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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Whole foods -- not a brand name

Highly processed commodity foods and ingredients have been in the news, starting with all the bad news about Chinese food ingredients. At the same time, there is a debate going on about the advisability of concocting "functional" foods out of isolates, extracts, phytochemicals, and derivatives of foods. Many of these highly-processed foods are labelled "healthy" and even "organic".

At one time, eating organically was supposed to be the antidote to some bad food choices. Fresher, more nutritious, less tainted, grown in a way that is less depleting to farmland. Sounds good, right? But what's the point of eating "organic" versions of popular highly-processed foods?Is an organic Twinkie really what we are aiming for? If you can mix up some organic vegetable protein isolates with some natural flavoring extracts and beet juice concentrate for color, would the resulting organic meal replacement bar really be a good replacement for a meal?

What's wrong with red beans (30 minutes in the pressure cooker), brown rice (30 minutes on the stovetop), a side of carrots (20 minutes), or broccoli (10 minutes) and quick green salad with tomatoes, and maybe a nice little piece of blackened fish? For dessert, how about a nice piece of fruit or even an apple crisp (30 minutes in the oven). Now THAT sounds like a meal. It's the kind of food that, studies show, helps us stay healthy.

It is hard to substitute toxic chemical scrap for any of these foods -- you recognize these foods when you handle them. And you recognize them when you eat them. You don't need to add coloring or flavoring extracts (organic or pseudo-organic). You can cook it in quantity and freeze portions for your later convenience. You'll have something that tastes good, something you can take pride in preparing and enjoy sharing with other people.