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Processed bananas
January 18, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Are you sick of all those icky chemicals in your food? Now you're safe, with the totally chemical-free, all-natural bananas, blueberries and eggs.
posted by jeather (110 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is pretty neat! I've often bristled at advertising that touts a food as "all natural." Yeah, so's strychnine, but you wouldn't want to eat it!
posted by darkstar at 7:13 AM on January 18


I would rather taste and consume the chemicals that these organisms made, even if they were made in subjugation, than chemicals which were synthesized in a food lab. I get the point that the body "reads" everything taken in as a chemical, but the quality of experience counts for a lot with me.
posted by Danf at 7:28 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


That all-natural banana is artificially ripened. I remember when bananas looked like this.
posted by bhnyc at 7:32 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I particular like the E numbers.
posted by Artw at 7:38 AM on January 18


Modern bananas are about as natural as naugahyde.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:55 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Kind of misses the point about eating real food, but it's definitely neat to see the equivalents.
posted by nevercalm at 8:03 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Modern bananas are about as natural as naugahyde.

I only wear humanely raised nauga.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:04 AM on January 18 [16 favorites]


So there is accounting for taste!
posted by chavenet at 8:05 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


I think its less a point about real food and more a refutation of the standard "Why would you eat something you can't even pronounce" argument.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:15 AM on January 18 [22 favorites]


even if they were made in subjugation

I can't decide if "Banana Subjugation" is the name of my new speedmetal band or fetish website.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:18 AM on January 18 [19 favorites]


What are the E numbers?
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:21 AM on January 18


2.71828.
posted by mittens at 8:23 AM on January 18 [20 favorites]


Reminiscent of the dyhydrogen monoxide scare.
posted by euphorb at 8:24 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


The E numbers are from the European Food Safety Authority's reference system for common food chemicals, you can find the full list here, but these are what the mean,
E100–E199 (colours)
E200–E299 (preservatives)
E300–E399 (antioxidants, acidity regulators)
E400–E499 (thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers)
E500–E599 (acidity regulators, anti-caking agents)
E600–E699 (flavour enhancers)
E700–E799 (antibiotics)
E900–E999 (glazing agents and sweeteners)
E1000–E1599 (additional chemicals)
posted by Blasdelb at 8:26 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I would rather taste and consume the chemicals that these organisms made, even if they were made in subjugation, than chemicals which were synthesized in a food lab.

But it doesn't matter if they are made in an organism or in a lab, they are the same chemicals.
posted by Pendragon at 8:37 AM on January 18 [18 favorites]


What are the E numbers?

They make the food taste transcendental.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:39 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]


Good fun! I know just enough organic chemistry to be dangerous...

That said, I can both see and taste the difference between my chickens eggs from summer/fall when they're mostly eating insects, clover and the overproduction from my garden to winter when they're eating prepared chicken food. The "organic" chicken feed that costs 75% more makes eggs that taste/look just like the commercial feed does...

I'd love to see a comparative analysis.
posted by bert2368 at 8:41 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Thank you. Bookmarking this site.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:44 AM on January 18


"I would rather taste and consume the chemicals that these organisms made, even if they were made in subjugation, than chemicals which were synthesized in a food lab. I get the point that the body "reads" everything taken in as a chemical, but the quality of experience counts for a lot with me."
There are really actually very few compounds used in food that are made in a truly synthetic way, doing serious chemistry is expensive to do in a consistent way that doesn't involve any steps that could even conceivably be dangerous, generally gets shitty yields, gets really messy, and needs people who really know what they're doing. Food chemists don't get to do pretty much anything fun or anything conveniently. For the most part the chemicals added to our food are farmed, mined, fermented from microbes, extracted from all sorts of things, or distilled - not synthesized. Really, almost all of the advancements in food science over the last hundred years of ridiculous innovation have nothing to with synthesis in any meaningful sense of the term and everything to do with either improved infrastructure, understanding old techniques and ingredients in deeper ways that allow us to use them to greater benefit, or advances in industrial design that allow us to make things more consistently and safely.

Not very many of the big long chemicals you find on labels are really all that new at all, just better understood and more precisely used.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:44 AM on January 18 [30 favorites]


nathancaswell: "even if they were made in subjugation

I can't decide if "Banana Subjugation" is the name of my new speedmetal band or fetish website.
"

Crossbrand that shit! Though instead of speedmetal, perhaps some form of industrial would be a better fit with a fetish site.
posted by symbioid at 8:48 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, would a comparison between the refinement you speak of and the process of going from willow bark tea to aspirin be unmerited?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:52 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


"Modern bananas are about as natural as naugahyde."

Seriously.

Modern bananas are a really cool application of genetics that has practically invented the world's most popular fruit. They take advantage of our understanding of classical genetics, now understood more fully through molecular genetics, to turn a starchy thing with giant spiky seeds into something so perfect that it convinced Kirk Cameron that is was made by his God. With an understanding of how living organisms tend to have various numbers of sets of chromosomes, and an ability to look at how many, you can breed two types of banana trees with different even numbers of sets together to create a new tree with an odd number of chromosomes incapable of producing viable sex cells - making a sterile banana tree that doesn't produce seeds or get starchy. Of course you then run into the problem of having created a sweet tree incapable of sex, but banana trees don't need to have sex to make offspring so long as there are humans around to clone them. This does leave us with a problem when hobbled banana trees incapable of competing in evolutionary arms races with their pathogens get outpaced, but so long as banana research is funded and maintain appropriate economic structures capable of handling the biological challenges we can compete for them through careful quarantine and by switching out the type of banana we eat every 60-100 years.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:19 AM on January 18 [32 favorites]


Is Panama Disease still expected to essentially wipe out the Cavendish banana in the next few years? That's a huge story that doesn't get much press. It already happened once in the last century though. Our grandparents ate the Gros Michel and while not extinct, its days in commercial production are gone for good.

As I understand it, banana companies are furiously crossbreeding and experimenting trying to get out in front of this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:20 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Ha. On preview, yeah, kinda like the last bit of blasdelb's comment.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:21 AM on January 18


I've seen this "chemicals are bad" argument debunked a whole lot of times, but I can't say that I've actually seen the argument in real life. I'm sure it's happened, but I strongly suspect that most second hand accounts of that are inaccurate.

