Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pandora's Lunchbox

Processed food is bad for you, but it is cheap and convenient. Whole plants are much better for you than than fortified processed foods. That pretty much sums up Pandora's Lunchbox. However, the journey is worth the read. The book covers a lot of the "underbelly" of food production. Food processors attempt to make food that is quick to prepare and has a long shelf life. Unfortunately, this often makes it taste horrible and not very nutritious. Thus, they add additional chemical flavors and vitamins to make up for the loss. (Thus, we get chicken with added "Chicken flavor") The processing reduces a lot of the benefit that we may not fully know about. (The vitamin does not work in isolation, but with many other components.) It can also lead to oddities such as the "melting chicken nugget".

With all the negative implications of processed food, why do we consume it? Companies spend millions of dollars marketing the processed junk to us. However, these same companies will often sell healthier, less processed foods. Alas, people are more driven towards the "cheap fix" rather than something that takes more effort to prepare. And companies are eager to make a buck. Cost ends up becoming a huge part of the equation. The government provides "raw" food for school lunches. However, schools find it cheaper to divert this to processors and then buy back the less nutritious processed food. The processed food is also physically and chemically modified to last longer, thus allowing it to last longer, potentially saving cost and reducing waste in the short term. The cost is only felt in long term when the increased health care expenses and worse quality of life are present. The book even provides an anecdote where swearing off processed food helped a family - a child had his mental condition improve and the father lost weight. The mother (who initiated the plan) felt jealous that it did not help her lose weight, but felt better and continued it on. Eating less processed foods required a sacrifice of time, but paid off dividends in health.

No comments:

Post a Comment