“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”
This is one of my favorite quotes. I’m a big believer in eating real food, “closer to the way nature made it,” as I always say. Intuitively, something just strikes a chord in me about the harmony that nature created; it makes sense that the food grown on this earth, and not in a lab, is the best fuel for us.
But if you take a look around the grocery store, you’ll find a myriad of companies trying to convince you otherwise. Diet foods abound, full of sugar substitutes and replacers, lab-manufactured fibers, and synthetic fats, all prepared for the public in an attempt to allow us to consume whatever we desire mindlessly, wantonly, and in unlimited amounts. But we can’t have our cake and eat it, too; nothing is without ramifications.
Thousands of years ago, a system of medicine and healing was developed in India called Ayurveda. According to this system, there are three root causes of disease; the first cause is “misusing sensory objects” and the second is “going against your inner wisdom.” Food is a sense object that people misuse all the time, and often as they do it, they know they are doing themselves harm but they do it anyway. You see, even thousands of years ago people understood the temptation that food presented, yet they knew that we must honor the body by feeding it nourishing foods in adequate amounts – not too much and not too little.
Of course, thousands of years ago deciding which foods were nourishing might have been simpler than today, since you ate what you picked, killed, and prepared – not what marketers convinced you that you need. But people buy into these messages all the time – because as humans we are always looking for the magic bullet, the easy out, or the quick solution. There’s this underlying message in the diet business that one day that solution will appear. This message makes money; food you can grow yourself doesn’t quite make the same profit as that found in a bag, box, or can. And the constant invention of products and ingredients allows the opportunity for food companies to continue to come out with the next great thing, so we never step off the wheel of big business’ influence.
As disheartening as that is, the greater problem that I see is that these foods are nutritionally void. I’ve called them “filler” at times. Providing calories yet no real nutrition – and that is a crucially important factor when we talk about satiety, because when we don’t feed our bodies nourishing foods, then no amount of calories will ever truly satisfy us. And this works out quite nicely for those food companies, because you’ll always keep coming back for more.