What I have seen is a lot of people intentionally and hostilely misinterpreting people's arguments as silly childish fear. (Example: I once commented that a particular food tasted chemical-ey, and some dude helpfully explained to me that everything is made out of chemicals! I don't know if he was being disingenuously hyperliteral or if he honestly thought I didn't know that.)

Many people have concerns that do not boil down to a simple fear of long scary chemical names. Humanitarian concerns, concerns about farming and manufacturing processes, and concerns about introducing substances in untested quantities and configurations. And yet, they're all addressed as though they're just a bunch of ignorant, hysterical hippies who are afraid of big words.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:23 AM on January 18 [23 favorites]


I recall seeing a magazine advertisement placed by some chemical trade association around 1980 listing out all the chemical constituents of an orange. They were trying to make the same argument/counter the same sorts of arguments regarding chemicals in food as the linked source here. However, they were not offering t-shirts and tote bags, so that equals progress.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 9:35 AM on January 18


I saw this posted on Facebook (for the egg one) and people were seriously bemoaning the fact that they now could no longer eat eggs because of all the bad chemicals. So, yes, there are really people who see chemicals and think, "EVIL!" Also, there were tons of people who were upset that the percentages added up to more than 100%, apparently not understanding the sub-category aspect. So, yes, those people are out there even if you haven't met them personally.
posted by dellsolace at 9:46 AM on January 18 [8 favorites]


I can't say that I've actually seen the argument in real life.

I have on at least three separate occasions, one of which was with a low level elected official. In my experience this is not a freestanding argument; it more often gets brought up during a longer discussion about GMOs.
posted by The White Hat at 9:48 AM on January 18


I've seen this "chemicals are bad" argument debunked a whole lot of times, but I can't say that I've actually seen the argument in real life.

I totally have. Also, yesterday I tried to explain the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation to someone who was convinced his space heater was going to make him glow in the dark. "I read on the Internet it emits radiation!" "Well, heat is radiation, but..." I don't think I got the message across.
posted by asperity at 10:08 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


It's about time this 'fresh produce' had to print ingredients, just like the regular food in the packets.
posted by davemee at 10:08 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]


I'm not sick of chemicals in my food, I'm sick of food chemists mixing those chemicals in such a way that perverts taste and undermines the alimentary processes.
posted by borges at 10:27 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Hey, I've 'schooled' by people that insist natural foods don't contain 'chemicals.' Whenever you think people aren't that dumb, they are. It doesn't mean YOU are. But there are definitely people who believe this. Broad debunkings are for broad misunderstandings.
posted by umberto at 10:29 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


The E numbers are from the European Food Safety Authority's reference system for common food chemicals

Amusingly, even though E numbers allow better control of what goes into food and prevent manufacturers from using weasely or vague names to hide ingredients from regulators, they are a total failure from a public perception point of view: most people equate the presence of an opaque E-number with inevitable carcinogenic doom.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:07 AM on January 18


I'm also pretty tired of the "everything is made of chemicals, you yokel," snark. It's a subset of the whole "do you even science, bro?" sub-culture that thinks "Science!" Is the ultimate rhetorical trump card. Science is a philosophical framework for comparing hypotheses about the world, not a punchline to an insult. "Science!" as rhetoric is some of the most pernicious kind of anti-science.

Certainly there are dangerous folk (childhood anti-vaxxers, climate deniers) who are deserving of such snark, but even in those cases it's not a productive way to dissuade them from their views.
posted by Skwirl at 11:08 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]


I suppose I could see people interpreting these as lists of additives, since that's how food labeling in the US actually works. And I'm sure there are people who casually or even formally think of all chemicals as additives or toxins or something, but I can't imagine that mockery is really the best way to clarify that.

But in my experience, the 'debunkings' like this are far more common than the position they're designed to debunk, and I have seen nuanced arguments reduced to this strawman, intentionally or not, too many times.

Besides, what's the point? Is the point that all chemicals are equal, and because chemicals exist in whole, natural foods, people shouldn't be put off with long lists of additives in their foods? If someone is generally incurious or sort of scientifically illiterate or just kind of tired and overwhelmed, I don't think it's a terrible idea for them to simply avoid things with long ingredient lists in their shopping. That's a pretty good rule of thumb, in fact.

Is this sort of campaign a response to some real systemic problem in which chemists are being widely oppressed by hordes of ignorant consumers and legislation?
posted by ernielundquist at 11:08 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


For instance, when I read Union of Concerned Scientists position papers about things like genetically enhanced foods and industrial agriculture, I feel a lot more likely to side with the hippies and the alarmists than the "dihydrogen monoxide, teehee!" snarksters.
posted by Skwirl at 11:18 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


"For the most part the chemicals added to our food are farmed, mined, fermented from microbes, extracted from all sorts of things, or distilled - not synthesized."

Well, your whole argument is going to founder on the rocks of the fact that most people don't know what synthesized means.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:23 AM on January 18


The first time I ever saw this argument against chemicals was with the Breyer's ice cream commercials in the nineties. The little kids try to pronounce the ingredients in the opposing brand ice cream then have no problem with the milk, sugar, etc in Breyer's. The funny thing about all that is that, as far as I'm concerned, Breyer's ice cream is pretty damn bland.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:00 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


The other day I looked up agave syrup on Wikipedia, curious to see the details behind claims that it's healthier than cane sugar.

Apparently, it's less healthy than white sugar, due to the higher fructose content.

I'll continue to enjoy all natural cane sugar, or (if I'm concerned about poor working conditions) beet sugar.
posted by jb at 12:02 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I'm also pretty tired of the "everything is made of chemicals, you yokel," snark. It's a subset of the whole "do you even science, bro?" sub-culture that thinks "Science!" Is the ultimate rhetorical trump card.

This set of images is more subtle than you're giving it credit for, I think. For one thing, they honestly show the fact that fruits like blueberries and bananas are very sugary. The main reason they fit into a healthy diet is because of 1. fiber and 2. portion size. So when you juice a pint of blueberries, for instance, you end up with a drink around as sugary as a Coke. The prevalence of juice bars at health food stores suggest that some people could benefit from this type of perspective.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:05 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Oh, but I love real cream ice creams. That's because they have all that lovely fat instead of guar gum thickener.

