Hey girl hey! So remember that ISS class that I am taking, the one about industrial food? Well, this email is a class project for that class, and I am going to tell you all about the book Pandora’s Lunchbox by Melanie Warner. As a person who is adamant about eating healthy, you will definitely appreciate what Warner has to say about the food industry. Obviously I cannot tell you every detail of the book that is interesting or shocking because then I would have to copy and paste the whole thing into this email. I would recommend that you read Pandora’s Lunchbox sometime, but in the meantime let me tell you a little about the book.
So the biggest thing I learned is that these days our food is not what it seems; often, our food is so highly processed that it is more the result of an elaborate science experiment than actual food as we think of it. In order to be optimized to be absolutely desirable to consumers (reach a bliss point) processed foods are full of chemicals, as explained in the interesting article “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” by Michael Moss. (I highly recommend reading this article as it eloquently explains why we crave junk and processed food so much.) Yeah, natural foods have chemicals in them, but processed foods contain synthetic chemicals – additives. These additives serve a variety of purposes, including coloring food, improving texture, preserving food, masking or enhancing flavors, and making BREAD. Yes, bread. Unless it is that fancy artisan bread, the bread we eat is full of ingredients not found in the kitchen. This commercial bread has these additives to make every loaf uniform, quick to make, and attractive. Here’s a scary fact: there is this ingredient azodicarbonamide in bread such as Subway’s that helps beautify the bread’s texture. Here’s the kicker: this additive is used in other fields to make rubbers and plastics. Yep, but that’s not all. A truck full of this tipped over and the people near this spill had rashes and burning eyes. I know you will be thinking of these additives just like I will be the next time you want bread from a chain like Subway or Panera.
Enough about additives though. If this topic interests you, I would recommend looking up ghost additives, those additives that companies say are safe to put in foods without consulting the FDA at all. But anyway, I want to talk about cereal. Many kinds of cereals are made through a process called extrusion, which is an extremely violent process where the molecules of the ingredients are basically torn apart. The extrusion machines save companies a lot of money and time, but at a cost. The cost is nutritional value of cereal. Lots of the natural vitamins from the ingredients do not survive this process, and the ones that do survive degrade sitting in boxes. So how come the boxes claim to have this percent of this vitamin and that percent of another vitamin? Synthetic vitamins are the answer. And these would be helpful, but unfortunately just pumping vitamins into foods does not automatically make them nutritious. Bodies need other nutrients to help absorb the vitamins, like polyphenols, carotenoids, and flavonols (beneficial plant chemicals), but these are lost in the manufacturing of cereals. And the claim that cereals are healthy because they have whole grains is not entirely true either. The things that make whole grains healthy are stripped away in cereal processing. But do not lose all hope that cereal is good for you; food companies say these breakfast foods are “better-for-you” than a donut.
Pandora’s Lunchbox has given me so much eye-opening information about so much, like soy. Much like corn is present in some form in a vast number of foods according to the movie Food, Inc., so too is soy oil is used in many food products. It is cheaper to use than butter and sunflower, safflower, and coconut oil, it does not leave a taste like corn oil does, and it can be grown all over unlike canola. But it is not one-hundred percent safe. Hexane, a neurotoxin which is found in gasoline fumes, is used in its production, and as much as fifty-parts-per-million in residues remain in the oil. But that’s not where the danger of soybean oil ends. It was made until the late nineties to be more like a solid and be able to melt in your mouth like butter through partial hydrogenation. This was beneficial because it prevented oil from getting a rancid odor when heated to high temperatures, but this process also produced trans fats which can lead to heart problems. So the industry came up with a new way to use soy oil at high temperatures without it degrading. However, at high temperatures, hydroxynonenals (toxic aldehydes) appear due the heating of linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated fatty acid) found in soy and other vegetable oils. Concentrations of carcinogenic toxic aldehydes in foods fried in soy oil range from seven- to thirty-two-parts-per-million. I bet you are just as disturbed as me that companies are allowing humans to consume a compound linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s.
There is so much more I learned that I wish I could share with you from Pandora’s Lunchbox! I highly recommend that you read this fantastic book. You will be glad you did; I know I am happier knowing a little more about what I am putting in my body due to the food industry’s quest to save time and money while feeding Americans in their fast-paced lifestyle. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this book!
Love you tons girl,