Thursday, October 2, 2014

All-Natural Foods and Science

Here's another post on my continuing series on food and science.  Today the focus is on all-natural foods.  It's becoming more common for food manufacturers to place an "all-natural" label on their products.  But what does "all-natural" really mean?  Unfortunately not all that much.

The assumption, and the message that food manufacturers are trying to send is that all-natural foods are better for you.  That's not necessarily true.  All-natural means nothing when it comes to the quality or safety of the food you consume.  Supposedly these products or ingredients in products are naturally produced on Earth and therefore better for you.  Some of these products may indeed be good for your health.  Upon closer inspection, however, many "all-natural" substances found on Earth are deadly to humans.

Which ones are deadly?  Well, for starters, arsenic.  Arsenic is naturally produced on Earth and is an "all-natural" substance.  As little as 70 mg of arsenic in drinking water can kill you.  Another "all-natural" substance is carbon monoxide.  Breathing it in is deadly and we have CO detectors in our home to alert us of high, dangerous, levels.  Take water itself.  Water is "all-natural", but if one drinks too much of it too fast, it is deadly.  Your bodily organs begin to shut down.

Claiming that something is "all-natural" is pointless.  It doesn't mean anything and it certainly doesn't mean the food product is healthy for your body.  Both salt and sugar are "all-natural" but eating "all-natural" food products that contain a lot of salt and sugar is most definitely not healthy for your body.  In addition, an "all-natural" food product may not be 100% "all-natural".  From the FDA:

"From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."

Eating healthy is simple in theory, although I'll admit much harder in practice.  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, limited amounts of red meat, and keep sugar and salt to minimum levels.  That's it.  Buying products labeled "all-natural" simply for the reason of them being "all-natural" is a waste of money and may provide no health benefit at all.

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