My personal issue lately has been trying to find a palm oil free Nutella replacement, because I like orangutans (and forests in general). Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any to buy; the recipe I found online is fat-free, but does use some of the aforementioned agave syrup. Which might be okay in moderation, as with most things.
posted by jb at 12:05 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


(I'm not being condescending, either, I think it can be genuinely non-intuitive why fruit in its "original packaging" can be healthy but putting the same thing in a blender isn't as much. It's still raw fruit and it's a physical, not a chemical transformation.)
posted by en forme de poire at 12:07 PM on January 18


This all reminds me of a recent trip to Madeira. I don't think I had ever thought about where bananas come from in other than the level of "they arrive on boats from some tropical clime and you shouldn't put them in the refrigerator or they'll go brown". But banana trees are amazing, unnerving even. There are A LOT OF BANANAS on each tree. And on Madeira they're everywhere, growing a bit like an American town might have oaks, or poplars or chestnuts. It's eye opening. Plus bananas are yummy and on Madeira they cook them with all kinds of different things, in what mainly seems to be a frantic effort to get rid of them.
posted by chavenet at 12:09 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


Yeah, agave syrup is really sweeter per calorie than regular sweeteners - but the reason is the fructose, which is sweeter per calorie than dextrose. Same principle behind HFCS. The problem is that fructose is metabolized completely differently from glucose in the human body (pretty much exclusively gets processed within the liver).
posted by en forme de poire at 12:09 PM on January 18


I saw this posted this morning on twitter with the phrase "wake up sheeple" used unironically.

Which is about the level of subtlety these images deserve, I suppose.
posted by danny the boy at 12:14 PM on January 18


... in what mainly seems to be a frantic effort to get rid of them.

I remember seeing little kids on Dominica playing, picking up mangoes from the street and chucking them at each other, and thinking "Good god, those are $3 each!"
posted by benito.strauss at 12:19 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


Here, jb: Homemade nutella recipe.

I die a little inside when I hear things like "Chemicals are so bad for us," and "This packaged food has ingredients I can't pronounce!!!" and that thing that's been going around for at least 10 years now about how Coca-Cola can be used to clean your toilet and is therefore bad for you.

The graphics are cool. Thanks :)
posted by bunderful at 12:27 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Some people seem to be taking umbrage at this, but I think it's an amusing little poke at the incredibly prevalent naturalistic fallacy, which is something I run into in nutrition all the time.

There's more to it than certain people not understanding that "chemicals" are literally everything (though those people do exist and I have spoken with many of them.) It also includes the risk assessment most people do intuitively, where they tend to be more fearful (and outraged) about things that are unfamiliar, technological, and outside of their direct control - and these factors are not always necessarily correlated with the actual danger.

So much of this happens around the topic of food. Humans seem uniquely spooked over food, probably because it's something we take into our bodies, that we can't survive without, that we've attached a lot of heavy cultural and moral meanings to, and which we still don't know everything about. It's a perfect recipe for massive panic to occasionally erupt, sometimes based on very little or nothing.

I think that's worth pointing out and questioning, even if it ruffles feathers. Especially since these (understandable and very human) suspicions, while well-tolerated by those who don't suffer from severe anxiety or eating disorders, can contribute to a really hostile environment for those who do, making it almost impossible for them to believe anything is safe to eat. If images like these can contribute to some sense of relief or comfort for those people, that makes me glad.

People need to eat food, period. They need to eat what's available to them, and the social structures currently in place leave lots of people without much choice in the matter. That's not to say food systems and food itself can't be improved - they can be, and should be improved, on a systemic level - but that, while we're improving them, people still have to eat. And they have to eat what they've got. Rhetorically pissing all over the imperfect food that is available to people is, to me, counterproductive and in many cases unethical.
posted by Ouisch at 12:28 PM on January 18 [12 favorites]


Peasant: "She's bloody dying and all you bring us is bananas. All we've eaten mate for the last four bleeding weeks is banana soup, roast banana, steamed banana, braised banana in banana sauce, banana in the basket with sauted bananas, banana meringue pie, banana sorbet. We sit on bananas, we sleep in bananas, we feed the cat on bananas, we burn bananas, we even wear the bloody things!"

Dennis Moore: "Looks very smart."

Peasant: "Oh shut up!"
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:28 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


The first time I ever saw this argument against chemicals was with the Breyer's ice cream commercials in the nineties. The little kids try to pronounce the ingredients in the opposing brand ice cream then have no problem with the milk, sugar, etc in Breyer's. The funny thing about all that is that, as far as I'm concerned, Breyer's ice cream is pretty damn bland.

Some of that is because (like Ben and Jerry's), Breyers' quality took a nosedive in the 90s and now it's the same half-carrageenan crap that you find in the $2 containers... just not for $2. I don't mind artificial flavorings, especially when they're the same compounds as "natural" flavors, but carrageenan and guar gum... bleah.

Me, I like the Good Eats recipe for philly-style (no eggs) vanilla ice cream. Except I use a fuckton more vanilla, and sometimes I freeze a Dairy Milk bar and then whack it into tiny crumbs in the blender and add that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:35 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


I've honestly never understood why people don't like carrageenan? I love it. It has a wonderful texture. I like chocolate milk that includes carrageenan, and I look for it on the label. I like cream-only ice cream as well, but honestly the smoother, less brittle texture of ice cream that has some soluble fiber suits me better. I tend to really like things with soluble fiber, including guar gum, and oatmeal, and some starchy puddings, because of the unique texture. It's delicious.
posted by Ouisch at 12:41 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I've seen this "chemicals are bad" argument debunked a whole lot of times, but I can't say that I've actually seen the argument in real life.

One of Michael Pollan's basic tenets--endlessly repeated out there on the web--is "if you can't say it, don't eat it." Which he expands to "Don't buy products with more than five ingredients or any ingredients you can't easily pronounce."
posted by yoink at 1:04 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


One of Michael Pollan's basic tenets--endlessly repeated out there on the web--is "if you can't say it, don't eat it." Which he expands to "Don't buy products with more than five ingredients or any ingredients you can't easily pronounce."

What if I can't pronounce phyenlalanine, isoleucine, palmitoleic, phytosterols, phylloquinone, or hexanoate? I'm just supposed to not eat bananas anymore?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:11 PM on January 18


Spend some time working on your pronunication
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:15 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I've honestly never understood why people don't like carrageenan? I love it. It has a wonderful texture.

