Half-Baked Buzz Phrases and Overcooked Terms
Are you a couch potato gobbling great gobs of un-natural junkfood washed down with lavish doses of empty-calorie soda? Are your kids tater tots stuffing their pie holes with processed non-organic foods? Do you wonder what does it all mean? Not the riddle of life, but what's the meaning of those terms scattered throughout the first two sentences like so many multi-colored sprinkles on a donut. Let's examine, shall we.
Empty Calorie. A calorie is fuel the body burns for energy, part of a process we call "being alive." So, if something is a calorie it's fuel and so not empty at all. If it's empty it must lack fuel, so it can't be a calorie. The term empty calorie makes as much sense as a full hole.
Is a calorie from a potato chip unburnable while one from a baked potato is? Consider, water has no calories or vitamins. Does that make it an "empty liquid"? You can't live on a zero calorie diet no matter what other goodies it contains.
Junkfood. If you ate a small chuck steak, a dinner roll, and a salad of lettuce, onions and cucumber with thousand island dressing, that's a regular meal. But if you grind up the steak, cut the roll in half and stuff the steak and the salad inside, you have a Big Mac, which is then junk food.
How does the form of food make it junk or not? Once you chew it up and swallow it, how can the body tell what it started out as? Did that mass of protein, carbs and fat in your gut start out as a steak dinner or a hamburger? Digestion breaks all carbs into simple sugars, mainly glucose. Can your body tell "good" dinner roll glucose from "bad" hamburger bun glucose?
Processed Food. Most every food eaten by humans is processed, altered from its form found in nature. Processing includes chopping, slicing, salting, seasoning, mashing, grinding, shelling, separating, mixing, peeling, bleaching, drying, Pasteurizing, fermenting, filleting, gutting, butchering, baking, cooking... you get the idea.
Processed food is mostly food where some things you'd do to prepare it for eating have been done by someone else, somewhere else, before you bring it home. Stone-ground whole wheat flour is processed food. Bread made from said flour even moreso.
We admit some processing destroys vitamins, which isn't good because, as our mother's said, we need our vitamins. To make up for that many processed foods are fortified, that is they are further processed to put the vitimins back in.
Organic. It's the farming method that's "organic", not the produce. All fruits and vegetables grow from the same seeds with the same genetics which metabolize sunlight, water and nutrients in the same way. Nutritionally they are identical whatever the farming method. While you say "to-may-to" and I say "to-mah-to", they're the same thing.
Plants don't treat identical nutrients differently by how they were made or applied. The only significant difference is the price which effects you fiscally rather than physically.
Natural. Some folks like to use the term "natural" as if it were synonymous with good for you. The thing is, nature is totally indifferent to your health. Ever hear of poison mushrooms, arsenic or botulism? Those aren't man-made.
Compare natural raw milk to unnatural Pasteurized milk. Pasteurization destroys bacteria in milk that causes tuberculosis, diphtheria and typhoid fever, all natural by the way. Manure, a natural fertilizer, can contain pathogens capable of killing a person in under 48 hours if it's on your food when eaten. Artificial fertilizers don't. Natural is Mother Nature's way of killing you.
Chemicals. Everything you eat is loaded with chemicals, natural chemicals. Plants themselves produce pesticides as a defence mechanism which are no less carcinogenic or toxic than man-made ones. We're exposed to 10,000 times more natural pesticides than man-made ones each and every day. 99.99% of pesticides in our food are there naturally and the average person eats about 1,500 mg a day. Compared to 0.1 mg of synthetic pesticide residues.
All the same, the poison is in the dose, which is too small to harm us. Our bodies naturally detoxify themselves. That's why we have kidneys, a pancreas, and so on. If I told you some food contained gluconolactone hydrolyzed into gluconic acid as a preservative, would you eat it? That food would be honey, actually.
You Are What You Eat. Potato chips don't enter our system as potato chip molecules, there is no soda pop in your bloodstream. When you chew up and swallow food it hasn't really entered your body. Put simply, the digestive track is a tube running through you. What's in the tube is not in your system, it's outside and must pass through the wall membranes to actually enter your body proper.
All food is broken apart by digestion into simpler forms, fats, sugars, protein, minerals, etc. before they enter your system. It is these simpler forms that's important, not what form they started out in. You aren't what you eat exactly, but what you absorb after digestion.
Buzz phrases and slogans are often shorthand for bigger ideas. Though just because it's a big idea, doesn't mean it's a good idea. When examined the bigger ideas sometimes amount to some pretty small thinking.
The Science of Sweets
© Terry Colon, 2010