tan to show for that ‘clearly excessive’ exposure to UV rays.