Well, de gustibus and all that. I much prefer the brittle, harder texture you describe when I'm having hard-frozen ice cream... I wouldn't even say that it's necessarily better in some objective way but it's what I'm after. I expect lots of soft-serve places have carrageenan and/or guar gum in their ice cream, and that's exactly what I want when I'm having soft-serve.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:33 PM on January 18


One of Michael Pollan's basic tenets--endlessly repeated out there on the web--is "if you can't say it, don't eat it."

That's a heuristic based on looking for "chemical-sounding" ingredients, yes, but it is only a heuristic. The argument isn't "chemicals are bad, and natural food somehow isn't made up of chemicals", it's "modern food processing techniques are unhealthy, and looking for ingredients you can't pronounce is a decent way to identify highly processed foods". Whatever you think of his arguments for that (and I think there's plenty to argue with there), it's far from the kind of simpleminded "OH NOES CHEMICALS!!!1" that people are making it out to be.
posted by moss at 3:10 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Whatever you think of his arguments for that (and I think there's plenty to argue with there), it's far from the kind of simpleminded "OH NOES CHEMICALS!!!1" that people are making it out to be.

What he both knows to be true and what he is basing his injunctions on is, no doubt, far more complex than "oh noes, chemicals"--but the injunction to not eat anything with ingredients in it that you can't pronounce is unquestionably an "oh noes, chemicals" claim. The whole point of the images I the FPP is to say "wait on, this isn't actually a meaningful or interesting guideline--because all foods are full of "ingredients you can't pronounce." It's just that only some of them are required by law to inform you of that fact.
posted by yoink at 3:40 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


This reminds me of the organic dry-cleaning marketing gimmick.
Actually, all dry-cleaning is organic because the mainstream process uses organic chemicals. The greener version uses carbon dioxide instead of solvents, but it's just as organic in the chemical sense.
I have to take on faith that the dry-cleaners are actually cleaning my clothes and not just putting them on a hanger with a plastic bag over it and charging me $5.95 for a sweater (yes, I should use a cheaper dry cleaner, but it's not on my route).
posted by bad grammar at 4:19 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


The linked infographics destabilize the confidence people might have in "all natural" non-GMO organic foods.

Simply put, this is a tactic that is disingenuous at its core.

It's easy for people to insist they do not want petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical additives on their food and to feel pretty secure that organic food is relatively healthful.

The linked infographics attempt to complicate the relationship between "all natural" foods and processed foods and really is just a bunch of snarky scientism.

Sometimes people know what they know and that really is enough.
posted by mistersquid at 4:46 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


"Sometimes people know what they know and that really is enough."

That, right there, is the source of all evil.

Okay, that's an overstatement. It's the source of most of the willful ignorance that so frequently makes me want to poke people in the eye with a sharp stick.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:10 PM on January 18 [11 favorites]


The linked infographics destabilize the confidence people might have in "all natural" non-GMO organic foods.

Yes, knowledge often destabilizes confidence that was based on ignorance.
posted by yoink at 5:35 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


I think it is more pointing out the considerable grey territory in an issue that almost exclusively presented as black-and-white in the media. Nutrition is complicated. Food is complicated. I've said before in other conversations about it that I find the heavy reliance on heuristics about nutrition, while understandable, to be sometimes damaging.

Scientism is a real issue, but I find that when it comes to nutrition, most people want to talk about anything BUT actual science. Those same people then often use science to back up their viewpoints when it suits them, while labelling all other arguments using scientific evidence "nutritionism." To me, that is what's disingenuous.
posted by Ouisch at 5:36 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Step 1 - Distribute literature about how nutritional all natural tapioca is to the raw foods people.
Step 3 - Profit!

Well, Coldchef profits, but the idea is there.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:42 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


This is irrelevant to the supposed thrust of the piece, but my daughter has a weird sugar intolerance/malabsorption thing, and if I could actually find consistently correct information on the fructose/fructan/fructo-oligosaccharide content of fruits and vegetables in my produce department, I would be so, so happy.
posted by KathrynT at 5:59 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


The linked infographics destabilize the confidence people might have in "all natural" non-GMO organic foods.

I've been really hesitant to say anything substantive on the thread, because I think pretty much everything we do with food is too fraught with judgment. The issue of choice with food is ridiculously complicated, full of lots of "You'll die from this fat!" "No, it's not the fat, it's the sugar!" "No, it's not just the sugar, it's the fructose!" "You're a pediatric endocrinologist, not a nutritionist, stop giving lectures," etc.

I mean, it's no wonder some small part of the population--and it is pretty small--worry about things like chemicals, because where is the education on what those chemicals are, how common they are, how safe? "Everything is chemicals!" isn't a comforting answer. Real education, presented in an encouraging way, is comforting.

There's a depressing amount of snark over definitions, when it comes to food. Natural, organic, and healthy are fuzzy terms. They're not exact. But that's language for you. We accept it in most other arenas of our lives. You don't hear a lot of, "I'm sorry, George, I can't accept this Valentine because you do not have a sufficiently complete definition of love."

Anyway, what I was actually going to say, re the line about destabilizing confidence, is that the creator of the graphics says, "I usually care too much about food labels. If something has monosodium glutamate (E621) or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it, I’m probably not going to buy it no matter how healthy or delicious the food looks as a whole." So it's not as though he's unaware of, or unsympathetic to, the idea of unwanted ingredients.
posted by mittens at 6:03 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


That's some hyperbole there, Ivan F.

Being secure in one's knowledge is not the source of all evil. For example, I am not a physicist and do not have a graduate-level understanding of even the most basic mechanics.

However, I am a very experienced cyclist and there are things I know how to do that I would never be able to explain and it is plausible that were I not on a bicycle, someone could challenge my claim to be able to do certain things as physically impossible, and I would not be able to defend what I know using a language game based on a mathematical understanding of physics.

I would not be evil for refusing to be shaken in my knowledge were someone to challenge me on that level.

Similarly, and more to the point, I don't need to have a doctorate in organic chemistry to tell me that produce raised according to organic standards (a voluntary standard at present) is likely to be healthy for me.

I'm not saying I would not be open to evidence to the contrary, but I am saying that sometimes a layperson's knowledge suffices and an expert may have more technical knowledge but the two things don't necessarily conflict.

In this case, the infographics DO NOT add information to the concept of healthful beyond what someone who relies on a sense of what is "all natural" would know. The infographics and the "information" they present only confuse the issue.

Yoink, your rebuttal that "knowledge often destabilizes confidence that was based on ignorance" means nothing because the knowledge that is being added in this case is meaningless to the question of whether "all natural" foods are healthy. The infographics are engaging in bad faith semantics and your suggestion that they debunk knowledge held in ignorance has no support.
posted by mistersquid at 6:22 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I think that the American heritage of puritanism† has for some reason attached to food in the last two or three decades, having been beaten back in most other cultural categories. So now Americans can feel virtuous in something that very often has the character of asceticism, with a lot of shame attached to "indulging" in tempting but morally suspect foods.

And this manifestation of puritanism is so very American in every way — like exercise, it elevates the narcissistic cultivation of one's own body to a central moral principle and vanity to a virtue; it is essentially consumerist, and literally, with the proper living of one's life understood as essentially involving comparison shopping, and where social identity is validated and expressed thereby.

†Yes, I know, the influence of puritanism on American culture is usually overestimated.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:25 PM on January 18 [14 favorites]


Dang, Ivan Fyodorovich, that was beautifully put.
posted by mittens at 6:30 PM on January 18


I think it's remarkable -- and on some anthropological level deeply thought-provoking -- how simply listing the chemical composition of a piece of fruit is such a highly-charged political act.
posted by darkstar at 6:31 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Put another way:

Layperson: Organic foods are healthy to eat.

JKM: Here is a list of chemical compounds contained in organic bananas.

MetaFilter Scientismists: Believing organic food is healthful is untrue and based on ignorance.
posted by mistersquid at 6:32 PM on January 18


Pursuing healthful nutritious foodstuffs is Puritan consumerism and the triumph of narcissism.

Same goes for exercise.

Are you even listening to what you're saying?
posted by mistersquid at 6:34 PM on January 18


"However, I am a very experienced cyclist and there are things I know how to do that I would never be able to explain and it is plausible that were I not on a bicycle, someone could challenge my claim to be able to do certain things as physically impossible, and I would not be able to defend what I know using a language game based on a mathematical understanding of physics."

Well, a few years ago when the "plane on a treadmill" gedankenexperiment was making the rounds, and a few months before it appeared on MythBusters, it was discussed here and I argued with a pilot about it.

As a pilot, he knew what he knew, and he knew that was enough, and he was absolutely certain of his answer. Because he was a pilot.

He was wrong.

And those arguing from simple physics were right.

Knowing what you know is only ever provisionally enough because what you know is approximately nothing compared to what you don't know and, more to the point, what other people know about any particular thing you know, excepting about yourself, dwarfs what you know. Always question what you think you know.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:41 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


"It's easy for people to insist they do not want petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical additives on their food and to feel pretty secure that organic food is relatively healthful."

But when people realize that when you say "petroleum-based fertilizers" you mean the nitrogen in the air fixed into a solid form using natural gas as an energy source not actually spraying oil on food, and the vast majority of the 'chemical additives' you're talking about have been used for thousands of years with different names and less understanding, it all sounds a lot less scary doesn't it? Or at least the added perspective gives one a chance to look deeper, ask better questions, and see things for the more complex systems that they are. There are real problems with our food system, but clinging to bullshit that is as intuitive to the uneducated as it is wrong will do nothing to fix them.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:45 PM on January 18 [10 favorites]


Ivan F. I don't doubt for a second that my explanations for anything are likely incorrect.

Just to be clear, my cycling example was meant only for non-hypotheticals. E.g.: I know how to bunny hop but cannot explain the physics behind it.

Ultimately, I am not saying knowledge can be cemented. What I am saying is that the mere presentation of an extended body of knowledge does not necessarily invalidate the claims of people with lesser knowledge.

And in THIS case, the infographics do nothing to diminish the claim that all-natural foods are healthy to eat.
posted by mistersquid at 6:46 PM on January 18


Blasdelb, you seem to be saying (for example?) that asserting produce grown using organic methods is healthful is one example of "clinging to bullshit that is as intuitive to the uneducated as it is wrong".

How is this wrong? Is this a real problem or is it a problem with experts having condescending opinions about what the uneducated claim to know?

I don't deny that investigating things and conducting actual science can be beneficial.

I think another useful example are the Amish. (Yes, I am woefully ignorant of the Amish.) They live very simple lifestyles which to my mind helps them harmonize with their environment. They eschew many of the technologies and systems which we non-Amish rely on.

Would you say they are clinging to bullshit? I would say they choose to live a different lifestyle and some of the effects of those lifestyle are beneficial.

A lot of eggheads have a lot invested in getting people to let go of their attachment to organic foods. I've not seen any science that suggests organic foods are unhealthful.

I'll be sure to keep an eye out though.
posted by mistersquid at 6:53 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


"Blasdelb, would a comparison between the refinement you speak of and the process of going from willow bark tea to aspirin be unmerited?"

I don't want to elide over the challenges in food science, the essential priorities we do not yet not how to properly define, the complicatedly difficult to address distortions in our diets that came with mechanization, or the much greater complications that come with a food system that relies so heavily on consumer demand, but the answer to these challenges is not less understanding, or smaller words that are easier to remember but harder to understand, but more. It is bigger words that mean more, longer ingredients lists that we understand better, and a commitment to understanding food and the natural world in a meaningful way. For the most part the benefits of the last hundred years of food science are indeed pretty analogous to how understanding the active ingredient in willow bark gives us the ability to dose it more safely and effectively but, like with aspirin, public ignorance of risks or context also leads to terrible outcomes.

Faith in the naturalistic fallacy is only more misplaced for the progress we've already made.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:08 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Here's something I notice whenever these conversations come up - people make choices about their lives based on things other than scientific evidence all the time. Amish people, for example, make their decision to live they way they due based on their faith, their values, their culture and history. Not because there is scientific evidence that suggests it is Objectively The Best Way To Live.

The same goes for food: people choose their diet based on their value systems, based on symbolism and meanings attached to those foodways, based on their cultural background, based on previous experience, based on deep-rooted philosophies they have developed about life in general through experience and through learning from various sources. And that is okay, it really is.

The problem I have is that almost no one who subscribes to a fringe diet or a not-evidence-based nutrition theory will admit that these are the reasons, the real reasons, they make decisions about food. They never tell me, "I choose this because it suits my personality and values and is appealing to me and adds meaning to my life." They tell me, "I choose this thing because it is healthier and because I believe the science or the authority that tells me there is evidence that it is healthier." People - the same people who decry nutritionism and scientism - turn around and try to justify their value-based, symbolism-laded, intuitive decisions about food with science. But when their beliefs are challenged by scientific evidence to the contrary, they hand-wave it away and say that science isn't everything.

Basically, we're having a religious argument. If you believe in something on the basis of passion, you don't get to argue for it on the basis of reason. Believing something on the basis of passion is actually allowed, though plenty of people seem embarrassed to admit it. Many beliefs about food are entirely based on passion, but justified using science - in this case nutrition, which believe it or not, is an actual science, though a young and rather complex one. This is arguing in bad faith. If you believe in something on the basis of passion, then defend it on those terms. Say it appeals to you, don't say that it is objectively the best choice because science says so.
posted by Ouisch at 7:38 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


"Blasdelb, you seem to be saying (for example?) that asserting produce grown using organic methods is healthful is one example of "clinging to bullshit that is as intuitive to the uneducated as it is wrong"."

At the risk of contributing to a derail, organically grown crop products, with only a couple of subtly different counter examples and a couple of examples of additional possible harm, are consistently shown to be no more healthful in any meaningful sense than conventionally grown crop products despite decades of eager testing. The best that can be honestly claimed of organic methods is that the difference is harmless, but obsessing over the minority of land that does not need either conventional pesticides or fertilizers to be industrially productive at roughly the same prices, and allowing supermarkets to add an absurd markup on their costs so as to take advantage of 'price-insensitive consumers,' seems a lot more like a dangerous distraction from real problems to me.

Rather than focusing on rapidly declining culinary knowledge, or the aggressive marketing of addictively unhealthy foods and ingredients, or the dire problems with the most basic food security in the third world, or the poverty at the root of most the food security problems of our immediate neighbors, 'organic' allows us to pretend that contributing to the profits of different corporations than the usual ones while co-opting a word that should mean 'contains sequestered carbon'. It allows us to pretend that the problems with our food system come from some simple yet nebulous deviation from whatever it is that we're being told is 'natural' at the time instead of complicated and subtle competing priorities and it allows us to pretend that we are somehow righteous for the money we spend on what amounts to little more than snake-oil and smoke.

The kinds of innovative farmers experimenting with genuinely different agricultural and economic models who work to create a valuable kind of diversity in systems worth supporting have long ago abandoned organic labeling as inherently worthwhile, its time we do too.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:40 PM on January 18 [14 favorites]


The issue of choice with food is ridiculously complicated, full of lots of "You'll die from this fat!" "No, it's not the fat, it's the sugar!" "No, it's not just the sugar, it's the fructose!" "You're a pediatric endocrinologist, not a nutritionist, stop giving lectures," etc.

Hahahahahaha, ♬ I bet I know who you're taaaalking aboooout ♪
posted by en forme de poire at 8:24 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Is organic, all natural food healthy? Yes, as part of a well planned diet that pays attention to macro and micro nutrients.

Is a diet of only McDonald's food healthy? Yes, as part of a well planned diet that pays attention to macro and micro nutrients.

The production methods or source of the food are not what determines if it will be good or bad for you. What matters is the overall nutritional content you have consumed.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:51 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I can't decide if "Banana Subjugation" is the name of my new speedmetal band or fetish website.

Damn. I should have copyrighted that before logging off the net this morning.
posted by Danf at 8:57 PM on January 18


I usually don't think much of the "my new band name" quips, but, damn, Banana Subjugation is a really great name for something, anything ... everything.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:40 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I think another useful example are the Amish. (Yes, I am woefully ignorant of the Amish.) They live very simple lifestyles which to my mind helps them harmonize with their environment

At the level of gross generalizations that of course don't apply to every individual:

They flood their environment with massive amounts of cowshit that have played a notable role in killing Chesapeake Bay, they treat their farm animals abominably, and they're notoriously awful puppy millers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:08 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


The Amish have designed a lifestyle that attempts to free them of what they consider extraneous connection with the outside world because they believe it promotes healthier relationships with the close family and community they deem important. They do not forsake technology because they hate technology in general.

Some Amish grow genetically modified plants.

"Though in some areas organic farming is enjoying growing popularity among the Amish, the majority of Amish farms are non-organic."
posted by Drinky Die at 10:46 PM on January 18


(The Amish are pretty rarely a good example to use to make a larger point about something because the popular perception of them misunderstands a lot and is created by people looking from the outside in. They are a unique and beautiful community with their own very insightful religious point of view, but like any other conservative rural religious group they do a lot of things because tradition says so and no other reason.)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:55 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


And in THIS case, the infographics do nothing to diminish the claim that all-natural foods are healthy to eat.

Except for tapioca which is naturally rich in cyanide.

Are you even listening to what you're saying?

Are you listening to what anyone else is saying?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:45 AM on January 19


Mmmm ... raw tapioca/cassava/manioc/yuca -- what is that damn thing called, anyways?

and how did humans ever figure out how to eat it without killing ourselves?
posted by jb at 6:43 AM on January 19


Also lima beans and kidney beans.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:02 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Radishes.
posted by Artw at 7:48 AM on January 19


Small anecdotal datapoint:
I've seen many many cases of people saying quite directly that anything labeled as a "chemical" is bad. I have both gently and more directly corrected this misuse of vocabulary and basic science knowledge. After seeing the umpteenth time, I put up the nutritional information on the blueberry and watched as someone asked if this was true and then stated that if "they" were adding these things to blueberries that they would no longer eat them.

People tout cleaning with vinegar as being chemical-free repeatedly. In the garden, there are many "chemical-free" ways of killing weeds. Of if you wear make up, you can go chemical-free. Want to wash your hair without chemicals? Not to mention the people selling "organic" salt.

I think that these attitudes are pervasive, at least in the American population. I think that correcting misconceptions is important. Good information is always good to have. A little better understanding of the world we live in is a good thing.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:50 AM on January 19 [6 favorites]


Oops, sorry, wrong babnana themed thread...
posted by Artw at 7:56 AM on January 19


Having spoken up earlier for a charitable reading of what people are really saying when they talk about "chemicals", I want to note that I nevertheless fully support mocking the fuck out of anyone who sells "organic" salt.
posted by moss at 8:58 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Heh.

Unfortunately, as of yet there still is no organic certification for salt in the United States. The USDA classifies salt as only a mineral – not a living thing with carbon compounds and the like.
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on January 19


sciencegeek's examples are very common. Sometimes it's all I can do to not gnash my teeth when someone around me says "I only use vinegar (or baking soda) to clean my house because those things are natural cleaners". Vinegar is a twice fermented product for cripes sake that is only safe to handle because of it's low commercial concentration and baking soda is manufactured with the Solvay Process making it one of the unusual food items that is actually synthesized rather than extracted or processed from plants.

I can't believe any organic regulating body anywhere certified any kind of salt as organic. WTF was Nature et Progrés in France, BIO-GRO in New Zealand and the Soil Association in the United Kingdom thinking?

jb: "how did humans ever figure out how to eat it without killing ourselves?"

We processed the food. And a lot of pre historic humans got desperate enough for something to eat that many of them died until trial and error discovered a prep method for poisonous foods.
posted by Mitheral at 9:00 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


I understand better, Blasdelb, the problem with "organic" labeling. Thank you for explaining this so clearly.

Still, the infographics are playing a semantic game at the expense of people who do not have the ability to cultivate a deeper understanding of nutrition. Furthermore, the label "organic", as problematic and reductive as it may be, will probably not deliver to people who pursue such labeling food that is harmful to them.

Still, it's good to know conventionally grown foods are likely as healthful as "organic" labeled foods and I'm glad to understand this specific point more clearly.
posted by mistersquid at 10:40 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Kid Charlegmagne, you're quoting me quite out of context and your example is ridiculous on its face.

First, who is talking about tapioca? I could point out that hemlock is all natural and not healthful or that water is all natural but drinking too much of it will certainly kill you. Your particular choice of reductio ad absurdum is embarrassingly sophomoric.

That said, I still see no problem with all natural foods and, as a personal aside, I'm not much a fan of bananas, organic or otherwise.
posted by mistersquid at 10:48 AM on January 20


mistersquid, Kid Charlegmagne's example of tapioca is indeed pretty absurd, but I guess I'm still pretty confused about a question that I've never been able to find a satisfying answer to. If not means of elaborate preparation, like I guess the preparation necessary to render tapioca edible, what is it that makes a food 'unnatural'? What is it that makes another food 'natural'? Maybe there is some simple point that I'm stubbornly not getting, or maybe I just don't hang out with the right crowd these days to get a good answer, but there has to be a decent way to explain it right?

I mean of the only three legal definitions for the term, the British one is just a catalog of ingredients and processes that are natural and ones that are not, the Canadian one does feel a bit more reasonable but has the same problem, and the Israeli one feels even more reasonable but also never gets around to explaining the why part. Going by the Canadian definitions, what is it exactly that makes salting salmon before smoking it or agglomerating something by adding a chemical such as vinegar or maturing something with salt or tenderizing meat with an acid like lemon juice unnatural but leaves artificially gassing a tomato so as to make a green tomato look and feel but not taste or digest like a ripened tomato natural? As Sagan once said, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." At lest in a wider sense, all things and nothing on Earth really belongs to nature right?

As I've been thinking about it to write this I think I might have come up with a working answer, and I'm curious what you think about it. Could this really be 'natural' foods not in the sense of a somehow closer relationship to the natural world, or being of a somehow more primitive state, because they both seem pretty ridiculous to me with some examination, but instead in the sense of familiar? I think I can get this, where there are all sorts of new things that have turned out to be terrible ideas, but I'm still not sure how I am with this being a useful term to put onto food. Where there are all sorts of old things that have turned out to be terrible ideas too, like smoking tobacco or slash and burn farming in most ecosystems. That is in addition to a lot of old ideas that have just never really been meaningfully examined to see if they are terrible, and at least new ones have to be tested. Even familiarity seems like a pretty bad guide for safety, particularly when a scientific education can make even the densest ingredients list feel a lot more normal.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:57 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


what is it that makes a food 'unnatural'?

This is a thought-provoking question, and as always, the answer is to be found in Doritos.

If you offered someone a cob of corn, and a bag of Doritos, and asked which one fit their definition of natural better, they would most often pick the corn.

If you introduced to the comparison a bowl of home-made tortilla chips, and a bowl of masa, and asked someone to rank all four in terms of naturalness, they would, most likely, go in order, corn, masa, home-made chips, and Doritos.

But then let's add one more to the comparison: New Robitussin Ranch, the only Dorito with the flavor of everyone's favorite cough syrup! We'd be hard pressed to imagine that going anywhere but the end, towards the totally unnatural side.

So why do we rank these the way we do? I think it is because we are naturally (hehe) conservative when it comes to food, a safety instinct that is hard to fight, and that conservatism plays out along some of the below categories:

1. We find the corn most natural because we associate it with the outdoors, to some degree out of the inventive reach of people. It's a plant, it is a living thing, as we are living things, and thus has some sort of outdoor autonomy that, say, computers don't. We see the plant in its untouched form as a sort of idealized version--anything you do with it will take it a little ways away from that idealized form. (This of course neglects the ENTIRE HISTORY of corn, its origins shrouded in mystery except for the certainty that this grain was totally engineered by our ancestors.)

2. Bring things indoors, and we begin to judge them more by the amount of work that has gone into them, the distance they've gone from that first ideal form. Flour is processed; the chips are cooked. This pushes them further from our picture of natural--especially if the processing takes place out of view.

3. Bring in Doritos, and suddenly you have a real difference. Before, you were dealing with minor visual, textural and usefulness differences. But a Dorito doesn't even taste like corn, nor a corn chip. Its color is different. Its feel in your mouth is different. All the signals it sends you are that this is a manufactured thing, unlike anything you might encounter in your idealized nature, but also unlike anything you are able to cook. The processing of it has become a mystery to you. If you were to see them being created in the factory, none of the machines would look like anything in your kitchen. The whole thing would be horribly unfamiliar, and that's where I begin to agree with Blasdelb's point above.

Yet, even though they're pretty unnatural in those senses, people eat them by the bucketload, because (a) as an end-product, they become familiar, and (b) their flavors, even though stronger and more defined than any flavors you might've encountered in pre-industrial cuisine, are still well within our expected definitions of tasting good...the salt, tanginess, fattiness, savoriness, may be towards the extreme of what our brains consider flavorful but do not cross into what our brains start to think of as unsafe tastes.

4. The cough syrup-flavored Dorito, though...I don't think anyone would eat. Even though it would be no more processed than a normal Dorito, it would be no more "unnatural" in terms of being an indoor-food, a processed-food, a not-flavor-you-encounter-before-the-20th-century, it would trip the signals that try to avoid harm, that want to detect poison before you swallow it. That's sort of where I'm going with the conservatism idea...we welcome novel foods and flavors, but not too novel, because there are huge perceived risks in things that are too new, things we haven't gotten used to. We're being warned off of them. Generations haven't survived eating them, your grandpa didn't eat them, there might be something unsafe there.

In this sense, being "natural" is really finding some spot on the right side of outdoorness vs indoorness, familiarity vs novelty, and transparent processing versus mysterious and extensive processing, culminating in a judgment of something's safety and moral worth. It is horribly inexact. It gets basic historical questions wrong. It confuses actual safety with the appearance of safety.

But does that mean it's a useless category? Only for people who have a better categorical system to work with. What if you're standing at the store reading ingredient lists, and you aren't a reader of Metafilter, so you never get to hear interesting discussions about the science of food safety? How should you best judge what to eat? The basic survival tactic would be to be conservative, right? Go with what feels natural. With habit and with what tastes good. And it's not really the consumer's fault there, that most of the time they'd be picking something unhealthy for themselves; they didn't invent generations worth of food products that have now become familiar, but are still unhealthy. They have to try to read a set of marketing signals that are all about sales and not at all about information (and worse, when they try for actual information, there is no context with that ingredient list to tell them what's good for them and what's bad for them).

If we want to retire "natural" as a category, then it needs to be replaced with something else, a big bold sign that something is good to eat, that is not subject to capture from marketing, that isn't confused by huge debates, that can cogently explain an ingredient list to someone who is in the middle of a busy crowded store trying to make decisions, that also isn't too hostile to what the consumer currently finds familiar. And that would be really hard to do.
posted by mittens at 2:41 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I've got an awesome survival tactic for anyone still reading that could involve starting here
posted by Blasdelb at 3:35 PM on January 20


I generally interpret 'natural' foods as "things that we as a species have been eating, in this form, for a long time."

It doesn't mean that natural foods are necessarily safe and good, but that they have undergone widespread, long term testing to the point that we pretty much know what they do. That's really how we know what things are safe to eat and what aren't, in what quantities and formulations. From observing what things do. We have more knowledge now than we did when people first figured out that hemlock kills people, but we don't know everything yet. We still have to test and observe. And not all effects are even readily predictable.

There is no Grand Unified Model of Everything that you can just stick something into--whether it's a new food, drug, or farming or manufacturing process--and have it spit out an analysis of its effects on the human body, the environment, and the culture. You can guess and predict and run limited models, but ultimately, to find out, you just have to do it and see what happens.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:50 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I generally interpret 'natural' foods as "things that we as a species have been eating, in this form, for a long time."

Are we considering a couple of hundred years a long time here? Or a couple of thousand?
posted by Artw at 4:56 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I have a thing that I call "the three hundred year old diet".

basically, when in doubt, ask yourself: did people eat this three hundred years ago? If the answer is yes, it doesn't mean it's good for you, but it probably means that we know exactly how it's bad for you. For example, we know how butter is bad for you; when transfats first came out, we had no idea what they meant for our health. Similarly, the choice between sugar and artficial sweeteners. I know exactly how and why sugar is bad for me. I don't know about the artificial sweeteners (other than the fact that they taste disgusting).

Chocolate, I'm not sure about. It's only two hundred years old. But I also like to live dangerously.
posted by jb at 8:24 PM on January 20


Chocolate is thousands of years old. Enjoy with impunity!
posted by mittens at 3:46 AM on January 21


While the earliest documented uses of cacao products date back three thousand years in Mesoamerica, chocolate, at least as we know it today, is only a bit more than a hundred years old and an intensely industrial product. Not that thats bad or anything, but the milk in most chocolate would be good for those sensitive to lactose to be mindful of and the sugar is best to enjoy only in moderation. Despite eager marketing claims, pre-modern chocolate pretty much does not exist outside of those who still make it at home, its way too bitter for most palates.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:35 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the thing about eating only foods your great-great grandparents would have recognized as food is a fuzzy heuristic, much like most broad and general observations and tips about food. It's not a legal proscription, and it's probably not one that its adherents take 100% literally, so objections like, "Well, my gg-grandparents subsisted entirely on buckets of lard and radiation!" are just lawyerin'. The point is that many people can use this type of guideline to help themselves improve their diet with a simple, easy to remember rule of thumb. Eat things that people have been eating for a long time, things that we've been observing the effects of for longer than most regulatory approval periods. A couple hundred years, a couple thousand. It's all a pretty long time, relatively speaking.

Personally, I only eat thousand year old eggs and ancient underground fungi, but that's not an ideological choice. It's just how I roll.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:05 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


according to Wikipedia - which is, of course, never wrong - bar chocolate was first made in Europe in the early 19th century which, shockingly enough, is almost 200 years ago now.

Sweetened drinking chocolate is about 300-400 years old (c1600, maybe a bit earlier or later - not clear when the sugar was introduced), while spicy bitter drinking chocolate is much older.
posted by jb at 5:56 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


The bon-bon, however, turned 100 years old last year, so does fit.
posted by mittens at 6:12 PM on January 21


My great-grandmother loved coca-cola.
posted by bunderful at 6:19 PM on January 21


"The Omnivore's Dilemma" - Pollen
posted by judson at 1:26 PM on January 23


The artist has added more posters and is now selling prints. Check them out
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:23 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


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